Role-playing in Undergraduate Computer Science


David Levine and Steven Andrianoff of St. Bonaventure University, New York, use and promote scripted role-playing activities for teaching Computer Science at a tertiary level.

Role-playing games are frequent in the literature on computer science pedagogical methods. Many scholars suggest that role-playing activities can teach students about hardware design, formal methods, or backtracking. Levine and Andrianoff assure that role-playing can also help develop students’ intuition and understanding of object-oriented design.

On the first day of the course taught by Levine and Andrianoff at St. Bonaventure University, students participate in a simple role-playing game that students can master without preparation. The exercise demonstrates the concept of message passing. The lecturer plays the main program, and each student has a different role. The instructor can ask the students to perform the various tasks of their roles, such as clapping, knee-bending, or counting. Taking just 15 minutes, this game can demonstrate message passing protocols, parameter passing, return values, class names versus object names, overloaded method names, and non-existent methods, among other concepts. Because it is scripted, students will feel comfortable performing on the first day. Moreover, it is the dramatisation of the game that provides the opportunity for deep learning.

Fundamentals of Software Development “Acrobat Games: An introduction to object-oriented design” Slide 1. SlidePlayer,

Levine and Andianoff detail two other more complex role-playing activities in their article. In general, the role-playing exercises demonstrate the order of control in a fairly complex object-oriented system for students in a short span of time. To read the role-playing scripts, see their article below.


Steven K. Andrianoff and David B. Levine. “Role playing in an object-oriented world.” SIGCSE ’02 (2002): 121-125. Accessed from DOI:10.1145/563340.563386