Lowering the barrier between education and real entertainment is an important challenge in order to better exploit the potential of computers and reach a demographic that is traditionally averse to learning. To this end, it is important to investigate how to exploit the appeal of video games (VGs) to also favor and induce learning via playing video games. Achieving this goal is not only a matter of content, since simply “superimposed” educational content risks being perceived as boring. Hence we believe that the game should feature mechanisms for acquiring knowledge and skill that are smoothly embedded in a meaningful, homogeneous, and compelling whole.
Thus, there is a need to compartmentalize components of a game engine so that it becomes easy and efficient to integrate the graphics/interface—which has already been done very well by state-of-the-art successful video games and the educational aspect which is typically poor in those same games. Hence we have defined a general set of mechanisms and modules that can be inserted in state-of-the-art VG environments and are aimed at promoting various kinds of knowledge and procedural skill acquisition.
In order to investigate and validate this concept, we have built an educational game, SeaGame, using a state-of-the-art commercial game development approach, and enriched the environment with instances of developed educational modules.
Analyzing user test results, we conclude that SeaGame is perceived quite similarly to commercial VGs, which suggests that the proposed mechanisms do not compromise the overall enjoyability of the game, which is key to attracting a wide demographic that is not currently involved in educational activities during their leisure time.
The results of this research can be generalized, since the standards of commercial games and the proposed educational enhancements can be instantiated in a variety of educational contexts and applied to different types of content.