Serious Games - How to revolutionize learning processes with game-based thinking!

Structural change and digital transformation bring with them many challenges and exciting opportunities. In this context, ongoing digitization, and high levels of technologization require new approaches in continuing education and also in numerous apprenticeship occupations. Students operate complex machines or accompany automation processes in numerous fields of activity. It is becoming increasingly clear how helpful and important digital learning opportunities are for in-company training. But how can trainees train solution orientation in a playful way and firmly anchor technical knowledge? And in a motivating and innovative way?

This is where we from espoto come in because we not only develop location-based game and quiz software. We also develop games based on our espoto Game Based Thinking method and act as consultants. We organize workshops for game development processes and teach basics on game design, storytelling, puzzle design, escape games and more.

A little more than a year ago we started our biggest contract work so far. And we are now close to the finishing post. Here we are dealing with the question: How can training processes be successfully accompanied by serious games? And at the same time optimally complement classic training content? In this interview with our serious game designer Marius Meissner, we would like to take you into the development process of “SolarCity”. The serious game was designed and developed in cooperation with the Renewables Acadamy – RENAC for short. RENAC is one of the leading international providers of training and capacity building on renewable energies and specializes in energy efficiency. In this case, the focus is on environmentally friendly solar power in a global context, because the digital learning format “SolarCity” is intended to provide targeted support for inspectors of photovoltaic systems on their training path. For us, this cooperation is also one of 3 larger serious game projects with third-party software. The entire development process was extremely exciting, and we are all very happy with the result.

Do you want to know how SolarCity was created? And how this point & click adventure game is revolutionizing the training of PV inspectors? Then let yourself be inspired and read more here in our interview with Marius:

How to revolutionize learning processes through play with Game Based Thinking

Interview with Marius Meißner
Marius Meissner is a serious game designer and manages all projects in the field of education at espoto GmbH. Marius combines the best of two worlds for the development of digital learning offers: he is an experienced experiential educator and at the same time a passionate game developer. In doing so, Marius transforms his experience and knowledge into digital applications. With the conviction to revolutionize many learning processes logically and playfully based on the Game Based Thinking method.

Dear Marius, the serious game “SolarCity” is used as a supplement to the classic training of photovoltaic system inspectors. How can the training process be successfully accompanied with a digital adventure?

“Serious games can be an ideal supplement to classic theoretical and practical training elements. Real situations from everyday work are staged in a digital world. The example of “SolarCity” shows how effectively trainees can immerse themselves virtually in a wide variety of scenarios. The acquired knowledge is trained in a playful way and the trainees work on versatile problem-solving strategies. And they do so without worrying about making serious mistakes that have a direct negative impact. “SolarCity” is an example of how Game Based Thinking can be used to create solutions that offer companies real added value in personnel development.

Our espoto Game Based Thinking method is a mixture of the successful methods Design Thinking and Game Based Learning. This is the basis for our Serious Games – creative game concepts that create digital worlds on a realistic foundation. Users educate themselves through play and can develop complex problem-solving strategies with ease. This gives trainees confidence and is fun at the same time! As a passionate game developer and experiential educator, I’m looking forward to helping shape these digital learning processes in an exciting way.”

How can we imagine the game from the user’s point of view?

“SolarCity” is a point & click adventure game. The storytelling takes the players into the fictional world of a city where there are many renewable energy plants. These are to be inspected by the players. In addition to roles, locations, and the basic story, we looked at the specific requirements for such a game based on the learning elements available so far and selected suitable game mechanics so that the four different elements that need to be simulated are also applied in the game. These include visual inspection, measurement, analysis and interpretation.”

That certainly requires intensive coordination in order to develop very closely to the actual processes. How did you start this exciting project?

“Before the project, there was a get-to-know-you session with participants from RENAC. We were enthusiastic about their blended learning approach with practical workshops, including various experimental setups of photovoltaic systems and the professional online courses with vivid videos. In order to take a closer look at what can be improved at this high level, one must always refer to the SAMR model from the education sector to see where an expansion could bring real added value.”

Infobox about the SAMR - Model

The SAMR model illustrates in four stages in what way and to what extent digital media enrich the teaching and learning process. It analyzes in four stages the points at which training is improved or changed. The extent to which trainees actively work with digital media is assessed, as is the degree of independence and creativity while using the application.

“In the discussions and joint analyses, it quickly became clear that we could create new learning approaches for the topic of photovoltaic inspection with the help of gamification and serious games, since abstract models and, above all, measurement processes and error causes can be simulated here. Due to the decentralization of learning processes, digital learning media – as already tested by our partner RENAC in their online courses – can be improved here by the gain of simulations that can be carried out in the own learning space. We quickly agreed that we would optimally complement this offer with the development of an individual serious game for the training processes.”

In addition our evaluation with the SAMR model for the project "SolarCity”

How did the specific game idea come about?

“The next step was to develop a game concept. We organized a two-day workshop in which our self-developed method called Game Based Thinking – a mixture of the successful methods Design Thinking and Game Based Learning – was applied. With the help of our practical workshop cards on Game Design, we guided the e-learning & PV experts through the process and thus, in addition to a lot of input on Gamification, Game Based Learning also intensively familiarized them with the topic of Storytelling. With the help of our Game Design Cards, we were able to design a game concept within 2 days.”
Game Based Thinking – Workshop With The espoto Game Design Cards
Workshop Insights
Articy Draft – The solution for interactive storytelling and game content management

How did you implement the project graphically?

“This was a special challenge. First, different workspaces such as offices, laboratories or warehouses were created. Then characters were added for the many locations. In consultation with RENAC, we decided on a comic style – with real-life visualized measuring devices and PV systems. At the same time, we designed with great attention to detail. After all, PV inspection also depends on numerous details in reality.”

How long did it take to develop the “SolarCity” prototype?

“After half a year of working out the prototype, we moved on to the practical implementation of the game. Here we followed the request and hosted “SolarCity” in the system of RENAC. One argument here was also the obligatory mood integration. Thus, the project was implemented as an individual development with Unity. Due to the good visual and process-oriented preparation of the prototype, the game could be implemented with the basic features within half a year. In addition, there were many test loops and bug fixes.”

What was particularly exciting for you personally in the development process?

“I had many groundbreaking learnings in all areas, such as storytelling and especially in the graphic design. I actually learned so much about photovoltaic systems during the game development that I would dare to inspect a system myself.”

What are your plans for the future?

“We would like to apply our espoto Game Based Thinking method for more projects and establish it for the development of further games. Because this is the basis for our Serious Games – creative game concepts that create digital worlds on a realistic basis and with which users learn through play to be able to develop complex problem-solving strategies with ease. As a passionate game developer and experiential educator, I am excited to help shape these digital learning processes in an exciting way, and to offer companies real added value as a result. And we will certainly develop further scenarios for the existing game “SolarCity”.”

Success With Serious Games: We Develop Innovative And Individual Game Concepts For You!

Do you want to innovatively complement your traditional training and education? Do you want more sustainability and entertainment in your learning offer? The possibilities to enrich this with serious games or gamification are versatile. We bring playful lightness into complex contexts, that is our passion. In addition, we offer workshops and provide companies with complete game developments – from the idea to the graphics to the final implementation.
Has our article inspired you? Or do you have the idea that our offer could also playfully complement your processes? We are looking forward to the exchange!

The interview with Marius Meißner was conducted by Christina Engel

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