Introduction

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Currently, both research and practice show a great interest in studying and

developing ways to use computers in various forms to support and enhance

interaction between humans. Although the issue of human-to-human interaction

by use of computers is of great relevance and importance, we still must not

forget about the interaction between humans and computers. New factors and

aspects, not previously grasped by the Human Computer Interaction (HCI)

discipline, are becoming recognized as important in the interaction between

users and technology. Aspects such as emotions, experiences and entertainment

are more and more frequently considered when designing and developing

new computer applications in many different areas.

Entertaining experiences is one of these new aspects that today are becoming

in focus not only in traditional areas of entertainment, but are currently used in

previously non-entertaining contexts as a mean to improve products and user/

consumer experiences. Examples of this could be found both in the physical

world (i.e., restaurants and theme parks) but also in computer contexts such as

on the World Wide Web and in different kinds of software (Pine II & Gilmore,

1999; Wolf, 1999). The application of entertainment in previously nonentertaining

environments and contexts opens up new research questions, as

entertainment is applied and used with purposes beyond creating plain amusement

and fun for the user. One of the areas where entertainment is applied with

purposes beyond just creating an amusing experience is the area of edutainment,

where entertainment is used in combination with education in order to create a

motivating and successful environment for learning.

Adams et al. (1996) describe edutainment as a blend of education and

entertainment, pursued in multimedia software. The description, or definition,

indicates that the two major dimensions of importance in edutainment is some

kind of pedagogy (education) and some kind of “fun” or entertaining experience

(entertainment). Edutainment is therefore one example where research on new

appliances of entertainment in previously non-entertainment contexts may be

conducted.

Considering the definition of the edutainment concept (as a blend of entertainment

and education), we might conclude that design of edutainment includes the

design of both entertainment and educational aspects in a design artifact. This

may cause some difficulties. The pedagogical aspects that are of importance for

the educational part of the artifact may in some cases be in opposition to the

aspects of importance for the entertainment part of the artifact. There seems to

be a need for some kind of trade-off to be made in order to achieve a good

result in the design of both the entertainment and the education in the artifact.

A parallel could be made to Nielsen’s (1999) discussion about content and

package of the content in a web page design context. According to Nielsen

(1999) the users of a web page are focused on the content of the page and

consider the user interface, or package, as a barrier through which they reach

for the content they want. Despite a cool, sizzling or ”killer” interface or

environment, the usability of a web page would be negatively affected if the

content of the web page fails to deliver something to the user (Nielsen, 1999).

Therefore, Nielsen (1999) concludes that content is king.

There is a need for design guidelines and implications when designing edutainment

under these circumstances. This paper reports from an initial study conducted

for the purpose of providing guidelines/implications for design of edutainment

games (an instance of edutainment), performed within the FunTain project, a

joint project between HCI academics and game design practitioners. The

purpose of this chapter is to report the findings from initial usability evaluations

on an edutainment game in order to provide design implications for design of

edutainment games.

Qualities of an Edutainment Artifact

In related work, suggestions of aspects that are of major importance for

educational software and multimedia can be found. These suggestions should

be of importance also in design of edutainment artifacts such as edutainment

games.

Adams et al. (1996) suggest that multimedia products for educational purposes

should be designed with the following aspects in mind: effective learning,

effective teaching, effective communication of the content and effective use of

technology to achieve the previous aspects. In order to achieve effective

learning, the artifact, or product, should be simple (explain topics in terms for

the user’s already known knowledge), clear (define topics in their entirely) and

unambiguous (distinguishing specific topics from others). Effective teaching,

they argue, will be achieved by highlighting perspectives needed to master the

topic and by providing appropriate feedback mechanisms to the learners. They

suggests that effective communication could be achieved by presenting material

so as to increase the learner’s understanding of the topic in a monotonically

fashion. Technology should then be used to ensure the previously mentioned

aspects, and not to obscure them. In design of multimedia for education, the

usual human factors must be addressed, and the technology should bring

together the benefits that the different media provide.

Lin et al. (2001) highlight the possibility to pass control of learning sequences

from the program designer to the learner in web-based teaching. Good

education software should be active, not passive, in that the learner should be

doing something actively and not watching something passively. Adams et al.

(1996) seem to agree with this recommendation, and they conclude by

suggesting that active engagement by interaction with multimedia can increase

the attention span for learners with positive effects, such as customization of

pace and learning style to suit the individual learner’s specific needs.

The suggested aspects and factors above all tend to focus on the education

dimension of edutainment. When designing edutainment games this dimension

is of great importance. However, if the game itself is not considered entertaining,

it is likely that users will quit playing the game, with no educational

experience as a result. Further, the above suggestions give high-level implications

with no specific guidance for designing edutainment games specifically. In

HCI there is a long tradition of development of design guidelines and overall

these are very much on a micro level and specific on the technology itself.

The Edutainment Game Prototype

The game is called “Laser Challenge” and was designed in order to educate the

player/user about appliances of laser technique. No specific knowledge about

the laser technique was required for playing the game, but the user was

supposed to be inspired by the game to learn more about lasers. The game

followed a linear, platform metaphor, and consisted of four episodes with

increasing difficulty in the interactive parts. The main theme was intended to be

non-violent and the basis was that the user should collect CDs to give a party.

The player controlled and steered a character on the screen in order to collect

CDs and avoid “enemy” objects in the game environment, presented in the

shape of skateboard kids who were trying to steal the CDs from the player’s

character. Further, the user got points when answering questions about lasers

that were presented in the game. Below, some screen shots from the game are

shown.

Picture 1. Pre-game instructions screen (the overall goals and objectives

of the game is described, as well as the basic game controls)

Picture 2. User controlled character to the left, a spinning question mark

that leads to a question that must be answered by the user, a CD that must

be collected in order to complete the game and a number (250) that

represent “free” points to score