Mobile Game-Based Learning (mGBL) Development Methodology


There is increasing interest in the use of ICT and educational technology to promote learning formally or informally. Such technologies are educational software in CD, web-based or online learning, e-learning, Computer-Based Training (CBT), and most recently mobile learning (m-learning). M-learning can be described as a learning technique that happens across locations or that takes advantage of learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies such as mobile phones, smart phones, PDAs and handheld devices.

Many research findings show the potential and effective use of mobile technologies for learning purpose (Naismith et al., 2006; Pachler, 2007) with using variety of learning systems as listed in Table 1.

Table 1: Example of Mobile Learning Systems

Application Types

Project Names


SMS text message

BBC Bitesize Programme

Mobile Learning Language System

Learning System (Blackboard)

BBC Bitesize (2003)

Thornton and Houser (2004)

Vassell et al. (2006)

Mobile Game

mGBL project

Mathematic Video Game- Skills Area


MIT Game-To-Teach

Mitchell et al. (2006)

Lee et al. (2004)

Collella (2000)

Klopfer and Squire (2002)

Mobile Application

Classroom Response System -Educue

Ambient Wood

Butterfly Watching System

Interactive Audio-Visual tour

Dufresne at al. (1996)

Rogers at al (2002)

Chen at al. (2004)

Proctor and Burton (2003)

Although there are many application types in mobile learning, this research is focusing on the mobile game as a scope of study. Mobile game-based learning (mGBL) is a game specifically for learning which is also played on a mobile phone, smart phone, PDA or handheld devices. The purpose of mGBL is by using game play to enhance motivation in order to learn, engage education, or to enhance effectiveness of learning content transfer or other specific learning outcome.

In a general term, mGBL can be categorized as a serious game (Sawyer and Smith, 2008). The research on serious game increases dramatically world wide (Corti, 2006) and this is due the fact that the growing usage and popularity of exploiting game to support learning (Sawyer, 2008). Figure 1 shows that the GBL is the most popular terms searched via Google amongst other game-based concept.

Figure 1: Popularity on Game-Based Concept (based on Sawyer, 2008)

To fully utilize the potential of mGBL, we must look beyond the practice uses of the mGBL. The most important part is the design and methodology to develop mGBL. Developing a good game is very important because to make sure the player is motivated enough to keep playing the game until the game goal has been achieved (Kramer, 2000; Rollings and Morris, 2004) and similarly to mGBL by adding learning module as stated by Prensky (2001), Becker (2006), and Gee (2003). In order to take advantage of those aspects of “good” games for learning, the design and development of mGBL must be studied.

2.0Research Motivations

The ownership of mobile phone exponentially increasing all around the world. For example in Malaysia the subscriptions of mobile phone are growing rapidly with a high penetration rate (MCMC, 2007). This is due to the fact that mobile technology is naturally portable, flexible to anywhere, possible to connect us to variety of information sources and enable communication everywhere (Smith et. al, 1999; Naismith et al., 2006).

With such huge potential, there is possibility of using mobile for learning because it combines the wireless connectivity and educational contents (text, multimedia, application) delivered according to learner's location, requirements and skills (Salz, 2006).

One of the educational content is mGBL because it can be exploited to be an interesting mobile content. Most of students like playing games. Looking at this prospective market for game, mGBL is worth to be one of the mobile learning content. In addition, there are a lot of advantages of using games for learning. Cisic et al. (2007) discuss the advantages of games which can promote learning by motivation, play environment, and role playing. Therefore mGBL suppose to be developed in an appropriate way which can further achieve the learning objective for mobile learning.

Other aspect of motivating for this research is the proposed Malaysian government initiative. Norshuhada and Syamsul Bahrin (2008) have discussed about the Malaysian government initiative which has introduced the Malaysian MyICMS 886 to promote local content development:

“MyICMS 886 dictates a number of strategies for the growth of local content and these are promoting awareness, building competencies in higher education and forming strategic alliances. The goals are to encourage local creativity, address new content demands and also export content. In achieving these goals, the Malaysian government together with a number of key industry players have provided many funding incentives specifically for local content production.”

The Malaysian government initiative is mainly purpose to encourage local company to create and develop local-based content with their creativity for marketing both locally and internationally.

3.0Research Problem

Embedding learning content to mobile games can be complicated because mobile games differ from the application software, particularly designing educational game. In order to develop mGBL, it is crucial for developer to refer at the comprehensive design and development methodology.

The development of mGBL can be a combination of two models; game development method and instructional design (ID) model. Most of ID models contain valuable insights and guidelines for development of instruction. Each addresses various problems effectively and it would be foolish to ignore them in an attempt to create any learning based technology (Becker, 2006). In addition, Moser (2000) stated that ID model can and should be incorporated into new setting (in different media) for designing object learning and the ability of the method to provide the necessary element of learning.

Various game design models and development methods have been proposed and are made available in different genre of games, with each having their own requirements. Similarly to ID models offer different components which cater to which context one applies (Gustfason and Branch, 1997; Moser, 2000). Although game development has a history of implementation in ID (Garris et al. (2002), literature still lack available of comprehensive methods specifically for developing mGBL applications. Most of the methods are guidelines or general approaches for developing mobile game (Dholkawala, 2007; IGDA, 2005).

Other concerning aspect to develop mGBL is the restrictions on design in mobile environment such as screen design, interaction, and software/hardware dependent (Lee, 2005). The guideline on how to align with these restrictions should also be included in the development method, so that the developer will put into consideration when they apply it into the real development.

4.0Research Objectives

In attempting to cater this problem, the following research objectives are devised. The main research objective is to propose a methodology for developing mobile game-based learning (mGBL). In accomplishing the main objective, the following sub-objectives are also formed:

  • To investigate the key issues of:
  • developing mobile game for learning
  • embedding ID model in developing mGBL.
  • To explore and identify the main components of methodology for developing mGBL.
  • To develop the methodology for development of mGBL.
  • To test the proposed methodology by developing a prototype.
  • To evaluate the proposed methodology in term of development efficiency

5.0Research Questions

In achieving the objectives, four main questions bring up:

  • What are the key issues of developing mobile game-based learning?
  • What are the components of design model for developing mobile casual game for learning (mGBL)?
  • What are the flows and cycles of the mGBL development methodology?
  • How to evaluate the efficiency of the proposed methodology?

6.0Research Methodology

A prominent design science research methodology (Vaishnavi and Kuechler, 2007) will be adopted for accomplishing the research objective because the expected main output for this research is a methodology. The methodology is divided into five phases; Awareness of Problem, Suggestions Development, Evaluation, and Conclusion. Figure 2 illustrates the activities will be conducted in this study.



1.1 Literature study, web browsing & information reuse

Research Methodology

1 Awareness of Problem

2 Suggestion

3 Development

4 Evaluation

5 Conclusion

1.3 Initial study on the usage of mobile game among students

1.4 Survey study on mGame Development Methodology among mGame developers


2.1 Study on the flow and cycle of the mGBL development

Research problems

Key issues of mGBL development

Components of mGBL methodology

1.2 Comparative study on current mGBL methodologies/ models

3.1 Develop the proposed mGBL methodology

4.1 Test the proposed methodology by developing a prototype

5.1 Report writing and research publication

4.2 Evaluate the proposed methodology in term of development efficiency

Proposed mGBL methodology

mGBL Prototype

Evaluation Result


2.2 Combine the mGBL development components

Obj 1

Obj 2

Obj 3

Obj 4

Obj 5

Figure 2: Research methodology adopted from Vaishnavi & Kuechler (2007)

7.0Comparative Study on the GBL Design and Development Models

This study is conducted in order to compare and explore the available design and development methods proposed by several researchers. The collected models can be analyzed into two: (1) General Game-based Learning Models and (2) Mobile Game Design Models and Methodologies.

The general GBL models as following:

  • Amory and Seagram (2003) - Game Object Model (GOM), Game Achievement Model (GAM); and Persona Outlining Model (POM).
  • Amory (2007) - Game Object Model II
  • Garris et al. (2002) - Input-Process-Outcome Game Model
  • Kiili (2005) - Kiili's Model
  • Norma (2005) - Engaging Multimedia Design Model
  • Watson (2007) - Games for Activating Thematic Engagement (GATE)
  • Tan et al. (2007) - Adaptive Digital Game-based Learning Framework
  • Noor Azli et al. (2008) - Framework for Designing GBL for Children
  • Nor Azan & Wong (2008) -GBL Model for history courseware design

The mobile game development models and methodologies as listed below:

  • Mitchell et al. (2006) - mGBL model
  • Paras & Bizzocchi (2005) -Integrated Model for Educational Game Design
  • Dholkawala (2005) - Best Practice for Mobile Game Development
  • McGuire (2006) - Scrum Methodology
  • Dynamic Ventures (2007) -Game Development Methodology
  • Edwards & Coulton (2006) - Design-Protect-Build-Test-Market-Sell
  • Novak (2004, 2007) - Game Development Process
  • Janousek (2007) - Game Life Cycle

The separation between the above two analyzed categories is based on the differences on the design model and development methodologies. As stated by Vaishnavi and Kuechler (2007), design model is a set of propositions which express the relationship between components or concept. On the other hand, development methodology is a set of steps or guidelines used to perform a task.

Table 2 and 3 illustrate a summary of the comparative study on the design or development models and methodologies for game-based learning (GBL), mobile game (mGame), and mobile game-based learning (mGBL). The analysis is based on descriptions, advantages, and disadvantages of the models.

Table 2: A summary of GBL models



Author/ Proposed by




GOM (Game

Object Model)

Amory & Seagram (2003)

  • GOM is a design model and also an evaluation model
  • GOM relates game elements to the promotion of educational objectives


GAM (Game Achievement Model)

Amory & Seagram (2003)

  • GAM is a design and evaluation model
  • GAM is part of GOM
  • The GAM works on the principle of linking educational and in-game objectives in order to create a continuous experience and maintain interest in the game.
  • This forms the outline of the game and the basic 'story'.


POM (Persona Outlining Model)

Amory & Seagram (2003)

  • POM is a design and evaluation model
  • POM uses expected player interaction to build a 'persona' concept to better define the best design
  • POM works under the concept of four fundamental questions.
  • Who will be exploiting the system?
  • What will they be doing?
  • How will they do it?
  • With what technology will the system be developed?


GOM Version II

Amory (2007)

  • GOM II is an extended model of GOM
  • The most significant addition caused by this model the addition of the Social Space
  • This is only a design model which is not providing the development methodology.
  • GOM has a tendency to focus too much on mechanical aspects
  • GOM covers so many things it will become necessary to create a complicated evaluation system to match it.
  • Although it claims to be a model that integrates education theory and game design, it does so at an abstract level by placing a requirement for learning objectives as part of the model.
  • There are no actual examples and there is no data.
  • This model doesn't really do much to address how to implement learning objectives, which to my mind is at the core of all instructional design.
  • These model generally applicable for educational software.


Input-Process-Outcome Game Model

Garris et al. (2002)

  • This is a design model.
  • The model adopts the input-process-output framework, and provides a game cycle that is triggered by specific game features.
  • The objective of this model is to incorporate instructional and certain features of games at first level which then trigger a cycle that includes user judgments or reactions such as enjoyment or interest, user behaviors such as greater persistence or time on task, and further system feedback. Finally, this engagement in game play leads to the achievement of training objectives and specific learning outcomes.
  • This is only a design model which is not providing the development methodology.
  • The model focuses on the game play and game cycle.


Kiili's Model

Kiili (2005)

  • This is a design model.
  • The model works to related already existent game theory with already existent educational theory in order to create a functional model based off of already well accepted concepts.
  • Foremost important in the Killi Model is the concept of Flow Theory found in game design.
  • Kilii's model can best be viewed as one large problem linked by a series of smaller problems.
  • This is only a design model which is not providing the development methodology.
  • Kilii's model focuses only on behavioral aspects


Engaging Multimedia Design Model

Norma (2005)

  • This is a design model.
  • This model focuses on the engagement level of a learner.
  • The concept of this model can be adapted into designing an educational game.
  • This is only a design model which is not providing the development methodology.
  • This model is a general model for multimedia design specifically for children.


GATE (Games for Activating Thematic Engagement) theory

Watson (2007)

  • This is a design model.
  • GATE theory is a theory of educational game design driven around the principles of engaging the learner in a topic in order to encourage further exploration.
  • The underlying premise behind GATE is to make the player autonomous and self-motivated.
  • The model heavily based upon the works of Bruner
  • This is only a design model which is not providing the development methodology.
  • The GATE model is too abstract.
  • The GATE model is still too new for there to be a body of evidence that either supports or refutes its value.


Adaptive Digital Game-based Learning Framework

Tan et al. (2007)

  • The model focuses on both of the design and learners' aspects.
  • In learners' aspect, it consists of psychological needs, cognitive development, and learning behavior.
  • In design elements, it consists of multimodal, task, and feedback.
  • This is only a design model which is not providing the development methodology.
  • This model is still new and needs several studies to support on it effectiveness.


Framework for Designing GBL for Children

Noor Azli et al. (2008)

  • A design model which is modified from Kiili's Model
  • Emphasize cognitive presence by stressing the importance of reflective observation and knowledge construction
  • The model specifically to Pre-school domain.
  • This is only a design model which is not providing the development methodology.
  • This model is still new and needs several studies to support on it effectiveness.


GBL Model for history courseware design

Nor Azan & Wong (2008)

  • A design model
  • The model focuses on components of history courseware design for Secondary school- upper level.
  • The model consists of 2 components; pedagogy and digital games components.
  • This is only a design model which is not providing the development methodology.
  • This model is also still new and needs several studies to support on it effectiveness.

Table 3: A summary of mGame and mGBL design models and methodologies


mGBL Model

Mitchell et al. (2006)

  • The mGBL models will be iteratively developed within a social-constructivist framework, using experiential learning and situated learning theories that see learning as a social activity constructed in interactions with others.
  • This approach suits learning models delivered via mobile phones.
  • Importantly, they will also support creative decision-making, encouraging players to consider decisions from different perspectives with a focus on mission, defining significant results and doing rigorous assessment.
  • The mGBL model has been applied to these domain: e-health, e-commerce, career guidance, and m-government
  • Although this model is the most relevant to mGBL, but it focuses on the design part.
  • This is only a design model which is not providing the development methodology.


Integrated Model for Educational Game Design

Paras & Bizzocchi (2005)

  • This model reconciles flow, learning, and motivation within an immersive game experience.
  • The model shows that games foster play, which produces a state of flow, which then increases motivation, and lastly supports the learning process.
  • This is only a design model which is not providing the development methodology.


Best Practice for Mobile Game Development

Dholkawala (2005)

  • This methodology suggests steps in developing mobile game in general from developing game concept until the trimming process.
  • These guidelines are general use for developing mobile game which not includes the ID model.


Scrum Methodology

McGuire (2006)

  • The methodology is based on Agile Methodology.
  • The iterative process is a main concern for this methodology.
  • It focuses on the tasks given to each individual of the development team.
  • This methodology also for general use for developing mobile game which not includes the ID model.


Game Development Methodology

Dynamic Ventures, Inc. (2007)

  • The methodology provides guideline to develop general mobile game
  • It focuses on the feedback and input from the client, stakeholders and developers.
  • The methodology is an iterative process.
  • This methodology also for general use for developing mobile game which not includes the ID model.



Edwards & Coulton (2006)

  • This methodology extends the Design-Build-Test philosophy.
  • The added processes are protecting IP, marketing and selling games.
  • The methodology is also an iterative process.
  • This methodology also for general use for developing mobile game which not includes the ID model.


Game Development Process

Novak (2004, 2007)

  • The development process similar to multimedia development phases.
  • The main focus of the methodology is the design documents such as game proposal, game design document, technical design document and test plan.
  • This methodology also for general use for developing mobile game which not includes the ID model.


Game Life Cycle

Janousek, (2007)

  • The methodology is based on the game life cycle.
  • It is specifically for developing game using Flash technology.
  • This methodology also for general use for developing mobile game which not includes the ID model.

7.0Tasks have been conducted

This section indicates the tasks have been conducted during the period.

7.1Literature Study, Web Browsing and Information Reuse

The process began with identifying the key issues of developing mGBL. A few articles were found based on design models and development methodology for GBL. A comparative study on various design models was conducted by reviewing the advantages and disadvantages of each. Parts of the results are shown in Table 2 and 3.

7.2Initial Study on the Usage of Mobile Game among Students

The initial study on the usage of mobile game has been conducted since July 2008. The main objective of the initial study is to among students at secondary schools. The target respondents were -Data have been collected, in the process of analyzing.

-among secondary school students (13-17 years of age)

-Collected randomly in Kedah, Perak and Seremban, with 678 respondents.

7.3Survey Study on the current practice of Mobile Game Development Methodology among Mobile Game Developers

-Still in waiting for data which will end at 30th September 2008.

-Conducted for 170 companies around the world. The list is randomly selected from the web and game developer forum or web blog


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