The Killer Phrase Game

Synopsis: As the moderator of a public debate on airport extension, you have to control the fairness level, otherwise the dispute escalates.

Technically, the ‘Killer Phrase Game’ is run by Scenejo as a story engine. Scenejo connects several A.L.I.C.E. chatbots in a conversational loop of turn taking, which is controlled by a software component called ‘drama manager’. Additionally, authoring of the conversations was supported by a graphical interface.

This first learning game created for Scenejo was developed in 2006 within the project ‘Interparolo’ at the FH Erfurt. This project aimed at creating digital learning material on the topic of ‘Moderation and Mediation’ for E-Learning. The resulting game could be test-played with students. It tackles the topic of how to identify and react to so-called ‘killer phrases’ within a discussion. Killer phrases are ‘creativity killers’, often used in a knee-jerk manner, which can destroy new ideas before they are discussed with
solid arguments. The designed game assumes a scenario with two parties, planners and residents, arguing about upcoming plans for an airport expansion. The partly predefined conversation between the two parties, carried out across a table, contains such killer phrases. The learner plays the role of the moderator and has to manage the meeting. User interaction is handled through typing natural language text into a chat window. These verbal contributions are transformed into verbal actions (‘dialogue acts’)
that may have a meaning within the prepared discussion.

Utterances of all parties in the conversation can influence parameter states in the game, two of which are the most important: The ‘Killer Phrase Level’ as kind of a stress level of the whole debate, and an ‘Agreement Level’. In the best case, the player can influence the stress level in a negative way so that the chances for constructive arguments are higher. This increases the ‘Agreement Level’, and the game can end successfully for the moderator. In the worst case, the increasing ‘Killer Phrase Level’ reaches a threshold value that makes the discussion end with an escalation.