Teaching Youth Food Safety: A Game-Based Learning Experience

provide game controls through the keyboard keys “WASD” keys (Figure 7), commonly used to play games, rather than the arrow keys. In addition, players can use keyboard shortcuts to improve gameplay, for example, using “M” to merge food items or “V” for control volume and sounds (Figure 8). The shortcuts support players who become familiar with the game and want to take quick action. Removing cognitive needs barriers. Time pressure is a popular mechanic in many games as a challenging element, requiring players to think and act fast during gameplay. On one hand, there are players who love time pressure and perform well on this type of gameplay. On the other hand, this mechanic creates barriers for players who may need more time to process

Figure 8: Keyboard shortcuts supporting quick actions in gameplay.

information and act; time pressure may frustrate them and prevent them from progressing.

To remove this cognitive barrier but still include a fun element for players, our team made a compromise in the game. The team intentionally removed the time pressure, replacing it with a star system. In Theme Park Kitchen, all the levels elapse in a set amount of time (progressively harder but very forgiving). Along with this timer there is a progression bar with a star (Figure 9). The timer begins when

Figure 9: Star system with a timer, which does not prevent players from progressing in the game

players start the level. When it ends, “the park is closed” and no more customers arrive. However, playe rs can complete serving the remaining customers in however much time they need. The gauge on the left fills up as players deliver food, and if they fill it up, they earn a star for the level. If players act quickly enough, they will get enough customers to fill the gauge and earn the star. If players need more time to serve customers, they still pass the level if they do not make anyone sick, but they will not earn the star.

During testing sessions, our team tested different time settings to see how we could make it challenging but still forgiving for players. Youth game consultants expressed enjoyment at being able to still finish the level and serve customers once the time is over. In addition, there are two possible endings to the game: a “normal” ending and a special ending if players earn all the stars in the game. Once players earn all the stars, it unlocks “master mode,” which enables them to play the game with special park merchandise, like dragon boba and dino nuggies.

Figure 10: Final character designs for “Theme Park Kitchen”


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