Research Proposal

Transdisciplinary inquiry

Jake McPherson Student ID: 14846529




Topic/Research Question:

The basis of this project is to look at how digital simulations can influence people, by passing on educational information in a way that differs from the traditional learning methods that we see in society. No two people think in the same way so a key part of this project would be to experiment with different methods of teaching people through a digital means. The way this project would be executed would be to make a digital environment that is totally distinctive each time it is played and has distinctive ways of communicating information. Presentation and simulation methods will be a focal part of the project as they are the medium that people will be interacting through. Overall the focal part of this project would to be to dictate whether it is beneficial to teach people through nontraditional digital means such as an interactive games or an immersive experience.

Research Benefits/Significance:

This particular research topic will allow an understanding of how people interact with digital environments and whether or not they are able to take information more effectively through this means of teaching. Games are generally classed as a distraction/waste of time in relation to learning. This project means to look into the possibility that games/digital experiences can actually be beneficial in a way that they are able to be classed as an effective way of learning. One outcome will be to gain an insight into how technology affects the way that people take in information and how it affects their emotions, actions and engagement levels. We will also be able to observe whether or not people are more inclined to learn when they are doing something that they enjoy. The data from this research could help people in the future come up with new methods of digital immersion, developing more creative environments that allow deeper learning to be made.

Literature Review:

This project can be classed as a sort of social experiment where we observe how people interact with a digital simulation of reality. People are habitual and have reactions that follow distinctive patterns that if observed can be used to predict reactions and emotions before people even interact with the said event. Laura Ermi and Frans Mayra cover the topic “Fundamental of the game-play experience: Analyzing Immersion”. They look at the elements that are part of human experience. An interesting idea is that the human experience in virtual environments and games are made up of the same elements that all other experiences consist of and the only real difference is that the experience is virtual but felt with real expressive emotions.

Game-play experience can be defined now as being made up of the ‘players’ sensations, thoughts, feelings, actions, and meaning-making in a game-play setting. They further with the suggestions that games are more like “artifacts” than “media”. Emotion plays a focal part of immersion levels people do not just engage in ready-made game-play but also actively take part in the construction of these experiences, they build their own experience based off their individual personalities. They “bring their desires, anticipations, and previous experiences”. This in turn sets a preconception of how the experience will affect the player before they even enter the environment. Immersion levels within games are have a direct relationship with the player’s mood and thought processes during the act of play. “The social context is central in game-play experiences”. People are naturally competitive which is the fuel behind most multiplayer games, and is and in turn why they are so popular in the current day we live in. (Suzanne De Castell, 2007 ) There are a lot of factors that dictate what the immersion levels and overall quality of the experience will be for the player. Such as: Temporal constraints, social context, mood, and functionality.

An interesting concept is using pre-determined factors to play/interact with the emotions of the player. Reaction intensity in relation to temporal correction is a concept that looks at the relationship between our initial reactions and time. The intensity of our initial reactions can be a product of time. Temporal correction can be used to predict the duration of people’s emotional reactions. Using time is a way of influencing the actions of a player. People react in different ways when they feel pressured to complete a task and are more or less likely to make mistakes and get frustrated, in contrast to people who are left to explore at their own pace and leisure. An interesting possible feature of the ‘game’ could be to implement a time limit on the player and observe the game-play compared to a player that has no restraints. (Lisa Feldman Barret, 2002) Technology is evolving every day and is becoming an ever more important role in the way we learn. There are many ways that people use technology to aid learning. It’s also said that technology is changing the way our brains work and take in information. Collaborative learning is an important concept that looks at how two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together. Real-time communication is something that wasn’t as accessible as it is today. (Gutierrez, 2014) It is a pinnacle part of how gaming, in particular multiplayer games. People are more inclined to let themselves become more ‘immersed’ in a game if they feel like they are not alone and are part of a team. Playing with friends adds a whole new spin on the immersion factor. This is due to the pre-existing relationships that people have with each other.

Richard Van Eck is an associate professor at the university of North Dakota. He talks about the widespread public interest in games being used as learning tools. Games have widely been said to be  the opposite of work because they utilize the element of play. Games embody well-established principles and models of learning. Learning that occurs in meaningful contexts is the most effective way of learning. The principle of situated cognition explains this. On thing that i found interesting was the statement that play is a primary socialization and leaning mechanism common to all human cultures. Games use the principles of play as an instructional strategy.  Van Eck believes that as people move away from the stance that games are not effective in teaching people, Digital game based learning will become more and more common in society. A good example of this was linked in his review. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is a grant making foundation that supports initiatives in education world health and population. In 2012 MIT’s Education Arcade was granted 3 Million Dollars to design an MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) to teach mathematics and biology.

Design/Plan / Methodology of the Study:

This research will be experimental and will dynamic in its constraints. The goal of this study is to learn about digital techniques of education whether it be a game or an immersive experience. We will be using an Action research plan, creating or product, giving it to the public to interact with than developing our ideas based on the feedback from the people who have experienced it. As part of this study, a vital part will be gaining human interaction and feedback. The New Zealand Game Developers Meet-Up is a constructive group that gets together once a month to discuss projects and games that people are currently working on. They will provide important criticism and advice to improve the immersion and overall feel of the game.

This is a low risk investigation in the way that there is a very low chance that any of the participants will experience anything that could harm them physically or mentally. One issue with gaming is the strain on your vision. This is only from prolonged staring at a screen. This project won’t expose the user for enough time to do any long-term damage. A limitation to this project is that we are only presenting this to ‘gamers’ who game on a near day-to-day basis. This means that they will be more inclined to different ways of playing the game. They will be less focused on the actual control and functionality of the game and will in a sense more open to experimentation than someone who has no idea of how games work.

Something else to look at is the problem of working in a small group of two students. Most games are designed by game studios that boast over 200 employees that specialize in different parts of game design. This project is going to be led by two students that have next to no game development skills so essentially they will be learning as they go. Hardware limitations also play a minor part in this investigation. Game engines and 3D modelling software use a lot of resources and can only be used to their potential with powerful hardware. Not having access to powerful computers will have negative effect on the project.


This project is essentially a game design project. The main difference is the way the software is used and its underlying purpose. The game engine that will be used is the Unreal Engine 4 created by EPIC GAMES. The 3D models will be designed in Blender and the textures and UV maps will be painted in Photoshop. A controller is going to be made using the combination of a Dj mixing desk and programmed using the Arduino software. An undecided part of this project is the medium of how it will be presented. There are many possibilities such as the Oculus Rift DK2 or projection onto a wall. This is a part of the project that will be determined by experimentation.



Week 1: Research and Ideas

Week 2: Proposal critique and idea refinement

Week 3: Start working with/learning the Unreal engine. Research art styles.

Week 4: Scene design and look at possible hardware options

Week 5: Advanced gaming physics and hardware/software development. NZGDA meet up

Week 6: Research presentation methods. Further scene development

Week 7: Look into motion detection/Oculus Rift options. Work on designing our own assets

Week 8: Look at designing the interface and refining the project as a whole ·

Week 9: NZGDA meet up.

Week 10: Project refinement

Week 11: Project refinement ·

Week 12: Project refinement



Future Direction:

A lot of the final results will be influenced by how the physical and digital instances communicate with each other and so a key outcome will be how people respond to the simulations that are created. This research should establish a strong understanding of how people games can teach people and what are the factors that influence this. If this study were to progress any further it could be to develop an educational tool that is tailored to the strengths of a particular individual. The future of this project could potentially lead into a new style of games that are designed for the classroom that accelerate the leaning of students. This project was not initially designed for profit it is a purely research based investigation. However in the future there may be a market for game developers to make education enhancing games.



Gutierrez, K. (2014).  Four Ways Technology is Changing How People Learn. SHIFT E-LEARNING

Lisa, F. B. (2002). The Wisdom in Feeling: Psychological Processes in Emotional Intelligence . Guilford Press.

Suzanne, D. C.  (2007 ). Words in Play: International Perspectives on Digital Games Research. Peter Lang.

Richard, V. E. (2006). Digital Game-Based Learning: It’s Not Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless. EDUCAUSE Review.

Louisa, . (2012). MIT’s Education Arcade Uses Online Gaming to Teach Science.

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