The Funnel of Game Design – An Adaptive Game Design Approach for Complex Systems

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Background: In a world of ever-increasing complexity, organizations and people have an ever-increasing need for support systems that help them understand and shape the world around them. While simulation game design derived from the very idea to propose an instrument able to address complexity, seminal approaches dealt with a different level of complexity. In a networked, digitalized world, complexity has increased, and traditional approaches towards designing games show certain shortcomings that have to be overcome. Aim: This article proposes a new process of game design for complex problems and complex systems that can both be used by game designers as well as the scientific community in the field. This process is represented within a framework, based on two parts. The so-called ‘Funnel of Game Design’ based on the IDEAS approach represents the process of problem derivation, while the ‘House of Game Design’ also covers possible steps towards the final game product and process, including de-briefing and evaluation. Method: Based on hands-on experiences and related work, we developed several steps of a game design process (IDEAS approach). In face-to-face interviews, we discussed the first version of the framework with experts in the field of simulation game studies. Results: This process led to the framework presented in this article, which shows the steps of problem derivation as well as challenges that can occur, and proposes adaptive methods to overcome these challenges. The framework includes elements that support the definition of complex problems, and their translation into game designs. Recommendation: We recommend practitioners and scientists to apply the new framework presented here in their efforts to define the underlying problem that should be addressed by an envisioned simulation game, and in translating this into a valid, engaging and meaningful game experience.