Stairway to heaven : instructional design alignment in a serious game for experiential religious education in virtual reality

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Mystakidis, Stylianos
Fragkaki, Maria
Hatzilygeroudis, Ioannis
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An object of immeasurable value is stored in an ancient ascetic community. Equipped with the relic “Panagia Paramythea Code”, an old map, you are invited to dress as a pilgrim, explore the monastery and communicate with virtual monks and workers in a quest to uncover the hidden treasure. To reach your goal, you are invited to explore four cardinal virtues; love, faith, patience and repentance through the lives of respective saints. In the process you will encounter unanticipated expressions of applied spirituality to reach your goal. In this paper we present the instructional design process of an interactive serious game in a 3D virtual reality environment developed for religious education. Its purpose is to help participants experience and learn about essential aspects of the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith and spirituality in an entertaining and engaging way that increases their curiosity. There have been calls for a paradigm shift in religious education from a closed, narrow, and unreflective practice pattern towards new, open, progressive approaches that take modern educational methods into account. Eastern Orthodox Christian theology addresses not just the mind but also the heart or nous, the existential centre of man. According to the Orthodox spirituality, the way humans can approach, know and meet God is only through personal experience. This makes immersive experiential learning a suitable medium for Orthodox Christian religious education. In the design of the game we took into account the fact that the structure of the game itself carries a fundamental ethical message and so it should reflect the values that are to be demonstrated in the game. Moreover, in this paper we describe how we addressed the main challenge of this project; the creative alignment synthesis required during the game design process. More specific, the learning experience merges and aligns harmonically multiple layers: philosophical - theological (ethical values, behavior paradigms), pedagogical - instructional, game mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics in a 3D virtual immersive environment.
Serious games, Virtual reality, Mount Athos, Gamification, Religious education, Orthodox theology, Game-based learning, Instructional design, Virtual worlds, Opensim