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Introduction to Serious Games and Their Design for K–Grade 3

About the author

Introduction

Serious games are games whose primary purpose is education and training as opposed to entertainment. They take advantage of the ability of computer games to attract and engage players/learners for a specific purpose, such as to develop new knowledge or skills. With respect to students, strong engagement has been associated with higher academic achievement. The use of serious games within a wide range of educational and training applications is becoming widespread, particularly given the current generation of learners who are growing up spending a large amount of time playing video games. Serious games are being used across a large number of educational and training settings, from teaching children basic math skills in primary school, to teaching surgical residents (trainees) about surgical techniques. For example, Interland, an online adventure game recently launched by Google, allows youth to learn about the fundamentals of internet safety and cybersecurity in a fun, engaging manner.

Learning Goals

Upon completion of this lesson, students will have:

  1. Developed an understanding of serious games and their purpose
  2. Developed an awareness of the importance of strong passwords and internet security
  3. Played one or more serious games

Vocabulary

Cybersecurity
The technologies, processes and practices designed to protect networks, devices, programs and data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access
Digital citizenship
A person who responsibly participates in social and civic activities online to ensure prevention of cyberbully, online safety, and digital health & wellness
Game
A formalized/structured form of play
Game-based learning
The use of games to teach through repetition, failure, and the accomplishment of goals
Motivation
Stimulating people to actions that accomplish goals
Play
Doing something (an activity) only because it is fun and enjoyable
Video game
An electronic game where players control images on a video screen
Serious game
A video game whose primary purpose is education, training, advertising, or simulation as opposed to entertainment

Guiding Questions

  1. Do you play video games? If yes:
    1. What is your favourite video game?
    2. What do you like most about your favourite video game?
    3. What do you like least about your favourite video game?
    4. How do you feel when you play your favourite video game? 
  2. What makes video games so much fun?
  3. Do you learn anything by playing video games? Explain.
  4. Can video games be used in school to help you learn? Explain.

Curriculum Links

As part of this lesson plan, students will be asked to play the freely available, online (web-based) Interland serious game. According to Games for Change, “Interland is an online serious game to teach kids about digital safety and citizenship in an interactive and fun manner. Kids will help their fellow Internauts combat badly behaved hackers, phishers, oversharers and bullies by practising the skills they need to be good digital citizens. In the game, players can explore four floating islands (sub-games): i) Kind Kingdom (encourages children to be kind to others and report cyberbullies), ii) Reality River (focus is on staying away from fake profiles and phishing), iii) Mindful Mountain (focus is on sharing information online only to people kids trust), and vi) Tower of Treasure (learning about building strong passwords). Each island features a different mini-game with a different internet lesson. Interland is part of Google’s Be Internet Awesome Program, which teaches kids and youth the fundamentals of digital citizenship and provides parents and educators with resources to help youth navigate the web and their online interactions.” To learn more, watch this YouTube video describing Interland in greater detail.


  • Pen or pencil and paper
  • Computer (Mac or PC) with a web browser installed (Edge, Chrome or Firefox)
  • Internet access

Interland is available on the Be Internet Awesome website


Activity 1

Time Required: 15 minutes

Students should answer the pre-activity questions individually and discuss their answers with the class. 


Computer Activity

Playing Interland

Time Required: 20 minutes

Students play Interland—specifically, the Tower of Treasure sub-game—to learn about building strong passwords. Students can scroll to the Tower of Treasure or access it directly on the Be Internet Awesome website.


Activity 2

Time Required: 30 minutes

Pose the questions listed below to students. Students should answer the questions individually or in small groups, and a group discussion should follow. Many of these questions are subjective and there are no correct or incorrect answers. The purpose of this activity is to promote discussion about Interland while increasing awareness of serious games.

Your Feelings About the Tower of Treasure Game

  1. How did you feel while playing Tower of Treasure?
  2. Did you find Tower of Treasure fun?
  3. Did you find Tower of Treasure frustrating? If so, what made you frustrated?
  4. Will you play Tower of Treasure again?

Tower of Treasure and Learning

  1. Was Tower of Treasure easy to use?
  2. Do you think playing Tower of Treasure will help you become a better internet user?
  3. What are the parts of a “super strong” password?
  4. Will you do anything differently after playing Tower of Treasure?
  5. Come up with three practice “super strong” passwords
  6. List some examples of sensitive information that must be protected

Revisiting Pre-Activity Questions 3 and 4

Answer these questions from the Pre-Activity again and explain any differences between the answers you provide here and your answers to these questions before you played Tower of Treasure.

  1. Do you learn anything by playing video games? Explain. 
  2. Can video games be used in school to help you learn? Explain.

Improving Tower of Treasure

  1. Would you make any changes to improve Tower of Treasure? You can consider any part of the game, including:
    • Graphics
    • Sound
    • Instructions

Note regarding the Improving Tower of Treasure questions: These are open questions without correct or incorrect answers. Tower of Treasure (and the Interland suite of games in general), is well-designed and appropriate for children. The purpose of these questions is to promote discussion among students, who generally come up with good ideas with respect to improving video games.


Additional Resources

Websites

Books

  • Don’t Bother Me Mom, I’m Learning by Marc Prensky (ISBN-13: 978-1557788580)

Games & Apps

Organizations and Companies that Produce Serious Games

YouTube Videos


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