Playtesting Educational Architecture

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Virginia Tech

Architecture and game design both have very similar goals: they both are seeking to create 3-dimensional environments that deliver an optimal user experience. In game design, these environments are simulated, whereas in architecture these environments are eventually made real. Architects are uniquely able to envision fully realized 3-dimensional environments from abstract 2-dimensional drawings. Because of this, the spatial qualities of a building can remain obfuscated to anyone besides the designer until the building is actually constructed. Tools from game design offer the opportunity to not only communicate a building's spatial qualities to users and clients during the design process, but also the ability to establish metrics against which the success of a current design iteration can be tested. In game design, this is called "playtesting". Playtesting in this project involves porting a digital model of of the building into a game engine, and allowing a designer or user to interact by moving around the model with a controller. This "playtesting" process allows a designer to gather meaningful and informative feedback from users during the design process, by observing and inquiring about the user's experience during the playtest. In addition, these tools simulate the experience of movement through the space, something very difficult to understand from static drawings.

This thesis was explored through the design of an elementary school in Alexandria, VA. Elementary schools are often the subject of extensive study on user experience, because creating an optimal learning environment is so crucial to the success of young students. .

Architecture, Education, Game Design, Elementary School