We are excited to announce that “Pixelton Adventures” was recognized by the Brandon Hall Group with a Bronze award for "Best Use of Games or Simulations for Learning". Brandon Hall Group is the organization behind the largest and longest-running awards program in Human Capital Management. Entries were evaluated by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group analysts and executives based upon these criteria: fitting the need of the organization, design of the program, functionality, innovation and overall measurable benefits.
Keep scrolling to read snippets from the case study we submitted for evaluation!
Pixelton Adventures: A Case Study
According to drugfree.org data, 90% of addictions start in the teenage years, so the need to educate this age group on the dangers of drug abuse is a critical need. Unfortunately, however, not all states have mandates on drug education. Candor Health Education recognized this issue and developed a Substance Abuse Prevention Portal, as a place that students, educators, and parents alike could go to for information on commonly used drugs and their impact on the developing brain and body.
Reflection Software proposed the idea to develop a video game that would support learning on the portal. Game-based learning theory, or gamification, is an established instruction method that is proven to further engagement and retention of the material. Video games engage the player on various levels by creating rewards, obstacles, stories, and characters. A game addressing drug abuse head-on would enable students to experience situations they may face firsthand, in a safe and virtual environment, which is a more effective method than simply telling them about what could happen. And creating a fun way to learn increases the chances of effectiveness. The game would additionally provide an engaging platform from which teachers and parents can build upon on-going conversations.
Design & Gameplay
“Pixelton Adventures: Finals Week Frenzy” was designed to get students thinking about the kinds of situations that they may face in adolescence, how they will respond, and what can result from the decisions they make. It is a point-and-click choose your own adventure game with retro pixel art graphics targeting 7-12th graders. “Pixelton Adventures” is set in a high school world, with customizable avatars and real-to-life scenarios around peer pressure, refusal tactics, and ways to prevent drug abuse.
A player starts the game by customizing their character and choosing extracurricular activities. Then, they are presented with everyday situations that they might face as a high school student. As they make choices, the story adapts and evolves to reflect their decisions.
Character Options screen allows the student to customize their own unique character with a multitude of options.
The player is given a toolkit of ‘collectibles’ and traits, based on real-life refusal tactics and coping strategies taught by Candor Health Education. These collectibles consist of physical items collected during gameplay, allies made, personality traits, and status effects that are earned throughout the week. Choices made during gameplay are not always immediately paired with a consequence, but much like real life, choices made on a Monday might affect what happens on Wednesday, for example.
Distribution, Testing, & Reception
Testing ‘Pixelton Adventures’ was no small effort. With over 1250 paragraphs of dialog across more than 500 branching scenarios within 43 different scenes, it was important that all scenes and paths were labeled and mapped for quality assurance (QA). Reflection Software built custom QA tools to assist live ‘brute force’ testing.
The complexity of the storyline and gameplay behind the simple point-and-click façade of ‘Pixelton Adventures’ is a differentiator designed to not only engage the learner and increase their retention of the material, but also to promote kids to return again and again to make different choices and play a new adventure.
During early development, we partnered with several local middle school classrooms to run a pilot of the game followed by a brief survey. The goal was to receive feedback directly from the students about their experience playing the game, whether they liked or disliked the format, and whether they would play the game again. The feedback affirmed decisions made during ideation and development. An overwhelming majority of the students were excited to see the material presented in a format that they already enjoyed versus traditional drug awareness training. When asked if they would return to play the full version of the game, over 75% said yes even if it wasn’t assigned classwork.
Additionally, feedback was obtained from educators in the field who positively spoke to the fun it can bring to the classroom and the ease of understanding the content and gameplay. According to one teacher: “It had really great information that was grade appropriate. I like that it is accessible from anywhere, so parents can go through it as well to help guide conversations with their children.”
What the Future Holds
Long-term future expansion of ‘Pixelton Adventures’ is planned to include chapters beyond ‘Finals Week Frenzy’ to support drug prevention or sex education efforts, such as social media safety, online predators and sexting. Candor Health Education is also considering the possibility of launching ‘Pixelton Adventures’ as an app for easier accessibility and exposure/discoverability via the app store.
To learn more about how we can help your organization create a game-based learning experience like Pixelton Adventures, click here.