Developing an Immersive Role-playing Game to improve English Communication and Cultural Awareness
Language learners often face linguistic, cultural and interactional difficulties when studying abroad (Hanada, 2019). In particular, Japanese high school students of the author have expressed dissatisfaction that they only became comfortable in the setting in the latter part of their study abroad trip and that they felt the former half was “wasted time” as they struggled to interact. This project details the development of a role-playing game (RPG) designed to expose students to various real-life scenarios likely to be encountered on a study abroad trip (Australia in this case). Previous research has shown that role-play and simulations can prepare students for real-life situations (Hofstede et al., 2010), and gamification can increase motivation (Monterrat et al., 2017). This game uses the theoretical framework of Nicholson’s (2012) RECIPE for meaningful gamification (Reflection, Exposition, Choice, Information, Play, Engagement). The initial pilot study will run over ten one-hour sessions once a week after school, prior to departure. Students create a player character (PC) and decide several goals they aim to achieve during the game. Connecting via Discord, a student from the partner school in Australia acts as the game master (GM) and leads a group of 3-4 students through the various scenes, describing what is around and playing the role of all non-player characters (NPCs). Images, maps, and other realia are shared on Discord to provide the PCs with context. PCs can freely interact with objects and NPCs based on their goals and interests. A heavy focus on reflection/debriefing allows students to re-evaluate situations and discuss practical ways to overcome difficulties. Discord saves all shared data so students can freely review aspects between sessions. Upon return from abroad, student feedback will be used to improve scenarios and add relevant interactions based on the real-life struggles of students.
Hanada, S. (2019). A Quantitative Assessment of Japanese Students' Intercultural Competence Developed Through Study Abroad Programs. Journal of International Students, 9(4), 1015-1037.
Hofstede, G. J., Peters, V., De Caluwe, L. & Martens, D. (2010). Why do games work? In search of the active substance. Simulation & Gaming, 41(6), 824-843.
Monterrat, B., Lavoué, É. & George, S. (2017). Adaptation of Gaming Features for Motivating Learners. Simulation & Gaming, 48(5), 625-656.
Nicholson, S. (2015). A RECIPE for Meaningful Gamification. In: Reiners, T. & Wood, L. C.(eds.) Gamification in Education and Business. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
I have been teaching English in Japan since 2015, from elementary all the way through to university. I completed my master's course in Applied Linguistics and TESOL in 2021. I have a particular passion for analogue games in education.
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