Procedural Collaboration in Educational Games: Supporting Complex System Understandings in Immersive Whole Class Simulations

Vishesh Kumar, Michael B. Tissenbaum, Taehyun Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the current rising need for sustainability education, understanding the interconnected political, economic, ecological, and social systems that motivate (system level) change, can be uniquely addressed through immersive multiplayer games. Immersion through a mixed reality experience, face to face interactions, and game mechanics that push players to play with and against their co-learners enhances the familiar benefits of participatory simulations–where learners engage in developing parts of a complex system, and then respond to the consequences of their own decisions through interpersonal negotiation and changing strategies. Here we present City Settlers, a city management (immersive multiplayer) game that supports such learning and elicits different kinds of collaborations. We present these different collaborations as evidence for a range of complex systems understandings. We call these socially performed representations of new learning–procedural collaborations. Using a sequence of vignettes, we present cases of how game and interaction design can foster different procedural collaborations, and how City Settlers enables these procedural collaborations to represent developing understandings of a complex systems perspective on sustainable development. Through our work, we highlight the unique affordances of social immersive simulations in creating space to perform and understand concepts hard to find in many simulation and game-based learning environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)994-1016
Number of pages23
JournalCommunication Studies
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021


  • Computer supported collaborative learning
  • complex systems
  • ecology education
  • game-based learning
  • immersive simulations
  • participatory simulations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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