Avoiding Failure in Modern Game Design with Academic Content
A Recipe, an Anti-Pattern and Applications Thereof
Kay Berkling, Heiko Faller and Micha Piertzik
Cooperative State University of Baden W
urttemberg, Erzberger Str. 121, Karlsruhe, Germany
Games, Content, Design, Addiction, Education, Gamification.
Educational Games tend not to be designed by game engineers. They usually do not compare either in graphics
or in addictiveness to small games that people have installed on their mobile devices. In order to understand
why people play today, a survey was conducted to determine players’ explicit and implicit knowledge about
motivators in addictive games. Based on the results of the questionnaire, we studied demographic preferences
and commonalities in order to develop a recipe for the design that fits the general current market. An anti-
pattern was a by-product of this process. Both are then applied towards an analysis of existing games and the
design of a new one.
Playing games can be addictive and fun. In contrast,
learning in the official context of education is often
stressful or perceived as a duty (Few, if any, stud-
ies look at the academic stress caused by educational
methods in schools today). Rare are the students who
cannot wait to get up in the morning to continue their
learning from last night, more frequent in first grade
than the later years. To improve the learning ex-
perience, researchers and educators have introduced
games into the classroom in different ways: By using
existing games in class or adding gamification me-
chanics to educational content. Due to the large num-
ber of publications in this area, we focus on literature
overview papers to establish the current status-quo in
this field of study.
1.1 Gamification
Gamification pertains to the analysis of mechanics
that make games fun and then applying these to situ-
ations outside of gaming in order to recreate the feel-
ing of fun or addiction to new applications such as
learning or marketing or the solving of mundane tasks
(rephrased from Oxford Dictionary).
According to (de Sousa Borges et al., 2014), there
have been a number of papers on various topics re-
lating to gamification in education. Very few, how-
ever, deal with actual game design for experience, so-
lution proposal, and validation with respect to master-
ing skills.
Dicheva (Dicheva et al., 2015) lists the papers that
have studied various features in gamification usage
for education. The most frequently studied mechan-
ics in order of popularity are: ’Status’, ’Social En-
gagement’, ’Freedom of Choice’, ’Freedom to Fail’,
’Rapid Feedback’ and ’Goals and Challenges’. Re-
searchers have studied gamification of educational
material and shown that there is a strong interest in
using game mechanics for education.
We believe that there remains a significant gap in
actually designing and validating the use of games
with academic content, going beyond gamification.
1.2 Games
Game-based learning (GBL) builds on existing
games, such as Civilizations, and re-uses it for an ed-
ucational purpose, like economics or history (Squire,
2006; Wiggins, 2016). Games are only starting to
make a very slow move into schools (Dickey, 2013;
Salen, 2011). The idea of using games in education
is sometimes treated differently in the literature and
called Educational Games or Serious Games (for ex-
ample, (Vaz de Carvalho et al., 2016)). These are
designed specifically with academic content in mind.
For the purpose of this paper, we prefer not to distin-
guish between games and serious games (this is not
unusual and seems to agree with the findings in the lit-
erature overview on the subject (Boyle et al., 2016)).
According to Merriam Webster, a game is defined as:
Berkling, K., Faller, H. and Piertzik, M.
Avoiding Failure in Modern Game Design with Academic Content - A Recipe, an Anti-Pattern and Applications Thereof.
DOI: 10.5220/0006281800250036
In Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2017) - Volume 2, pages 25-36
ISBN: 978-989-758-240-0
Copyright © 2017 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
a) A form of competitive activity or sport played ac-
cording to rules. b) An activity that one engages in
for amusement. c) (adj) eager or willing to do some-
thing new or challenging. In this sense, there is no
need to give a special name to a game that has aca-
demic content. The key is instead on how the content
is designed as a game (for example pure game de-
sign (Egenfeldt-Nielsen et al., 2016), and it’s effect
on children’s learning outcome (Suarez Caraballo,
2014) and (Berkling et al., 2015)).
1.3 Extrinsic vs Intrinsic
The difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motiva-
tion has been sufficiently described (Ryan and Deci,
2000). The negative effects of extrinsic motivators on
intrinsic motivation and performance have been dis-
cussed repeatedly. Lately, Hanus (Hanus and Fox,
2015) has shown the effects of gamification in the
classroom in a longitudinal study:
”Over time, gamified students were less moti-
vated, empowered, and satisfied.
Gamified course negatively affected final exam
grades through intrinsic motivation.
Gamified systems strongly featuring rewards may
have negative effects.
With ”Educational” Games and gamification we of-
ten obtain, as a result, exactly this sort of extrinsic
motivation by providing unrelated rewards. In con-
trast, popular games themselves seem to tend more
towards the intrinsic motivation and working with the
provided content to learn something. In this paper
we would like to contribute towards moving educa-
tion into the direction of understanding how to design
and use games with academic content.
It is known that content design is an integral part
of a good game and there is no reason that it cannot
contain the same information that would be studied in
an educational setting.
1.4 Demographic Dependence
Using game mechanics to design an addictive educa-
tional experience has been studied in detail. It is well
known that personas, typical user profiles of a known
demographic, are necessary for good design. Koivisto
and Hamari (Koivisto and Hamari, 2014) have shown
that age and gender play a major role when design-
ing gamification mechanics for their respective demo-
graphics. The work presented here incorporates de-
mographics but looks at common themes across de-
mographics for general audiences in education.
1.5 Relationship between Education
and Games
Vallerand (Vallerand et al., 1986) explains in a very
valuable summary the key to seeing education as a
game: It is important to identify the intrinsic rewards
relative to the culture and build game-like interactions
on top of these by focusing on mechanics like ”Free-
dom to Fail, Rapid Feedback, Progression and Story-
telling” - note that these overlap with those studied in
the gamification literature (Section 1.1). Stott (Stott
and Neustaedter, 2013) then makes the connection
with existing terminology in education. ”The Free-
dom to Fail” is analogous to formative assessment us-
ing ”Rapid Feedback”, ”Progression” relates to scaf-
folded learning and ”Storytelling” is equally recog-
nized as a powerful tool in the classroom.
What we can learn about the current culture of
games and what engages our time in gaming? Subject
of this paper is a more detailed recipe-like mapping
between these two areas.
1.6 Current Cultural Framework
This paper presents an update of the analysis of a list
of games as a function of their demographics. Look-
ing at the most popular games, a framework of fea-
tures (motivation factors) is developed. This frame-
work forms the basis for a survey of over 800 people
across different age ranges. With the newly gained
knowledge about gamers, we proceed to formulate a
recipe and an anti-pattern as a by-product. This in
turn is used to analyze a finished educational game
that has been released in the market and to show how
these steps generalize to a second game design.
This paper contributes to the general knowledge
in this area by providing an updated analysis on why
gamers play today. A survey is designed to find out
more about players in indirect and direct ways and
use this information to create a recipe for designing
games that happen to have academic content.
Section 2 explains the framework that was de-
veloped through detailed study of 27 popular games.
Based on this framework, a survey (see Appendix A2)
of over 800 participants was conducted and the results
are described in more detail in Section 3. Section 4
discusses what not to do in a game design and an-
alyzes the current situation in standard schools and
Universities. Since there is room for improvement in
the ’game of learning’, a subsequent step writes up
a recipe for game design with educational content in
Section 5. Given the recipe, an existing, successful
(with respect to skills improvement and fun) educa-
tional game is analyzed (Section 5.1) and a new game
CSEDU 2017 - 9th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
designed (Section 5.2). Finally, Section 6 summarizes
and refers to future work.
A list of popular games from Google Play Store charts
and from subjective Experience of Bachelor students
is compiled. This list forms the basis of the question-
naire to analyze these games with respect to their fea-
tures in relation to the demographics of the players.
Four main categories of distinguishing features
evolved out of an iterative analysis of the games list
(see Appendix A1 for a comprehensive listing and
usage statistics): Game-mode, Motivation, Emotion,
Simplicity and other features not categorized. These
are each explained below (with examples):
2.1 Game Mode
Games can be distinguished by game mode. These
usually fall into one of these categories:
One-level/infinity (Pineapple Pen, Piano Tiles)
Level (Candy Crush, Angry Birds)
Story (Clash of Clans)
2.2 Motivation
Motivation for games are simple game mechanics that
create extrinsic motivation such as listed below. We
distinguish between rewards and currency, that serves
as a mechanism to acquire new tools to help the player
progress. Goals define specific ”work” that has to be
accomplished irrespective of levels. Come-back mo-
tivations are types of appointments. High-score is a
form of competition with self or others and a progress
bar shows the path towards a goal or level.
Rewards (Cut the Rope)
”Currency” (Subway)
Goals (Angry Birds)
Come back motivations (FIFA, Block Hexa Puz-
Confrontation with high-score (Pineapple Pen,
Flappy Bird)
Progress bar (Clash of Clans, Temple Run)
2.3 Emotion
A major factor in games are emotions that can be sup-
ported with emotional faces, sound or graphics. Fur-
thermore, fun, humor and spectacular death can sup-
port the creation of strong emotions for the player.
Faces (Pineapple Pen, Pou)
Sound-FX (all)
Emotional Music (not for 2048)
Humor (Angry Birds)
Fun Death (Temple Run)
2.4 Simplicity
Simplification is important for on-boarding and ease
of movement across levels of difficulty. It should be
easy to start and proceed. The menu has to be quick,
direct and easy to understand:
Fast proceeding (not Temple Run)
Fast start (not Clash of Clans)
Simple menu (Pou, Candy Crush)
2.5 Other
Other factors that do not fit into the above categories
have been determined as important aspects of a num-
ber of games that are currently popular: Their relation
to reality, patterns that are learned to improve perfor-
mance, social behavior (like feeding the animals in a
friends’ zoo) or competitions with self or others.
Relation to reality (FIFA)
Patterns (Roll the Ball)
Social (Pou)
Competitive (Flappy Bird)
Appendix A1 lists the games and gives detailed
analysis of these factors.
In order to gain a deeper understanding of how we can
use games in education and generalize their design
across populations, a current survey was conducted.
The survey builds on the features that we have defined
in the previous section.
3.1 Survey Construction
The survey includes three sections (see Appendix
Demographic data
Gaming Habits
Games Installed and general Motivators
Avoiding Failure in Modern Game Design with Academic Content - A Recipe, an Anti-Pattern and Applications Thereof
Favorite Game and specific Motivators
Emotions and their initiators
The evaluation of the survey should increase insight
into the motivators based on three methods of eliciting
1. Installed games indicate interests indirectly
though framework,
2. Explicit motivation to play a favorite game, and
3. Indirect indicators of motivators that create fa-
vorite emotion as reason for playing.
These three insights allow us to understand how
games can be designed with academic content.
3.2 Demographics of Participants
The survey, using Google forms, was announced via
facebook games website and through university net-
works as well as employers. The result is a healthy
mix of people from industry and university, as well as
a good spread across age groups and gender. Figure 1
depicts an overview of the population that answered
the survey. In total 893 people responded to the sur-
vey within two weeks of posting it. Table 1 gives the
number of people who took the survey and fall into
each of the four categories of interest to us.
Figure 1: Survey Demographics.
Table 1: Participant numbers by Male/Female and Age
bracket (< 23 vs. > 31).
Subgroups < 23 > 31
Male 173 347
Female 107 145
Table 2: Significance in differences between subgroups
by % of chance that the two querried groups will differ
in their reponse. (YM, YF, OM, OF = Younger/Older
YF vs. OF 0,47 0,32 0,19 0,50 0,28
YM vs. OM 0,99 0,73 0,61 0,75 0,99
YF vs. YM 0,84 0,37 0,99 0,84 0,96
OF vs. OM 0,02 0,08 0,89 0,74 0,22
3.3 Results of Motivators in Favorite
Specific questions regarding motivators were asked
with the favorite game in mind. In particular distin-
guishing features of games were queried: Goals, Re-
wards, Competition, Friends, and Emotions. These
points are compared across the four above defined
demographic groups. With the likert skale from 1-
6 (1=not at all and 6=very much), groups 1-3 and
groups 5-6 are joined. The values in Table 2 represent
the chance
that the resulting two queried subgroups
respond differently to each motivator.
It shows that competition is of different impor-
tance for male than female, regardless of age. Goals
and Emotions have different importance for younger
vs. older males, Emotions differing also between
male and female when young. Regarding Goals and
Rewards male and female have assimilated with age.
Figures 2 and 3 show the difference between the
% of females minus % of males who selected a par-
ticular rating for a category. (Similar graphics can
be seen for the other two comparisons in Figures 5
and 4.) A higher positive bar shows preference by fe-
male or older demographic when compared to male or
younger demographic. When there is a large change
from ”very little” on the likert scale to ”very strong”
then it can be seen that there is a large difference be-
tween the two groups. For example, older males pay
little attention to emotion, while younger males feel
very strongly about this motivator. Younger females
differ most strongly in competition when compared
to young male. Changes from young to older females
are not so pronounced. Changes between older male
and females are also less pronounced, except for the
competition factor.
In order to understand more closely, which emo-
tions are important in playing and how these are cre-
This calculation is based on N-1 Chi-Square test as rec-
ommended by (Campbell, 2007), using the 2-tailed p-value.
CSEDU 2017 - 9th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
Figure 2: Difference between younger males and females.
Figure 3: Difference between older males and females.
ated, one question relates to this regarding the specific
favorite game. Namely, which emotion is produced
by the game and how this emotion is established. An
interesting commonality is found here. Either gen-
der and age group plays for fun and enjoyment. And
each group has mostly minor differences in opinion
on how this fun factor is established. Namely excel-
lent graphics, the ability to improve oneself and the
increasing difficulty. The astonishingly similar distri-
bution is shown in Figure 6. These results corrobo-
rates findings from game design and Psychology (for
example, (Koster, 2014; Bianco et al., 2003)).
3.4 Results of Motivators in General
Based on the installed games on people’s devices, a
profile can be established that compares a tendency of
games and their features that are preferred by gender
or age group. (More analysis can of course be done on
various other parameters.) Equation 1 defines how the
representative number for each group and each fea-
ture (see appendix) was calculated. The cross product
between the number of people within the subgroup
Figure 4: Difference between older and younger males.
Figure 5: Difference between oder and younger females.
who have installed a particular game on their com-
puter with the feature vector across these same games
is normalized as given in Equation 1. This value rep-
resents a preference for a given motivator within the
selected group of respondants to the survey.
, (1)
where X is the vector of persons in a particular
subgroup who have this game installed given the sub-
group and Y is the analysis vector for a particular
game feature across all games. This Vector has a 1
if the feature exists and a 0 if the feature does not ex-
ist. (The feature vectors are referenced in Appendix
The resulting values can then be compared across
subgroups as shown in Figures 7 and 8. Looking at
these, we can determine the following trends (among
Differences between females and males get more
pronounced as they get older.
Males like faces, humor and fun death.
Avoiding Failure in Modern Game Design with Academic Content - A Recipe, an Anti-Pattern and Applications Thereof
Figure 6: Commonalities on most important emotion and
how this emotion is created.
Older people need more goals.
Females like a come-back incentive.
Females tend to be more interested in levels than
males.This is less pronounced in younger ages.
Some differences between gender are more pro-
nounced in the older demographic.
Figure 9 shows items that are most sensitive to
gender specific demographics. Among these are
also levels, rewards and competition that will be
discussed in more detail later.
Figure 7: Values (Equation 1) for female demographics
sorted by younger females (implicit feature preference).
Based on the features preferences across the
games we can establish that there are indeed differ-
ences when looking across all the various features that
games have. While this information shows implic-
itly which features are preferred through the games
that are installed, it is not guaranteed that all installed
games become favorites. So, they do not necessar-
ily represent a true picture of favorite games choices.
However, they may serve as an indicator given the
Figure 8: Values (Equation 1) for male demographics,
sorted by younger males. (implicit feature preference).
Figure 9: Selected motivators showing differences in gender
for younger and older demographic groups. The younger
demographic tends to have less pronounced differences.
large set of data. The next step is to compare features
specific to the favorite game.
3.5 Results of Direct Questions about
General Motivators
Questions, looking more specifically and detailed at
the motivators of Levels, Rewards and Competition,
were asked. While they seem to be favored in dif-
ferent ways by demographic groups, a more detailed
examination shows commonalities.
Figure 10 depicts the relative importance of levels
in games for both males and females in general and
in their favorite game. All demographics, whether in
general or for their favorite game, favor levels.
Figure 11 depicts preferences for several different
types of competitions that can be used in games. It
shows that certain types of competition are more in-
teresting than others. While there are gender differ-
ences, there is some agreement across demograph-
CSEDU 2017 - 9th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
ics that competition with self is more preferred than
global competition.
Figure 12 shows that there are different types of
rewards. In general rewards may not be important to
players. However, looking in more detail at different
types of rewards, there are differences. If the reward
pertains to gaining more power or skills in the game,
they are of interest to a larger number of people than
simple rewards that do not enable the player. This
finding holds true across all demographics.
Figure 10: How important are levels?
Figure 11: Which types of Competition are Prefered?
3.6 Summary and Conclusion of Survey
Looking at implicit and explicit preferences in mo-
tivators, we have shown differences in demographic
subgroups. But more importantly, we have gained
insights into commonalities that are necessary to de-
sign a game for the general public, regarding motiva-
tors for academic content learning. The survey shows
how levels, competition and rewards have to be care-
fully used within a good design. With the gained
Figure 12: How important are Rewards?
knowledge, we can define anti-patterns, how not to
use a game in the classroom or how to design a game
with academic content. Similarly, we can define good
practice on how to present content to users. With
these patterns, we analyze existing games and create
new designs. People enjoy playing for fun. This fun
is created with three major points regardless of demo-
graphic: Learning is fun if it increases without bound-
aries in difficulty. As long as the graphics are good.
The survey has re-confirmed that educational content
is even a necessity for a fun game.
Game design can be done badly and it is of interest to
define an anti-pattern, a pattern for bad design (when
designed for the general crowd) and is deducible from
the survey results.
4.1 Anti-Pattern
Single Level (fits fewer demographics)
Bad Graphics (Crowded, low quality (unless
funny), unrelated to content): For example, too
many icons, graphic elements and texts.
No rewards or unrelated rewards (that do not con-
tribute directly to increased skill)
Little self-awareness of skill increase
Too complex on-boarding or advancement
Long units of play necessary
No view of own high-score to compete with
No replay of level - ie. no chance to improve
Too much material at the same time (unleveled)
Avoiding Failure in Modern Game Design with Academic Content - A Recipe, an Anti-Pattern and Applications Thereof
Path to restrictive (no choices)
Levels can be designed badly as follows:
Few levels
Too many repetitions, no new elements
No individual speed
Competition with others
No improvement in finished levels possible
4.2 Analysis of Generic Educational
Analyzing the generic learning environments, that
still pervade most of the education system, in terms
of this anti-pattern one can see some design issues
from the point of view of enjoying learning in schools
or universities today. While schools have levels (first
grade, second grade, ...), there is no individual speed.
In fact, there often is competition with others and af-
ter a level is finished, no improvement is possible. A
bad grade not only can not be improved, but can per-
manently hold students back in future levels.
While grades can be seen as rewards (for those
who do well), they do not represent new tools for
solving more complex problem sets. They may not
even reflect skills accurately by themselves (Schuler
et al., 1990; Trapmann et al., 2007b; Trapmann et al.,
2007a). Students tend to have little knowledge of their
own skills since there is no progress bar during the
course of one class (with respect to skills - there are
progress bars in terms of time and exam dates). The
learning path is also very restricted with few electives
and no control over the speed at which the content
will be mastered.
Furthermore, the on-boarding process and further
progression is not always easy, ”I have no time to
learn, I need to prepare for the exam next week” -
is a typical anti-pattern in the game of learning.
Finally, the units of the game are often quite long,
if we can measure them by time between exams. In
school, there are weeks, at University there can be
whole semesters between exams and level-unlocks.
The number of levels with respect to the content are
additionally too few. So learning, in our society has
not yet matched the pattern of good game design for
the general population. It remains to be proven quan-
titatively whether good game design in education im-
proves the skills outcome.
Based on the findings of the survey of 2016 on how
games are played explicitly as well as implicitly, one
can establish a checklist of important design elements
when building a game around academic content for
the general public, that is, they hold mostly true across
In general, the following points are absolutely es-
sential and can not be bypassed:
Graphics (Consistent and Simple)
Rewards (Must relate to capabilities)
Increasing Difficulty
Increased Knowledge
Easy to start and stop playing
Competition with Self
Leave out everything else
Design steps should include the usage of levels in the
following way:
Many Levels (Consistent and Simple)
Frequent new elements
Levels can be infinite (level-based improvements)
Don’t use single level
5.1 Analysis: Phontasia
Phontasia is a game that has educational content
and is on the market (Berkling and Pflaumer, 2014;
Berkling et al., 2015). It has been successfully de-
ployed in schools and has demonstrated an increase in
skill level for the academic content presented within
the game. The content of the game relates to phonics
for German orthography and allows children to pro-
ceed from simple patterns to more complex patterns
in the same way phonics does that for English. The
game is set up as a magician’s lab where the player
mixes potions of letters into words. The potions be-
come increasingly complex. Observation of game use
has shown that it is highly addictive in addition to im-
proving the skills. In fact, becoming expert at the skill
is the central learning goal that children are pursuing
because the skill is gained and the new level of diffi-
culty is the reward, as new potitions become available.
Graphics (Consistent and Simple)
Graphics are beautiful and supported with sounds
that match the underlying theme and the task.
Rewards (Must relate to capabilities)
There are negative rewards, a heart can be lost
three times to catapult players back to the start
CSEDU 2017 - 9th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
(similar to the game of Ludo). The reward is in-
direct in that correctness of the work results in the
ability to reach the next level. The next level has a
larger number of potions that come with increase
in power to work with, resulting in new patterns
to discover.
Increasing Difficulty
Each level offers new opportunities to explore and
with that new difficulties and new potions to mix
in. Letters in new positions are rewards and gifts
that give new power. With this power comes diffi-
culty of words to be spelled.
Increased Knowledge
The students learn to spell words that they had
been previously denied because the necessary po-
tions were not yet acquired.
Easy to start and stop playing
It is easy to start and stop playing at any time.
Stopping in the middle of the most successful
streak is even a good idea because kids cannot
wait to come back and play again to prove, they
can reach the next level.
Competition with Self
There is intense competition with self in order to
reach the next level, without losing a heart, faster
than last time, improving automaticity and profi-
ciency in the player (learner).
Leave out everything else
Nothing else happens in this game except word
spelling and the sounds of the magic mix.
Design steps should include the usage of levels in the
following way:
Many Levels (Consistent and Simple)
There are 12 levels, a lot to a second grader. Each
level adds only one small additional potion.
Frequent new elements
Each level offers new elements and challenges.
They look and feel like rewards because the kids
can finally spell new words that they had been
waiting for and prevented previously (Mostly due
to orthographic misconceptions by the player that
are now being learned correctly).
Levels can be infinite (level-based improvements)
Each level can be played again. In fact, many chil-
dren go back to replay the lower levels because
they enjoy feeling comfortable with already mas-
tered skills.
5.2 Design: Drum Stix
Drum Stix is a game designed to teach rhythm. It has
gone through three iterations of design, successively
using more of the information gained from the survey
and its analysis.
5.2.1 First Design
The original game design consisted of a single-level
game containing small mini-games that were trig-
gered when certain levels were reached in the game.
5.2.2 Revision
According to the survey, levels are important to a
larger demographic. The new design contains a strat-
egy game (build up a village) as basis with levels in
form of missions (or goals) to be achieved to level
up. There are still mini-games as in the original de-
sign but the levels are now more visible to the stu-
dent. There is a dependency between missions and
rewards of currency type (this currency can be used
to buy material for the village). A well-build village
improves the depth of the missions until the game be-
comes increasingly complex. This elaborate reward
system bypasses the original content of rhythm learn-
ing. The survey strongly indicated little interest in
such rewards that are not content or learning progress
5.2.3 Final Version
The game should have easy on-boarding and progres-
sion with constant improvement. Therefore, the com-
plex original design was rejected for a simplified level
design. Maximally simple and dedicated only to the
content in question, the app is opened and a play but-
ton leads directly to the drums, which are the center of
learning. In the first level, 2 drums are visible: ’Kick’
and ’Snare’.
Each level consists of one task. A song is played
in the background. Each drum is marked with a color
and number. The progress-bar (for the song) indicates
which drum should be played (Karaoke style). Miss-
ing a drum-beat results in a mark-down. Correct per-
formance results in a mark-up of points. As the player
repeats this rhythm, the karaoke support is removed.
The level ends with the first mistake the user commits.
As the levels ends, the user is shown his own current
and his highest score. Played levels can be repeated
any time, even as new levels open up.
Gamers can individually adjust the drums accord-
ing to their needs. They can be placed differently or
new drums can be purchased with the collected coins.
Avoiding Failure in Modern Game Design with Academic Content - A Recipe, an Anti-Pattern and Applications Thereof
In buying a new drum, the next level starts. Any open
level can be played with the purchased drums. With
the increasing number of drums, the game becomes
more difficult. More coins can be won and bigger,
additional instruments bought. Rhythms are growing
faster and more complex. While the first purchase is
easy to obtain, further advancement is based on im-
proved skill. There are a large number of levels and
care will be taken to create fun graphics.
We have aligned current cultural motivators for the
general audience with a design recipe and an anti-
pattern. Based on the responses of a large number of
participants, it was shown that different demographics
may differ in certain aspects of game features; there
are nonetheless several very important commonali-
ties. Namely, what constitutes fun, that rewards need
to make sense to improve learning and that competi-
tion is relevant mostly with respect to self. We have
shown how the use of levels is constructive for users.
By providing a recipe and showing how this is applied
during design, a generalizable contribution to the field
of study has been provided. An anti-pattern furthers
understanding of mistakes to avoid during design.
While there are studies providing recipes in gamifi-
cation (Nicholson, 2015) or blended learning (Naaji
et al., 2015), these are not based on large numbers of
participants, nor are they focusing on generic vs. spe-
cific motivators as a function of demographics. The
elaboration of current literature in the field of games
in education, the analysis of responses from gamers
and the ensuing detailed analysis of game design and
its generalization has led the authors once more to
believe that game design is necessary to put the en-
joyment back into learning while improving learner
skills. Regarding future work, there are at least two
areas of work. Given the learning from the survey, a
new design of the survey and re-run would be impor-
tant. In order to show the relevance of game design in
academic content, there must be more focus on mea-
suring learning impact. There are too few studies ac-
cording to the literature (Boyle et al., 2016), for ex-
ample (Novak et al., 2016). Even if there are smaller
studies, these are often not general enough because
they are generated in a specific environment without
quantitatively motivated framework nor performed on
a large number of participants. More research effort
is needed regarding generalizability and outcomes as-
A big thank you goes to the people who participated
in the survey in order to help understand the current
motivation behind playing games.
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Avoiding Failure in Modern Game Design with Academic Content - A Recipe, an Anti-Pattern and Applications Thereof
A1. Games
The list of games that are chosen for the study
is as follows: Figure 13 shows the distribution of
games as they are installed on devices.
FIFA, Pineapple Pen, Block! Hexa Puzzle, Pi-
ano Tiles 2, Rolling Sky, Subway Surfers, Clash of
Clans, Flippy Bottle Extreme, Color Switch, Roll the
Ball, Temple Run, Pou, Hill Climbing Racing, Candy
Crush, Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Geometry Dash, Cut
the rope, 2048, Doodle Jump, Plants vs. Zombies, Jet-
pack Joyride, Stack, Dumb ways to die, Flappy Bird,
Minesweeper, Tetris
Figure 13: Popularity of Games.
Figure 13 depicts the distribution of users that se-
lected this game as installed on their mobile device.
The games are analyzed by their features as discussed
in Section 2. The Table of features by game can be
found on the github project page
A2. Survey
The links to the survey and the analysis page
are online
6.1 Gameplay on Smartphones
6.1.1 Demographics
Age (<13;14-18;19-23;24-30;31-50;>51)
Job/University/School form
Type of University (list)
6.1.2 Playhabits
(mark one) How many times do you play (several
times a day, daily, several times a week, once a
week, rarely, never)
(mark one) How long do you play (minutes, ¡ 30
minutes, longer)
(check all) Where do you play? (home, commute,
at work/school)
6.1.3 Questions Regarding General Games
(check all) What type of game do you like? (strat-
egy, level, single-level, other)
(check all) Which competition motivates you?
(competition with self, with others, does not mo-
tivate, other)
(mark one) How strongly are you motivated by
these types of rewards (not at all, very little, lit-
tle, medium, strongly, very strongly):
Reward for daily play
Rewards that are useful in the game
Rewards that embellish
6.1.4 Which Games do You Have Installed?
(check all ) see list of games above
6.1.5 Favorite Game
Which one
(mark one) What level modus (single level, multi-
ple level, strategy, other)
(mark one) How strongly are you motivated by
these types of rewards (doesnt exist, very little,
little, medium, strongly, very strongly)
(check all) Which emotions do you have during
this game? (Fun, fear, stress, tension, nervous-
ness, frustration, other)
(check all) Which motivators create this emotion?
(graphics, sound, humor, fatal death, open end
to improvement, competition, rewards, increasing
difficulty, clear path, other)
CSEDU 2017 - 9th International Conference on Computer Supported Education