System Thinking in Serious Games
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Many game designers and academics have pointed out that games are systems (Gee, 2007; Salen & Zimmerman, 2004). So, what would be more natural than using System Science or System Thinking to understand and develop them? That is, in short, what this PhD thesis is about, and is stated in the main research question: “How can System Thinking be used to understand, design, develop, and document the process of Serious Games development?” The PhD thesis discusses Serious Game development specifically for learning and training. However, that does not mean the results are not usable for entertainment games, it is just not the focus of this thesis. System Thinking aims to identify, explore, and understand complexity in systems, and uses System Analysis and System Dynamics to do so. This gives System Thinking a place in Serious Game design throughout the design, implementation, and runtime phase of the game. The research also discusses how psychology can be integrated in this design, and what pedagogics should be used to implement the System Thinking into the game design. The research is conducted in three courses given to students at the Game School in HINN, Norway. The courses are well-established and have been running since 2006. The courses are revised every year, and new areas of System Thinking are included. The PhD thesis includes eight articles about these projects. Four of these are articles published in journals and are to be considered as part of the PhD thesis. The other four are conference articles and are to be considered as background information. The PhD thesis not only discusses what has been done so far, but also suggests areas of potential that can be developed in the years to come.