Details and Dynamics: Mental Models of Complex Systems in Game-Based Learning

Joseph Wasserman, Jaime Banks

Research output: Other contributionpeer-review


Background. Although the effectiveness of game-based learning (GBL) is well-supported, much less is known about the process underlying it. Nevertheless, developing a mental model that matches the game system, which in turn models a real-world system, is a promising proposed process. Aim. This article explores the first steps in model matching: identifying the entities and (complex) relations in a game system. Method. Participants (N = 30) played the analog game DOMINION and completed a multi-step mental model mapping exercise. Categories of entities in mental model maps were inductively identified with grounded theory coding, while complex relations in mental model maps were identified via content analysis. Results. Participants described formal game entities, player actions, sociality, learning processes, and subjective experience in their mental model maps. Participants identified very few complex relations—and no feedback loops—in their mental model maps. Conclusions. Games—and ana
Original languageEnglish
PublisherSimulation & Gaming
StatePublished - Aug 2017


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