Ten Heuristics to evaluate the user experience of serious games
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The potential of serious games to promote effective learning has been established in the literature. However, designing effective serious games that strike a balance between being entertaining and at the same time instructional, remains elusive. This research turns to the field of human-computer interaction (HCI) to investigate the aspects that are most influential to the player's experiences with serious games. From this, HCI principles to evaluate the user experience of serious games are identified and described. User experience (UX) refers to how individuals perceive and respond to using interactive systems such as serious games. Since UX is regarded as subjective in nature, this study was conducted using interpretative phenomenological analysis, which focuses on idiographic inquiry. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with five participants after they were given time to play a serious game. The serious game, titled StoryTimes, aims to teach the user the multiplication tables by employing memory association techniques in a fun and innovative way. StoryTimes was developed as part of this research to investigate how HCI principles are applied during the development cycle of a serious game. The data from the interviews were analysed qualitatively to determine which aspects of the serious game were regarded as the most important from the participants' point of view. The findings indicate that players of serious games prefer mobile gaming platforms and have certain expectations regarding how subject content is integrated into video games. It also reveals the design challenges associated with the attention spans and very diverse natures of individual players. These aspects were recast in the form of ten heuristics that could be applied when evaluating the UX of serious games. Designers of serious games can use these heuristics during the development process to create a learning environment that is both effective and fun.