by Vincent Schiller

How can a digital game-based learning application for learning programming be designed to be as user-friendly, motivating, and extensible as possible?

ENC#YPTED was designed user-centered, which proved to be highly effective as usability difficulties were noticed and improved interactively during development.
It was found that the game has a high motivational potential, as the subjects tested a level for over two hours in some cases, despite the difficulty being too high. Nevertheless, the testers stated that they were always motivated and entertained, which is why a flow experience can be assumed. As has been shown, the knowledge transfer of the prototype is rather slow due to the extensive playing time with comparatively few topics covered. This balance between entertainment and knowledge transfer shows one of the biggest challenges in the implementation of such an educational game. However, due to the high motivation potential, it can be assumed that the entry hurdle is easier to overcome for programming beginners. For this reason, it can be used in teaching as an effective introduction to the often-feared subject of programming.

To analyse how such a programming learning game can be designed to be as user-friendly and motivating as possible, similar, already existing game concepts and underlying neurological principles were examined. In addition, interviews with test players were conducted several times during the development process to further improve the application in a user-centred way. The test persons were observed playing the game and then asked about their user experience.
Future research is needed to determine and possibly optimize the actual learning success of the application, including a broader use of the system in the context of standardized UX tests on a large sample. To accomplish this, additional game levels and improvements are already in the planning, which will soon be used and evaluated by students in the Game Design lecture for Unity Development at the University of Applied Sciences Dresden (FHD).

GBL can…
help to easier overcome the entry hurdle to a complex topic such as programming languages.

GBL cannot…
replace classical teaching. Instead, it can be used as a complement to introduce difficult topics in an exploratory way.