2013, December 2nd
At the University of Colorado at Boulder, Computer Science students have two capstone options. They can either do a Senior Project, where they work in groups on a contracted project for a local company, or they can do a Senior Thesis, an undergraduate research paper similar to a dissertation. I began my thesis Spring 2013 and finished Fall 2013.
Originally, my thesis was going to be on emergent gameplay; the idea that within games, complex phenomena arise from interactions between simple objects. My favorite examples of this are in Dwarf Fortress, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, and Left 4 Dead 2.
After discussion with the committee, my research topic was changed to Educational Game Design. I analyzed a number of educational game design patterns, and found several games that had implemented those methods. Then, I used Amazon's Mechanical Turk to have 300 people rate the games on how well the game used the design method. I also used Mechanical Turk to quiz 120 people on how much they had learned after playing an educational game.
There was no statistically significant evidence that educational games improve a player's understanding of a subject. However, using Mechanical Turk to collect all the information was novel; future research can just increase the number of samples collected to get more definitive results.