How to Apply the DDE framework for Game Design in Microlearning

Before you actually start the process of gamifying a microlearning asset, you need to know about game design frameworks.

One such framework is the Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics (MDA) framework of game design.

The MDA framework has been further improved upon by Wolfgang Walk, Daniel Görlich, and Mark Barrett ised in the form of the ‘Design, Dynamics and Experience (DDE) framework’.

The DDE framework of game design helps you go inculcate a meaningful production rigor, and makes you better-equipped to lead the development of your microlearning game design.

To do so, let’s quickly revisit the MDA framework, and then move on to DDE framework.

MDA Framework by Hunicke: a Recap

Why should you revisit MDA? Well, it’s best to first get a firm grip on MDA framework, and then build upon it by understanding the DDE framework.

MDA stands for Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics in the game design process. This is a widely accepted framework, and remains extremely valuable to understand the basics of gamification design process.

  • Mechanics describes the components of the game comprising data representation and algorithms.
  • Dynamics describes the run-time behavior comprising of player inputs.
  • Aesthetics describes the desirable emotional responses evoked in the player while interacting with a game.

How is DDE framework different from MDA? Well, it actually builds upon the MDA framework with a greater focus on:

(1) Design aspects of games that go beyond the game mechanics, and

(2) Gamified content and experience-oriented game designs.

The DDE Framework Explained

1. Design

The Design element focuses on the production process of a game, and its iterative nature. It views design in 3 sub-categories- viz. Blueprint, Mechanics and Interface.

These 3 help you see the production process as one whole in its entirety.

Plus, it helps your designer to see the 3 stages of the production process clearly, and help visualize the player’s journey through the game.

Blueprint- deals with the game world in concept: its cultures, religions, physics and other rule sets. Here you define the art design, narrative design, character design, and sound design that together create the aesthetic experience for your player or learner. Planning and documentation of the game development process in the blueprint.

Mechanics- makes the framework much more specific that helps in the creation the game. It’s all about the code architecture, the input/output handling, the object handling, the implementation of the game rules and object interaction. Mechanics comprises of elements that your player does not directly see or hear during play. It can only be experienced indirectly via the gaming interface (technology).

Interface- concerns the design and production of elements to create the real game interface. It has to do with everything that communicates the game world to the player– how it looks, how it sounds, how it reacts and interacts with the player, and the game’s internal feedback loops. The interface also contains the report system that every game needs. Every graphic asset, sound asset, cut scene or text on display is part of the interface.

2. Dynamics

Dynamics allows the creative process that has to do with design iterations. It clarifies the divergent perspectives of designers and players.

Design involves planning all of the parts of the game including putting them together. Dynamics defines what happens when the game starts and all of those parts work together.

Let’s understand this with the analogy of a car- its Design and its Dynamics:

Designing a car is about the individual parts of the vehicle.

Dynamics come into play when all the parts of the automotive work together. The element of ‘working-together’ creates multiple driving scenarios. This includes scenarios of how the car and it’s parts will respond to different driving styles, situations and actions.

Dynamics makes a game to work as intended. It deals with the complexity of all the players (learners) in a game as well as their choices, decisions and unpredictable nature.

3. Experience

The MDA framework describes Aesthetics as the desirable emotional responses which are evoked when the player interacts with the game system. Whereas DDE lays more focus on the Player-Subject and the Antagonist (the opponent, enemy, rival or villain) in a game.

The Player becomes a ‘Subject’ in a game. This means that the ‘act of playing a game’ is an act of ‘subjectivization’. This means that the gaming process creates a ‘Player-Subject’ (your player/learner)  who is connected to the rules of the game.

The Player-Subject is like a mental persona. The learner or player of your game is also a character who is able to make decisions that are not easily possible in real life. Your player becomes a mental character with a different set of abilities, thinking capabilities, confidence-levels and ethics.

In a game, you can even put your Player-Subject into a challenging/dangerous situation to experience the thrills of a game without any exposure to real-world harm or loss. This allows experiencing and exploring mentally challenging situations from a safe-zone. Your player gets all the points, badges, benefits and rewards without any real risk. The player is able to learn without having to make costly mistakes on the job which is comparable to real-life work situations.

The experience of a player begins as soon as the game starts.

Antagonist and the Player-Subject

The Antagonist in a game design helps generate conflict, contrast or tension of differing levels.

The Player-Subject may have to deal with a worthy opponent in the form of an Antagonist.

Playing a game creates a journey that works on multiple levels:

  • Senses: The organoleptic journey where a player feels sensory experiences from start to finish. It’s the totality of what the player sees, hears and senses in the game.
  • Cerebellum: The cerebellar journey deals with all the emotions the player experiences in a game: fears and horrors, sadness, guilt and anger, happiness, joy, and many other emotions.
  • Cerebrum: The cerebral journey consists of all the intellectual challenges and decisions the player experiences or contemplates.

You need to be aware of players’ perception, their interpretation of the game world and subsequent decision-making to create an engaging microlearning gaming asset.

Knowing the emotional expectations of your learners will helps you succeed in creating an engaging and fun gamification asset.

To conclude, the Design, Dynamics, Experience (DDE) framework helps you see what needs to be produced while designing your microlearning gaming asset. It helps you produce game narratives that are experience-oriented.

DDE framework also helps your gaming designers to understand the value of the story and the learning objective within the overall framework of a game development.

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