Optimising learning outcomes through game research

December 6, 2018

SLATE PhD student, Fredrik Breien, is using his game developing expertise to better understand engagement, motivation and learning outcomes when developing interactive exhibitions.


from VilVite: Martin, Filip and Vida from Fyllingsdalen High School study "Smartnett" together with Bergen's Mayor, Marte Mjøs Persen, and other engaged developers including (from the right) Nils Petter Hauan, Head of Development at VilVite, Svein Anders Dahl from VilVite, Fredrik Sundt Breien, Roald Onarheim, Chairman of the Board VilVite, Gunnar Romsaas from Statnett and Stein Dankert Kolstø from UiB. Photo credit: VilVite


Industrial PhDs – Win-win-win

Breien’s PhD is supported by the Research Council of Norway’s Industrial PhD Scheme. The industrial partner is Equinor / VilVite Science Centre. The scheme is a win-win-win for all 3 partners:

  • the PhD candidate earns a doctoral degree and gains research-related work experience

  • the academic institutions obtains new, industry-relevant knowledge and builds connections in the industrial sector

  • the company gains new expertise and expands its network of academic contacts


The RCN’s Industrial PhD Scheme was first piloted in 2008. The advantages are many:

  • helps companies to increase their research efforts

  • enhances interactions and cooperation between companies and research institutions

  • equips newly-educated researchers with relevant knowledge for work beyond academia

  • enables companies with limited resources to participate in larger-scale research projects

  • facilitates companies training and increasing their employees’ qualifications


Read more about the scheme.


One thing leads to another …

Breien started a PhD in 2005, but was unable to continue when the funding source unexpectedly dried up. He turned in a new direction and started a game developing company, Turbo Tape Games. Unlike many other start-up game companies, Turbo Tape has been able to network their game-developing skills to fill educational and training niches. This broad base has enabled the company to establish itself as a serious player in the gaming market and beyond, with game-based, interactive simulations. The company has been involved in projects with institutions in the public and private sectors, such as VilVite (Bergen Science Center), Nord University, University of Bergen, Sintef, TV2 News, Art Museums of Bergen (KODE), Bergen Aquarium, and the Royal Norwegian Naval Academy.


Picture taken at the announcement of Turbo Tape Games The Astonishing Game based on the rock opera The Astonishing by Dream Theater. Picture taken at Oslo Konserthus. From left: Jory Prum (may you rest in peace, dear friend), John Petrucchi, Jordan Rudess, Fredrik Breien, Børge Femsteinevik PHoto credit: Miriam Hatlenes, Turbo Tape Games


The science of story-telling

What makes some learning experiences better than others, in terms of learning outcomes, participant motivation and engagement? How can we measure the learning outcome of an interactive game experience? How can we compare different experiences?


To answer these questions, Breien has been conducting a comprehensive search through the growing volume of game research literature to try to define basic concepts used in this field. In his work, he has decided to break with convention and to not merely consider the story narrative as a game mechanism, but rather to explore the whole ludo-narrative spectrum, and the inherent conflicts implied between these two extremes. He will actually consider a matrix of dimensions along this spectrum, including world, actors, objects and events.


Breien’s co-supervisor, Nils Petter Hauan, who is the Head of the Exhibition Development team at VilVite, also undertook an Industrial PhD himself. VilVite aims to generate positive engagement and learning within natural science and technological (STEM) subjects, through inter-active experiences that are inspirational and motivational. Breien would like to take the theoretical results of his literature review identifying specific aspects of inter-active narratives to explore and test those that have the most positive impact on user experiences and learning. He will test his ideas in the “SmartNett” world that is being developed at VilVite.  Breien's supervisor at  SLATE is Professor Barbara Wasson.


Turning both hands and minds on

Breien’s project is an excellent example of RCN’s Industrial PhD Schemes win-win-win potential.

  • Breien grounds his game and narrative developer skills in game and learning theory, making a significant academic contribution to this growing young research field

  • VilVite continues to achieve its objective of creating explorative learning experiences which increase interest, and personal engagement in STEM subjects – subjects that will provide future answers to important global questions, and Equinor contributes to society, builds tighter bonds with the University and will, one day, hire qualified, creative, innovative employees that may have been first attracted to a STEM career at VilVite

  • UiB strengthens its bonds with two companies that are both relevant to the university’s research and social responsibilities







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