Theories of Games and Interaction for Design (8: 3 Responses)

Approximate Reading Time: 6 minutes

These are public postings of my writings for the first course of the Graduate Certificate Program in Serious Game Design and Research at Michigan State University.

Each week, we are required to post three responses/reactions to queries posted by other members of the class in the previous week. These are mine.

I have paraphrased the queries to preserve my classmates’ privacy.

Please note: these posts are not intended as any kind of commentary on or assessment of the course I’m taking, or its instructor, OR of Michigan State University or the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, or the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media. They are solely my thoughts and reactions that stem from the readings.

Feel free to comment, disagree, or what have you.

Week 8

These are the readings we had last week (Topics: Theories of Behavior Part 2: Community Organization, Diffusion of innovation, Media Effects, Putting Theory into Practice Using Planning Models):

  • Peng, W. (2009). Design and evaluation of a computer game to promote a healthy diet for young adults. Health Communication, 24, 115-127.
  • NIH Theory at a glance (pg. 22-31, 35-46 – USE PAGE NUMBERS IN DOCUMENT, NOT THE ONES IN ACROBAT) National Institutes of Health (2005). Theory at a glance: A guide for health promotion practice. Retrieved August 15, 2010 from
  • Optional:  Daley, A. J. (2009). Can Exergaming Contribute to Improving Physical Activity Levels and Health Outcomes in Children? Pediatrics, 124, 763-771
  • Optional: Anderson-Hanley, C., Snyder, A., Nimon, J., Arciero, P. (2011). “Social facilitation in virtual reality-enhanced exercise: competitiveness moderates exercise effort of older adults,” Clinical Interventions Aging. 2011; 6: 275–280.

Response 1: [Week 8 KB dialog 1/3] Anyone care to decode PRECEDE-PROCEED for me?

For the most part, I’ve really appreciated the NIH readings.  They introduced a number of new concepts, explained them clearly, and gave great real world examples.  And their tables summing up the highlights of a new theory are really great for a visual learner like me.

But they lost me with the PRECEDE-PROCEED planning model.  I reread that section a couple of times, but I just don’t get how this is supposed to be helpful.  Logically, I follow, but why use this?

I had some trouble trying to figure it out too, so I’ll take a stab at it. This is different kind of model from all the others, so it looks out of place.  All the others are theories explaining why things are the way they are, while this one tries to prescribe how to go about making something.

They call it a planning model, but it looks like a design process model to me, so it has more in common with instructional design models than it does with the theories of motivation and behavior we’ve been looking at. This is just my personal opinion, but I think their attempt to turn the whole thing into an acronym generates more confusion than it alleviates. I chose to ignore that part altogether and just look at the process.

Something that often works for me when I’m having trouble with an idea is to try and re-present it. I try and re-frame it in a context that suits me better. As a result, I’ve taken some liberties – translated in some places, and re-framed in others.

I see it as have 3 primary phases rather than 2:

Phase 1 is the Planning phase (PRECEDE). This is the assessment phase. In other fields it is often called the analysis phase and includes the needs assessment (gap analysis), learner/user/worker/etc. profile, setting profile, job/task analysis, creation of performance objectives, measures, and instructional strategies.

If you ask me, the first step of their Phase 2 should be a separate phase, namely the implementation phase. If you put that in a class on its own, that leaves the evaluation stuff for phase 2, the evaluation phase (PROCEED). This is where the summative assessment happens.

I found a graphic connected to the reference in the section ( that helped me somewhat.

Still, I think what is missing from this, as well as from most process models is recognition that things don’t actually get built this way, at least not ones that are effective. This is true in software engineering and instructional design too. People are always looking for recipes that they can follow to generate good software/instruction/interventions/whathaveyou. The problem is that most of these things are complex problems at best, and wicked problems at worst. A recipe should only ever be seen as a rough guide to help you make sure you don’t leave things out.

Response 2:[Week 8 KB dialog 2/3] Staying Updated: Food Pyramid Replaced by a Plate

Peng’s article mentions and measure using the food pyramid, which has been replaced by the Plate. How should or can Rightway Cafe be updated?

If it’s OK, I’d like to address this question by taking it to a higher level, namely, should we be regionalizing our games by focusing on approaches used in only one country? I suspect the answer is yes, sometimes, but if it is only OK sometimes, how do we decide?

I’m from Canada. We created our own nutrition guide during WWII, and virtually every Canadian has at least some basic understanding of its contents – we study it in school, and it is on the wall of most doctors’ examining rooms. We’ve been updating ours about once a decade. Our most recent came out just a few years ago. Ours is neither a plate nor a pyramid so we wouldn’t use the game in a formal setting here.

So, suppose we wanted to make a game that could be used in any country. Would that even be possible? I think it would depend on how we took advantage of the visuals afforded by the concepts – it’s not clear from the paper. The screenshots don’t look like they are based on the visuals, so in this case, it might not be that hard to adapt it to the guides of other countries. If the game offers food lists, that could also be localized. The Canada Food Guide has a variant created for First Nations that includes wild game and plants as well as traditional foods.


Canada Food Guide:

History of Canada’s Food Guide:

The politics of food guides

First guide, Canada’s Official Food Rules, released 70 years ago

Response 3: [Week 8 KB dialog 3/3] Reflection & discussion in media effect pathways

The NIH reading describes several pathways (media effect levels) through which a health communication message can influence people’s beliefs and behaviors. As mentioned in the lecture, some of these (delayed learning, generalized learning) require reflection, and social diffusion requires discussion. How can the requisite reflection and/or discussion be “packaged” in a serious game?

That’s one of the big challenges in serious games, and it’s the one place where games don’t excel. I don’t think we do a very good job of that part, perhaps because we don’t understand that part well enough yet.

On the other hand, it is also one of the challenges of distance learning. I just finished the Coursera Gamification course, and although the peer assessment is a terrific idea that adds a dimension missing from a lot of other MOOCs, it still amounts to the blind leading the blind.

In the military, where they’ve been using games and simulations, pretty much always, one of the key elements in any intervention/training/learning event is the de-briefing afterwards.

Often, that is where the lasting and significant learning happens. It’s also where the “ah-ha” moments happen most often. Personally, I think that the best way to do the reflection part is *still* with a real live human, and preferably with someone who has sufficient expertise or experience in the domain to be able to connect those dots in meaningful ways. You need someone who recognizes misconceptions, broken mental models, and ideas that will lead you astray AND who can point you in the right direction.

Without someone who can guide, interpret, and nudge people it’s missing that key dimension. Discussion is great, and there are plenty of ways to foster discussion in a community, but that usually happens outside of the game, and even then, if you don’t have someone who is mentor/guide/expert, you’ll never know if you are actually learning something useful or just talking back and forth.

A martial arts class that has no master can only go so far. I can’t become a chess master unless I play people who know way more than me.

Ian Anderson, the lead member of the band Jethro Tull, and a world renowned flautist had never taken lessons. After 40-some years and 20-some albums, he tried taking some lessons and discovered he’d “been doing it wrong all along”.  He ended up taking time off to study flute formally. What he said was that with those lessons he had learned to do things with the flute through those lessons that he never could have done before.

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