Monday, April 25, 2016

Enhancing the Therapy Experience Using Principles of Video Game Design.

Folkins, J. W., Brackenbury, T., Krause, M., & Haviland, A. (2016). Enhancing the Therapy Experience Using Principles of Video Game Design. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology / American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 25(1), 111–121.

            Gamers around the world, on average, spend eight hours per week playing video games. Although games are played at one’s own leisure, sometimes it is difficult to put the game down even when mentally fatigued. Such attraction to video games can be explained by six key principles: essential experience, discovery, risk-taking, generalization, reward system, and identity. Folkins et al. discuss these key principles and explain how they can be incorporated into future therapies among speech language pathologists.
            The essential experience principle is the idea of positive experience felt from playing the game itself. Minecraft is an example of a game where gamers can freely roam and create massive structures using their own imagination. This game has no specific goal or purpose, but the positive experience of exploring and creating structures compels gamers to continue playing. Clinicians can apply this principle in their therapy sessions by addressing their client’s negative experiences and finding ways to improve future experiences.
            The discovery principle promotes learning, discovering and unlocking skills or secrets to increase gamers’ level of engagement. In a clinical perspective, environmental manipulation can be a form of discovery learning. Children who have expressive impairments may request a toy that is locked in a jar, but will not necessarily receive it until the clinician elicits the production at the targeted level. If unsuccessful, the child can request the toy multiple times and discover what form/level of communication seems to work.
            The risk-taking principle and the reward system principle have the common theme of being challenging-yet-rewarding. Challenging games that create the feeling of “pleasantly frustrated”, often promote gamers to continue playing and re-trying unsuccessful levels. In addition, if the reward has an intrinsic value (e.g. the ability to travel to a different world), this further enhances their motivation and engagement. Applying these principles to a clinical setting could mean creating an environment where risk-taking is encouraged. Extrinsic rewards such as verbal reinforcement and small prizes are a good use of the reward principle. However, rewards that have intrinsic properties (e.g. successful communication, improved self-image) are highly encouraged as this is a primary motivator to clients.
            These key principles in game design are highly effective in motivating gamers to continue playing. Clinicians are encouraged to reflect on these principles when designing their therapy sessions to increase their clients’ motivation and engagement.

Blogger: Joel Kang is an undergraduate student in neuroscience and completed this honours thesis under Lisa Archibald’s supervision

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