Kriz, Willy Christian and Hense, Jan Ulrich
Theory-oriented evaluation for the design of and research in gaming and simulation.
In: Simulation & Gaming, Vol. 37, No. 2: pp. 268-283
Jan Klabbers introduced the terms science of analysis and science of design to indicate differences between the communities of theoretical research with gaming simulation and the game design practitioners. The science of analysis uses games and simulations as research methods to test theories in various fields. Accordingly, the external validity of findings is the most important criterion of success. Research in the science of design perspective emphasizes the design of the artifact, and testing its usability.“Usability” refers to the idea of designing artifacts for clearly-specified contexts of use for clearly-identified audiences. However, the way both communities are interconnected and in which ways they can be of mutual benefit remains puzzling and controversial. It is our aim to discuss the potential contributions of theory-based evaluation in order to link both communities. Theory-oriented evaluation approaches are based on logic models which have the function of outlining how the simulation, its participants, and its environment interact with each other, and elicit the simulation’s desired outcomes. In evaluation studies, logic models are primarily used to support the planning of the evaluation design, and to provide a framework for interpreting evaluation findings. Thus, theory-oriented evaluations go beyond mere outcome-evaluations not only because they take the effects of a simulation session into consideration, but also because they aspire to identify the crucial factors which cause or moderate such effects. For this purpose, theory-oriented evaluation is assigned to the design science tradition. Its primary aim is to gain evaluative knowledge from a particular gaming simulation which can then be used to improve the simulation and its implementation for practical purposes. We will illustrate our viewpoints by discussing the theory-oriented evaluation of SIMGAME, a simulation game for business education in secondary schools.