Asee peer logo

Impact of Narrative, Character Creation, and Game Mechanics on Student Engagement in a Game-based Chemical Engineering Laboratory Course

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Laboratory Experiences in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.888.1 - 26.888.19



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Daniel D. Anastasio University of Connecticut

visit author page

Daniel Anastasio received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Connecticut in 2009. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Connecticut while acting as a co-instructor for the chemical engineering capstone laboratory and the first-year foundations of engineering course. His research interests include osmotically driven membrane separations and engineering pedagogy.

visit author page


Aravind Suresh University of Connecticut

visit author page

Aravind Suresh is an Assistant Professor-in-Residence in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department at the University of Connecticut. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut in 2011 and his B.Tech. in Chemical Engineering from the National Institute of Technology Trichy, India in 2004. His primary interests are in undergraduate engineering laboratory education, chemical vapor deposition of polymers, and catalytic activity in high-temperature oxides.

visit author page

author page

Daniel D. Burkey University of Connecticut

Download Paper |


Impact of Narrative, Character Creation, and Game Mechanics on Student Engagement in a Game-Based Chemical Engineering Laboratory CourseGame-based learning (GBL) has become an increasingly popular method of instruction due to itsperceived effectiveness in engaging students. Many implementations of GBL rely on points,badges, and rewards to encourage student participation. However, these game mechanics alonedo not in and of themselves lead to many of the benefits that GBL can bring, such as studentmotivation, engagement, and, as a result, learning. Other elements of games, such as aesthetics,narrative, and character development, are necessary for a complete game-based experience.Elements of deeper game aesthetics were introduced to a chemical engineering laboratory coursethat had already used the points and rewards model for two semesters of the course. In theprevious model, students were split into groups of 7 to 9 students and were given points forperforming optional tasks that would assist them in producing high-quality data fromexperiments and preparing well-written laboratory reports. A new game mechanic wasimplemented that sorted these tasks by difficulty and awarded three different types of points.Several times throughout the semester, each group would have a certain number of pointsdeducted, starting with the points that are easiest to attain and progressing to the points that arehardest to gain. At the end of the semester, any remaining hard-to-achieve points are convertedinto actual grade points. By this method, students are encouraged to keep pursuing andcompleting optional tasks.With this structure in place, a narrative was constructed to justify why the points were beingtaken. Certain student actions, such as the number of students that performed a certain task,could have positive or negative impacts on the narrative of the game, making students feel asthough their participation had consequences. Students could also forge identities within thegame, giving themselves special in-game names and self-selected abilities that would influencethe game further. These systems were put in place to give students a greater sense of ownershipand stake in the game itself, both of which should positively impact participation.Based on student post-semester reflections and participation in the optional tasks, the new gamemechanic has been well-received by students. On post-semester surveys, students stated that thegame elements made them think about the course more than they would have otherwise and thatthe optional game elements made the students feel like the instructors cared about teaching thecourse. Students also commented that the presence of the optional game elements was not adistraction from their understanding of the course material. The impact of the narrative andcharacter creation are still being evaluated, but results will be available at the end of the fall 2014semester. Initial student response to these elements has been extremely positive. In the future, acomputer graphical interface could enhance the student experience further, leading to greaterengagement with the course.

Anastasio, D. D., & Suresh, A., & Burkey, D. D. (2015, June), Impact of Narrative, Character Creation, and Game Mechanics on Student Engagement in a Game-based Chemical Engineering Laboratory Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24225

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015