Head Hunt Design Process: OSU's Orientation Game

At the LOEX 2007 conference in San Diego, Fred Roecker and members of the design team spoke about the process and challenges of their orientation game project. Their power point presentation and handout can be found here under “A Game Based Approach to Library Orientation.” The design team consisted of Roecker, Nancy O’Hanlon, Karen Diaz, Tingting Lu, and Jim Muir. Since I introduced the game yesterday, I want to take some time to provide more background on how it was developed. The following is a write up my notes from OSU's LOEX presentation.

Groundwork for Game

The game was created around a desire to reach each of the approximately 6,000 incoming students at OSU. In years past, OSU had a 1 credit orientation but even then the library component was optional. But that course was no longer offered. As of 2006, there was not a library orientation and this game was designed to fill that gap.

With data that showed students decided about staying in college within the first six weeks of a semester. , the team wanted to create a positive library experience. The design team benefited from administrative support to create some type of orientation that both parents and students could be involved in. This opportunity and support lead to the initial planning of an orientation game back in May of 2006.

Initially the team surveyed students to find out some specific needs that the orientation could address. Of the students surveyed, 60% had visited one of the libraries but only 29% had some library introduction. Students also didn’t know what the library offered for resources and didn’t know where to find the different libraries around campus.

Initial Game Design

Based on these student responses the team started planning for a game that would include a series of quests that the student would complete to find out information. The information would be disseminated through digital stories, games, puzzles, and video clips. The concept for the game included students guiding an avatar through the quests, interacting with non-playable characters who helped advance the narrative, and answering questions after each quest.

After some initial feedback, the team realized that this linear design approached the game more like an assignment than a game. In addition to the linear initial design, the game was envisioned as a CD based game but student feedback suggested that incoming students would not use a disc based orientation experience. The original designed included many diverse learning objectives which were ultimately pared down to create a more focused experience.

Once again and from the top – Successful Revision

Realizing the flaws in their initial design, the team scrapped their concepts and started fresh. The design team began using Marc Prensky’s work and others that discuss game based learning. The team wanted to incorporate those principles into their development. They focused on opening up the structure, removing the linear nature, reducing the number of learning objectives. The concept of “Head Hunt” emerged out of these discussions.

“Head Hunt” used a simplified story, centered around campus as the narrative. The game design became nonlinear as clues and games were located at each of the libraries locations on the game map. The design required games to be completed successfully to solve the larger mystery of the missing head. While games were required to advance, the order was left to the student. In addition, not all games needed to be completed to solve the puzzle.

The design team used Google Maps as a base for navigation. Hot Potatoes was used to create the minigames (matching, crossword, and others). Adobe Captivate was used for screen shots within the games. The entire game was designed to be completed in 30 minutes or so. The web based game allowed the team to track what students logged in, how long they played for, how many times they played, and if they completed the puzzle of the missing head. In addition to the usage statistics, the game included an evaluation at the end.

The team spent a lot of time and effort creating, applying, and analyzing their game based orientation. If you haven’t tried it yet, please do so here and leave the team your thoughts and feedback.