DESIGNING AN INCLUSIVE PLAYTESTING PROCESS USING COGNITIVE LOAD THEORY

Designing transformational games requires a keen understanding of player-specific needs and preferences, informed both top-down by learning theories and instructional design practices and bottom-up by extensive playtesting with learners from diverse demographic groups. When not all players are included in these processes, then the final game risks being impactful for only a subset of players. Too often this means that marginalized and other underrepresented groups (based on factors such as socioeconomic status, race, and gender) are excluded. Through an iterative playtesting process at two sites with different demographic characteristics, we identified playtest design issues to consider that may affect players with high levels of cognitive load, which prior work has shown disproportionately affects players from marginalized groups. We explore how cognitive load issues can arise when making decisions about prototype fidelity, game theming, and replayability. Through
this case study of our playtesting process and its impact on our iterative design decisions, we propose methods for how these issues can be mitigated in both playtest design and game design. 

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