Why story matters : a review of narrative in serious games
In educational research, it is a widely accepted belief that meaningfulness benefits learning. According to many scholars, narrative is one method of making learning more meaningful to students. Research has suggested that serious games and other game-based learning environments can be improved by incorporating storytelling elements. This report investigates the role narrative can play in the experience of a learner engaging in serious games, and synthesizes research on features of story that have demonstrated success in these learning environments. Endogenous fantasies (as well as those intrinsically integrated into games), empathetic characters and virtual agents, and adaptiveness or responsivity are three characteristics of game narratives found to be effective in the literature across relevant fields. A proposal is made for enhancements to the existing narrative of the problem-based learning program Alien Rescue to foster greater immersion, engagement, motivation, and learning in this serious game. Game Discourse Analysis and the Narrative Centred Informant Design framework are also recommended for serious game designers and developers looking to make narrative a more prominent component of learning environments. The author advocates for design-based research as a methodology for creating serious game narratives with the greatest appeal to target learners.