“If You Make the Story Good Enough, It Becomes a Reward”: Designing a Social Emotional Serious Game from the Perspectives of Youth on the Autism Spectrum and Professionals
Objectives: Employing the Serious Game framework, this study aimed to identify the motivating features of a computer game targeting emotion recognition skills from the perspectives of youth on the Autism spectrum and professionals.
Methods: Four focus groups, three with youth on the Autism spectrum (n=11) and one with professionals experienced in social skills interventions (n=5) were conducted. Data was coded using directed content analysis and framed within the elements of the Serious Game framework of motivating storyline, goal-directed learning, rewards and feedback, progression in level of difficulty and individuation, and provision of choice. The perspectives of the youth on the Autism spectrum were taken as the central focus and were compared and contrasted against those of the professionals.
Results: Both groups suggested several features under the five main elements of the serious Game framework. The participants on the Autism spectrum favoured including social dilemmas with a gaming environment that was unpredictable and varied. The youth appreciated that a game provided them with the opportunity to experiment with situations that were potentially complex and overwhelming in real life. The professionals emphasised aspects of the game that supported the transfer of skills to real life contexts.
Conclusions: The youth and professional held differing views, with participants on the Autism spectrum stressing the importance of incorporating ‘motivating’ features in a story-based game and the professionals focusing mainly on the generalisation of skills to every day contexts. In combination the views of the two groups addressed the two main aims of the Serious Game framework of creating an engaging learning environment and promoting the transfer of skills to real life contexts. The contrasting perspectives of the youth and professionals highlights the importance of involving end-users in developing CBI. To date, CBI have focused on improving skills paying less attention to strategies aimed at motivating and engaging players on the Autism spectrum. Findings from this research suggest that CBI which focus on enhancing these aspects will be likely to experience lower dropout rates than those observed in current effectiveness studies.