A Model-driven Framework for Educational Game Design

A Model-driven Framework for Educational Game Design

Table of Contents


Educational games are a class of serious games whose main purpose is to teach some subjects to their players. Despite the many existing design frameworks, these games are too often created in an ad-hoc manner, and typically without the use of a game design document (GDD). We argue that a reason for this phenomenon is that current ways to structure, create, and update GDDs do not increase the value of the artifact in the design and development process. As a solution, we propose a model-driven, web-based knowledge management environment that supports game designers in the creation of a GDD that accounts for and relates educational and entertainment game elements. The foundation of our approach is our devised conceptual model for educational games, which also defines the structure of the design environment. We present promising results from an evaluation of our environment with eight experts in serious games.


educational game design, game design document, the model-driven framework


According to Zyda [1], a serious game is “a mental contest, played with a computer in accordance with specific rules, that uses entertainment to further government or corporate training, education, health, public policy, and strategic communication objectives”. Educational games are a class of serious games having an educational /learning purpose in the context of primary or secondary school, higher education, etc. Despite the recent traction that serious games gained, thanks to the increasing usage by parents and teachers [2], and despite all the available technologies, the design process of these games have not changed significantly, and still largely relies on tools such as simple text editors and prototyping software systems [3].

Moreover, the usefulness of game design documents (GDDs) as design artifacts is being questioned. A recent survey by Sundström [4] shows that less than 50% of game professionals believe that GDDs are an effective way to communicate the design of a game, and only 5% read GDDs to analyze a specific aspect of game design. In this paper, we propose an approach that aims to make GDDs a useful artifact. Our hypothesis, also supported by Sundström’s [4] research, is that GDDs are either hardly or inefficiently used due to a variety of reasons:

 Inconsistency [5]: the same concepts are documented using different terminology in the GDD, and some design decisions are conflicting.

 Infrequent updates [5]: after the initial stages, the GDD is not updated regularly.

 Multiple communication means: Bethke [6] identified three different ways of communication in a gaming company, a) through an explicit GDD, b) through digital means (emails, Skype, wikis, etc.), and c) oral. Using multiple ways to communicate can potentially lead to communication loss or overload.

 Heterogeneous users. GDDs are used by professionals with different educational and/or professional background, like artists and programmers. This leads to high chances of different interpretations of the same text.

The solution that we propose is based on the construction of a conceptual model [7] of educational games that describe its main constituents and their relationships. Such model defines the structure of the GDD and provides a common ground for communication among heterogeneous stakeholders. We also present a model-driven, web-based environment that enables the creation of GDDs that align with our conceptual model. Specifically, we make the following contributions:

1) Based on our study of the literature, we identify and relate the elements of educational games into a conceptual model for the design of educational games.

2) We describe the main features of our web-based, model-driven design environment that can be used for building GDDs for educational games.

3) We report on a qualitative evaluation of our environment with eight experts in serious games (design), which aims to assess the perceived usefulness of our solution.

The rest of the paper is structured as follows. After reviewing the literature in Section 2, we introduce the conceptual model in Section 3, and we present the web environment in Section 4. We discuss the results from the evaluation in Section 5 and conclude in Section 6.


In this paper, we presented a conceptual model of educational games and an online environment based on that model. Our long-term objective is to study whether the usage of GDDs is limited due to the lack of effective tools or is rather due to the way educational games are developed. The preliminary evaluation that we conducted, which involved interviews with serious games experts, confirmed the absence of game-specific design tools and has shown a positive attitude towards the potential benefit of web, model-driven environment to mitigate the problems of GDD-based game design.

Our evaluation suffers from threats to the validity affecting our evaluation. Internal validity is threatened by the use of a mixed approach that combines boolean questions with Likert scale questions: for homogeneity, we should have employed the same type of scale. Moreover, we have mostly demonstrated the tool, instead of letting the interviewees use it. Some of the questions are subject to confirmatory bias, i.e., the tendency of people of agreeing with the statements/questions. In terms of external validity, we have conducted a study with a small number of interviewees, all of which form the same geographic area. Moreover, there are threats concerning the credibility of the results, for we employed a custom questionnaire as opposed to validated questions.

This paper simply paves the way for future research in the field. The conceptual model can be further researched to identify any missing core elements of educational games. These changes would obviously have to be mapped into the model-based design environment; maintaining this mapping could be facilitated by using a model-driven engineering development environment. Moreover, linking game mechanics with learning models, as depicted on the LM-GM model [56], will provide designers with a “dictionary” for adjusting the game mechanics to the learning objectives of the game. In the same spirit, the environment can be modified to produce all the necessary UML diagrams, as described in the ATMSG model [57], thus helping collaboration among the different stakeholders. The user interface and look-and-feel of the prototype can be greatly improved, especially in order to enable longitudinal studies on the effectiveness of our approach. Finally, case studies are necessary to fully validate our environment.

About KSRA

The Kavian Scientific Research Association (KSRA) is a non-profit research organization to provide research / educational services in December 2013. The members of the community had formed a virtual group on the Viber social network. The core of the Kavian Scientific Association was formed with these members as founders. These individuals, led by Professor Siavosh Kaviani, decided to launch a scientific / research association with an emphasis on education.

KSRA research association, as a non-profit research firm, is committed to providing research services in the field of knowledge. The main beneficiaries of this association are public or private knowledge-based companies, students, researchers, researchers, professors, universities, and industrial and semi-industrial centers around the world.

Our main services Based on Education for all Spectrum people in the world. We want to make an integration between researches and educations. We believe education is the main right of Human beings. So our services should be concentrated on inclusive education.

The KSRA team partners with local under-served communities around the world to improve the access to and quality of knowledge based on education, amplify and augment learning programs where they exist, and create new opportunities for e-learning where traditional education systems are lacking or non-existent.


FULL Paper PDF file:

A Model-driven Framework for Educational Game Design



Bill Roungas TU Delft, The Netherlands, V.Roungas@tudelft.nl




A Model-driven Framework for Educational Game Design

Publish in

International Journal of Serious Games



PDF reference and original file: Click here

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Nasim Gazerani was born in 1983 in Arak. She holds a Master's degree in Software Engineering from UM University of Malaysia.

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Professor Siavosh Kaviani was born in 1961 in Tehran. He had a professorship. He holds a Ph.D. in Software Engineering from the QL University of Software Development Methodology and an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Chelsea.

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Somayeh Nosrati was born in 1982 in Tehran. She holds a Master's degree in artificial intelligence from Khatam University of Tehran.