Questions Over Answers: Reflective Game Design

  • Rilla Khaled
Part of the Gaming Media and Social Effects book series (GMSE)


Reflection is the mental process that occurs when we encounter situations that cannot be effectively dealt with using previous experiences and solutions. For decades, it has been acknowledged as an important process in learning, and in recent years it has become a central focus of branches of interaction design. Games are highly appropriate vehicles for triggering and supporting reflection, but several of the dominant tropes of conventional game design directly work against reflection. In serious games, the promise of safe environments, the drive to pose problems with clear solutions and a preference for stealth learning complicate how directly we can design for reflection. In mainstream entertainment games, qualities such as immersion and the design traditions of designing for the everyplayer and quantifying motivation again run counter to a reflective agenda. Drawing on the critical and reflective design literature and on case studies of experimental games on the peripheries of mainstream game design, I propose reflective game design, a new alternative design agenda from which to design, deconstruct and make sense of play experiences.


  1. Abbott, M. (2012). Video games are easier than ever, yet harder to manage.
  2. Abt, C. C. (1970). Serious games. Viking Press.Google Scholar
  3. Agre, P. (1997). Computation and human experience. Learning in doing. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Andersen, E. (2012). Optimizing adaptivity in educational games. In Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games (pp. 279–281). ACM Press.
  5. Annetta, L. A. (2008). Video games in education: Why they should be used and how they are being used. Theory Into Practice: New Media and Education in the 21st Century, 47(3), 229–239.Google Scholar
  6. Bateman, C., & Boon, R. (2006). 21st Century game design. Charles river media game development series. Charles River Media.Google Scholar
  7. Boal, A. (1985). Theatre of the oppressed. Theatre Communications Group.Google Scholar
  8. Boud, D., Keogh, R., & Walker, D. (1985). Reflection: Turning experience into learning. Kogan Page.Google Scholar
  9. Burke, K. (1950). A Rhetoric of motives. Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  10. Calleja, G. (2011). In-game: From immersion to incorporation. MIT Press.Google Scholar
  11. Chen, N. S., Wei, C. W., Wu, K. T., & Uden, L. (2009). Effects of high level prompts and peer assessment on online learners’ reflection levels. Computer Education, 52(2), 283–291.
  12. Cook, J., & Oliver, M. (2002). Designing a toolkit to support dialogue in learning. Computer Education, 38(1–3), 151–164. Scholar
  13. Crookall, D. (2010). Serious games, debriefing, and simulation/gaming as a discipline. Simulation Gaming, 41(6), 898–920. Scholar
  14. Davidson (1983). Math Blaster!.Google Scholar
  15. Dewey, J. (1933). How we think: A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. Heath and company: D.C.Google Scholar
  16. Die Gute Fabrik (2014). Johann Sebastian Joust.
  17. Dourish, P., Finlay, J., Sengers, P., & Wright, P. (2004). Reflective HCI: Towards a critical technical practice. In: CHI ’04 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI EA ’04, pp. 1727–1728. ACM, New York, NY, USA.
  18. Dunne, A. (2006). Hertzian tales: Electronic products, aesthetic experience, and critical design. The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  19. Ermi, L., & Mäyrä, F. (2005). Fundamental components of the gameplay experience: Analysing immersion. In DIGRA. DIGRA.Google Scholar
  20. Ernevi, A., Palm, S., & Redström, J. (2007). Erratic appliances and energy awareness. Knowledge, Technology, and Policy, 20(1), 71–78.Google Scholar
  21. European design centre: Birth play (2011–2013).Google Scholar
  22. Fisch, S., Kirkorian, H., & Anderson, D. (2005). Transfer of learning in informal education: The case of television. In J. P. Mestre (ed.) Transfer of learning from a modern multidisciplinary perspective, pp. 371–393. Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  23. Frasca, G. (2004). Videogames of the oppressed: Critical thinking, education, tolerance, and other trivial issues. (pp. 85–94). MIT Press, Boston.
  24. Friedman, B., Kahn Jr., P. H. (2003). The human-computer interaction handbook. chap. Human values, ethics, and design, (pp. 1177–1201). L. Erlbaum Associates Inc., Hillsdale, NJ, USA.Google Scholar
  25. Fullerton, T. (2008). Game design workshop, Second Edition: A playcentric approach to creating innovative games (Gama Network Series), 2 edn. Morgan Kaufmann.Google Scholar
  26. Gaver, B., Dunne, T., & Pacenti, E. (1999). Design: Cultural probes. Interactions, 6, 21–29.
  27. Gaver, W. (2008). Designing for homo ludens, still. In Binder, T., Lowgren, J., Malmborg, L. (eds.) (Re)Searching the Digital Bauhaus. Springer.Google Scholar
  28. Gaver, W., Sengers, P., Kerridge, T., Kaye, J., & Bowers, J. (2007). Enhancing ubiquitous computing with user interpretation: Field testing the home health horoscope. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI ’07, (pp. 537–546). ACM, New York, NY, USA.
  29. Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  30. Geurts, J., de Caluwé, L., & Stoppelenburg, A. (2000). Changing Organisations with gaming/simulations. Elsevier Bedrijfsinformatie.Google Scholar
  31. Hall, L., Jones, S., Paiva, A., Aylett, R. (2009). Fearnot!: providing children with strategies to cope with bullying. In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children, IDC ’09, (pp. 276–277). ACM, New York, NY, USA.
  32. Hayes, N. A., & Broadbent, D. E. (1988). Two modes of learning for interactive tasks. Cognition, 28(3), 249–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hijmans, E., Peters, V., van de Westelaken, M., Heldens, J., van Gils, A. (2009). Encounters of a safe environment in simulation games. In Bagdonas, E., Patasiene, I. (eds.) Games: Virtual Worlds and Reality. Selected papers of ISAGA 2009.Google Scholar
  34. Hofstede, G. J., De Caluwé, L., & Peters, V. (2010). Why simulation games work-in search of the active substance: A synthesis. Simulation Gaming, 41(6), 824–843. Scholar
  35. Khaled, R. (2012). Muse-based game design. In Conference on Designing Interactive Systems, (pp. 721–730). ACM.Google Scholar
  36. Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  37. Levine, K. (2007). BioShock. 2K Games.Google Scholar
  38. Mandler, J. (2004). The foundations of mind: Origins of conceptual thought. USA: Oxford Series in Cognitive Development. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Mawdesley, M., Long, G., Al-jibouri, S., & Scott, D. (2011). The enhancement of simulation based learning exercises through formalised reflection, focus groups and group presentation. Computers & Education, 56(1), 44–52. Scholar
  40. McNamara, D. S., O’Reilly, T. P., Best, R. M., & Ozuru, Y. (2006). Improving adolescent students’ reading comprehension with istart. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 34(2), 147–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mezirow, J. (1990). Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: a guide to transformative and emancipatory learning. Jossey-Bass Social and Behavioral Science Series: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Google Scholar
  42. Molyneux, P. (2004). Fable. Microsoft Game Studios.Google Scholar
  43. Moon, J. (1999). Reflection in learning and professional development: Theory and practice. Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  44. Muller, M. J. (2003). The human-computer interaction handbook. chap. Participatory design: the third space in HCI, (pp. 1051–1068). L. Erlbaum Associates Inc., Hillsdale, NJ, USA.Google Scholar
  45. Murray, J. H. (1997). Hamlet on the Holodeck: The future of narrative in cyberspace. New York, NY, USA: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  46. Pajitnov, A. (1984). Tetris. Infogrames.Google Scholar
  47. Piaget, J. (1985). The equilibration of cognitive structures. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  48. Pilkington, R., & Parker-Jones, C. (1996). Interacting with computer-based simulation: The role of dialogue. Computers & Education, 27(1), 1–14.
  49. Prensky, M. (2001). Digital game-based learning. McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  50. Rawitsch, D., Heinemann, B., Dillenberger, P. (1974). The Oregon trail. Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium.Google Scholar
  51. Raybourn, E. M. (2000). Designing an emergent culture of negotiation in collaborative virtual communities: The case of the domecitymoo. SIGGROUP Bulletin, 21(1), 28–29. Scholar
  52. Salen, K., Zimmerman, E. (2004). Rules of Play: Game design fundamentals. MIT Press.Google Scholar
  53. Schell, J. (2008). The art of game design: A book of lenses, 1 edn. Morgan Kaufmann.Google Scholar
  54. Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Basic Books.Google Scholar
  55. Sengers, P., Boehner, K., David, S., & Kaye, J. J. (2005). Reflective design. In: Proceedings of the 4th decennial conference on Critical computing: between sense and sensibility, CC ’05, (pp. 49–58). ACM, New York, NY, USA.
  56. Sicart, M. (2009). The banality of simulated evil: Designing ethical gameplay. Ethics and Information Technology, 11(3), 191–202. Scholar
  57. Solomon, J. (1987). New thoughts on teacher education. Oxford Review of Education, 13(3), 267–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sotamaa, O. (2007). Perceptions of player in game design literature. In: B. Akira (ed.) Situated Play: Proceedings of the 2007 Digital Games Research Association Conference, (pp. 456–465). The University of Tokyo, Tokyo.Google Scholar
  59. Sotamaa, O., Ermi, L., Jäppinen, A., Laukkanen, T., Mäyrä, F., & Nummela, J. (2005). The Role of Players in Game Design: A Methodological Perspective. In Proceedings of the 6th DAC Conference, (pp. 34 – 42). Copenhagen.Google Scholar
  60. Súilleabháin, G. Ó., & Sime, J. A. (2010). Games for learning and learning transfer. In Roisin Donnelly, K.K.C.O., Jen Harvey (ed.) Critical design and effective tools for e-learning in higher education: Theory into practice, (pp. 113–126). IGI Global Publication.Google Scholar
  61. Ueda, F. (2005). Shadow of the Colussus. Sony Computer Entertainment.Google Scholar
  62. Wilson, D., Sicart, M. (2010). Now it’s personal: on abusive game design. In Proceedings of the International Academic Conference on the Future of Game Design and Technology, Futureplay ’10, (pp. 40–47). ACM, New York, NY, USA.
  63. Winn, B. (2008). The design, play, and experience framework. In Handbook of Research on Effective Electronic Gaming in Education, (pp. 1010–1024). IGI Global Publication, Hershey, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  64. Yeh, Y. C. (2004). Nurturing reflective teaching during critical-thinking instruction in a computer simulation program. Computer & Education, 42(2), 181–194. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Design and Computation ArtsConcordia UniversityMontréalCanada

Personalised recommendations