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Art Appreciation Game-Based Curriculum

Updated: Jul 31, 2022

Role: Learning Experience Designer Organisation: UNESCO MGIEP

Product: Game-Based Courses Duration: Sep 2019

instructional design • art education • storytelling • visual narratives


Social Emotional Learning Through Art Appreciation and Game-Based Learning: An Interdisciplinary Approach Course available here:

As a part of the Games for Learning Team, we developed an online course on art appreciation that teaches the skills of empathy and critical inquiry through a game called Gris. The course has been developed following the Libre process, incorporating: reflection, gamification, storytelling and critical inquiry. The course is hosted on an in-house developed AI platform called Framer Space.

Gris is a platformer adventure game developed by Spanish independent developer Nomada Studio. What sets apart Gris is its evocative art style, soundscape and interactive gameplay, almost painterly in its approach. The protagonist is on a path of self-discovery while navigating the stages of loss and grief, signified through symbols, colors and sounds.

Our design question was simply this: How may we create an online course on an abstract artistic game like Gris that would help develop social emotional skills of the learner?

The way out? We tackled the challenge head-on by creating a course on art appreciation that would

i) help learners visually analyze images in an objective manner

ii) help learners unpack their own feelings and memories associated with an image in a subject manner

iii) help learners form a cohesive integration of the two through recursive modes of empathy and critical inquiry, and switching from subjectivity to objectivity

The game of Gris is an emotionally intensive game to unpack. Characters and comics with engaging storylines appear throughout the course to not just lighten up dense subjects of art appreciation and examining grief, but also make them more accessible.

The course comprises of three modules, ‘What is Art?’, ‘Ways of Seeing’ and ‘Looking Closely’.

The mascot character, Pixel, welcomes us to the course and is our constant companion as we navigate through the course. With the help of comics, we get to know the story of the mascot character, Pixel.

Comic to introduce the course.

The first module lays the foundation of art and deals with questions like: What is Art? What is beauty? Who decides what is the value and meaning of art? The idea is to open up learners to different perspectives and questions on art that have confused writers, artists, philosophers for centuries. By the end of the module, the learner would begin to understand the ambiguous nature of art and aesthetics.

In the second module of the course, we introduce learners to the terms, form and content. Using artwork from the game, a narrative has been designed that incorporates the characters Kiki and Bouba, corresponding to signifiers for form and content respectively.

Two characters, Kiki and Bouba, based on the Kiki-Bouba effect, which is the mapping of sounds to shapes prior to conscious awareness.

**The Kiki-Bouba effect comprises a relation between two abstract figures and two non-words: the star-shaped figure is called 'Kiki' and the rounded figure 'Bouba'. The effect is explained by a sound-vision synesthesia: certain sounds are associated with certain shapes in a non-arbitrary manner. Kiki, as a character, values objective analysis and focuses on the form of things. Bouba personifies one’s subjective emotions. She talks about the content of images, and how they make her feel.

By the end of the module, the learner would be equipped to do a formal analysis of an image, and appreciate the objective and subjective feelings associated with an art piece.

‘Looking Closely’ is a module that helps put into practice all the techniques garnered from previous modules. Using images from Gris, the learner objectively analyses each image, as well as unpacks his/her own subjective emotions associated with an image.

Reflection exercises and dialogic practices have been used to achieve this on an online platform wherein we don’t have the luxury to detect tone, expressions, body language and gestures. Reflection would help learners put their experiences and suppressed emotions into words, and through sentiment analysis, the administrator on the digital platform ( would be able to check in on a learner’s emotional state. The additional module, called ‘Thinking Beyond’ is for curious learners to help go beyond the course and explore more about the readings, themes and artworks mentioned in the earlier modules of the course.


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