Threshold concepts: implications for game design

Andrew Stapleton, Brigid Costello, Malcolm Ryan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


The use of threshold concepts to facilitate learner understanding is gaining traction in a variety of disciplines. Put simply, threshold concepts are tacit, abstract and troublesome knowledge that can act as a barrier to student mastery of a discipline. Through the process of understanding a threshold concept the student learns to “think like a practitioner” in their discipline. Our team of three game designers and researchers were asked to use information literacy threshold concepts to design an educational game that focused on the process of conducting a “literature review” for undergraduate engineering students. As this was our first experience designing with threshold concepts, we adopted a suitable methodology to both frame and capture our design process as one of research ⎯ Research-as-Design-Design-as-Research (RADDAR). The design process exposed issues relating to the integration of threshold concepts into our game design and lead us to revisit several of our initial design decisions and assumptions. These included the design being open versus closed, whether the game was to be facilitated or played independently, if it was to be online versus face-to-face, and the degree to which it was to be realistic versus abstracted. Through qualitative evaluations of player experience, we obtained valuable feedback about the interface, gameplay, and conceptual understanding of the game, which ultimately provided us with insight into the approach we needed to adopt. As a consequence, we offer some suggestions for design strategies to use when developing a game that aims to facilitate the understanding of threshold concepts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSimTecT2012
Subtitle of host publicationAsia Pacific simulation training conference &​ exhibition : simulation - integrated solutions
EditorsElyssebeth Leigh
Place of PublicationRundle Mall, SA
PublisherSimulation Australia
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9780980809930
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
EventAsia Pacific simulation training conference &​ exhibition - Adelaide, SA
Duration: 18 Jun 201221 Jun 2012


ConferenceAsia Pacific simulation training conference &​ exhibition
CityAdelaide, SA


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