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Games and Learning Alliance: Network of Excellence for Serious Games
Triadic Game Design
Balancing Reality, Meaning and Play

The second world to be considered concerns Meaning. In contrast to Reality and Play, this world relates to the people, disciplines, and domains that are focused on creating a certain value. For example, if this value is about providing students knowledge about physics, it involves teachers, the learning sciences, and the domains education and physics. This level goes into the aspects and criteria that designers need to take into account from this perspective. The first aspect seems obvious when we talk of "games with a serious purpose." They have a purpose and this needs to be elaborated on, for example in terms of what "learning objectives" it attempts to achieve. The subsequent aspect is not about what is being pursued but how. To attain a value, designers have to think about a strategy that they employ. In my case this concerned looking at the learning paradigms that have come into existence in the past century and see what they have to tell us about learning. This way, their principles can be translated into a game environment. This translation involves making the strategy concrete. Or, in other words, operationalizing the plan. This is the third aspect. In this level, I will further specifically explain how I derived requirements from each of the learning paradigms, like reflection and exploration, and how they can possibly be related to games. The fourth and final aspect is the context in which the game is going to be used. It matters who uses the game and when, where, and how the game is going to be used. When designers have looked at these aspects, they have developed a "value proposal" and the worth of it may be judged by criteria, like motivation, relevance, and transfer. But before I get to this, I first go into how we human beings are meaning creators and what role assumptions, knowledge, and ambiguity have in this. I will illustrate this with some silly jokes about doctors and Mickey Mouse, and with an illusion.