Scenario smells: signalling potential problems in dialogue scenarios in a serious game

Timo Overbeek, Raja Lala, Johan Jeuring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Many serious games employ a scripted dialogue for player interaction with a virtual character. In our serious game for one-to-one communication skills training, Communicate, a scenario author develops a structured, scripted scenario as a sequence of interactions between a player and a virtual character. A player is often a student learning communication skills and a virtual character represents a person that a player talks to, e.g. a patient. A player gets a score on her performance after playing a scenario. Scoring is an important aspect of a scenario. As scenarios get more complex, assigning scores in a scenario also gets more complex, and the risk of an incorrect design increases. To determine what kind of challenges scenario authors experience when assigning scores in a scenario, we conduct a structured interview study with a focus group of scenario authors who use Communicate. Based on these challenges, this paper introduces the concept of scenario smells, and investigates how we can support scenario authors in detecting and addressing such scenario smells. A scenario smell is a symptom of a scenario that could
be an indicator of an error or incorrect design in the scenario. We develop a tool that supports a scenario author by identifying scenario smells in a scenario in Communicate. Scenario authors evaluate the tool and find most of the scenario smells useful.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-73
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Serious Games
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2020


  • Communication skills
  • authoring tool
  • scenario smell
  • serious game
  • Authoring tool
  • Scenario smell
  • Serious game


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