Sylvester Arnab

Trans-disciplinary Methodology for Game-based Intervention Development

Sylvester Arnab Monday 27 March 2017

I have established a strong portfolio in the Game Science domain based on research and innovation carried out at Coventry University’s Serious Games Institute and Disruptive Media Learning Lab. Game Science refers to playful and gameful methodologies for user engagement, experience design and behavioural change, which include investigations of the impact of applied gaming, serious gaming, game-based intervention, gamification and playful techniques in various domains. Research work in Game Science includes investigations of applied game-based approaches and interventions underpinned by pedagogical, motivational and psychological theories and practices, which continues to contribute to research and practice community, and realise and measure the impact in operational environments.

The use of games science in redesigning ordinary tasks is transforming everyday lives

The use of games science in redesigning ordinary tasks is transforming everyday lives and most importantly injecting more fun in everyday contexts. The power of games to immerse and motivate, and the capabilities of games to foster and facilitate cognitive gain, awareness, and behavioural change have encouraged more games of this nature to be developed within a research context as well as to be deployed in real application setting.

Despite significant challenges for researchers in this field in terms of the lack of standard methodologies or formulaic frameworks that will guarantee success and efficacy, some important scientific and empirical studies have been undertaken and can therefore serve as benchmarks for establishing the scientific validity in terms of the efficacy of using games to motivate learning and achieve learning outcomes.

At the Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL), I’m focusing on developing guidelines for integrating relevant components in game-based approaches that would be a useful addition to the existing design literatures and frameworks. This piece of work, which has been published by the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET) (see Arnab and Clarke 2017) emphasises on the need for best practices within a multi-disciplinary setting to be translated into a trans-disciplinary development methodology, which infuses knowledge from different disciplines and creates a unity of intellectual frameworks beyond the disciplinary perspectives. This infused methodological framework should act as a validated guide to inform a development process.

My current research and development thus involves defining a trans-disciplinary model for games and gamification design and development as a strategy or methodology that crosses many disciplinary boundaries to create a holistic approach. The aim is to exploit the elements from the different existing discipline-specific frameworks that have been adopted in the development of a game-based intervention aiming to scaffold teaching and learning. The key design considerations should map motivational affordances, psychological outcomes, behavioural outcomes and 21st century learning needs.

This research builds upon existing work in game design studies at the granular level, drawing from established frameworks from relevant disciplines (see Arnab et al., 2012) including the ongoing mapping of learning and game mechanics (see Arnab et al., 2014). A case study based on Arnab et al. (2012), demonstrates how a game called PR:EPARe (Positive Relationships: Eliminating Coercion and Pressure in Adolescent Relationships) was designed by Coventry University’s Studies in Adolescent Sexual Health (SASH) group and the Serious Games Institute (SGI) to assist the delivery of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in the UK.

The trans-disciplinary approach showcased how the Intervention Mapping (IM) approach common to the health intervention field was infused with the Four-Dimensional Framework of Learning (4DF) for game-based learning and the Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics (MDA) model for digital entertainment games. The game design was pedagogically informed via the Learning-Game Mechanics (LM-GM) mapping. Fig 1 demonstrates the merging of IM and 4DF, populated with other models such as the MDA and LM-GM.

 Fig 1. The merging of the Four Dimensional Framework and Intervention Mapping approach

IM when infused with the game design considerations of 4DF provides a more procedural perspective to game-based intervention development, collectively reflecting a user-centred and participatory development approach. This subsequently provides the basis upon which other theoretical and methodological frameworks can be embedded, such as the MDA and the LM-GM models in order to marry the pedagogical (serious) aspect with the entertainment attributes of gameplay. The qualitative and quantitative evaluations when piloted at the schools in Coventry and Warwickshire demonstrated real benefits for pedagogy-driven game-based approaches to support the delivery of RSE within a classroom setting.

Arnab, S. and Clarke, S. (2017), Towards a trans-disciplinary methodology for a game-based intervention development process. British Journal of Educational Technology, 48: 279–312. doi:10.1111/bjet.12377

Arnab, S., Brown,K., Clarke,S., Dunwell,I., Lim,T., Suttie,N., Louchart,S., Hendrix,M., de Freitas,S. (2013). The Development Approach of a Pedagogically-Driven Serious Game to support Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) within a classroom setting. Computers & Education. Elsevier. 69(2013), 15-30.

Arnab S., Lim T., Carvalho M. B., Bellotti F., de Freitas S., Louchart S., Suttie N., Berta R., De Gloria A. (2014) Mapping Learning and Game Mechanics for Serious Games Analysis, British Journal of Educational Technology. doi: 10.1111/bjet.12113


Dr Sylvester Arnab is a Reader in Games Science at Coventry University, co-leading research at the Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL) with a vast portfolio of games and gamification research and development. Sylvester is currently coordinating the EC Horizon 2020 BEACONING project (Beaconing.eu worth €5.9 million with 15 partners), which aims to foster ͚anytime anywhere͛ learning using pervasive, context-aware and gamified techniques and is a co-founder of the GameChangers (gamify.org.uk) initiaitive. He is also leading DMLL’s contribution to the EC H2020 C4Rs.eu project and leading the HEFCE funded Mobile GameChangers and NEWTON CreativeCulture with Malaysia. He currently has over 80 publications and has a portfolio of in excess of £19 million research funding (value) so far.