In early May we launched our Learning Game Design Blog on the Knowledge Guru website. The blog has become a great source of information for anyone interested in game based learning and gamification—thanks in large part to an incredibly in-depth blog series by Sharon Boller.
The Learning Game Design Series
The Learning Game Design Series is designed to take you through the 5-step process we use for designing games. The 5-step process is:
- Play games; evaluate what works and what doesn’t work in terms of “fun.”
- Get familiar with game elements and how to use them.
- Think about the learning first—and then the game.
- Dump ADDIE. Go agile instead.
- Play test. Play test. Did I say play test?
The series will take a deep dive into each step, sometimes taking several posts to cover one step, and offer real world examples from our own game development.
It’s safe to say Sharon knows a thing or two about games. On top of creating the Knowledge Guru game engine, she has worked extensively with Dr. Karl Kapp, author and Assistant Director of Bloomsburg University’s Institute for Interactive Technologies. Together they run a game design workshop called Play to Learn—which you can attend at the Devlearn conference in October—that has already helped many people build their first game prototype.
Where We Are So Far
So if you’re interested in games, you should take some time to check out this blog series. I’ll give you a quick recap of where we are now…
If you’re going to design a game, then you need to play a lot of games—and play a lot of different types of games. You can’t design a game if you don’t play them. You won’t have the play experiences you need to draw off of throughout the design process. You want to make a FUN game. Why? Because the fun in a game helps the learning happen—it is not frivolous; it is an integral piece.
You’re not only playing games for fun, though. You’re also playing games to evaluate them. Playing games for enjoyment is different than playing games to evaluate the quality and efficacy of the game design. This post will go over some best practices and questions to ask when evaluating games.
Before you can design a good game you need to be able to craft game goals, select game dynamics, create strong game mechanics, and choose appropriate game elements. This post focuses on two of those things: game goals and game dynamics—as well as how they link together.
A game’s mechanics are the rules and procedures that guide the player and the game response to the player’s moves or actions. Through the mechanics you create, you define how the game is going to work for the people who play it. This post breaks down examples of rules for players and rules for the game itself. It also analyzes the direct link between the game mechanics you choose and how the learning occurs.
The next three posts all deal with one huge topic: Game Elements. Elements are the different features of a game that keep people engaged. The 12 core game elements are: Conflict, Collaboration, Competition, Strategy, Chance, Aesthetics, Theme, Story, Resources, Time, Rewards/Scoring, and Levels. You’ll need to make calculated decisions on which elements to include and to what degree.
If your intention is to create a learning game that achieves specific learning outcomes for the players, then you have to think about the learning before you begin crafting the game design. It’s critical to have a strong understanding of the previous steps—but that understanding doesn’t guarantee you a learning game if you don’t also have solid instructional design skills. Why? Because an effective learning game requires a solid instructional goal and learning objectives.
Designing a game is a VERY iterative process. If you’ve been using the ADDIE model your entire career, then you’re going to need to get familiar with Agile. ADDIE and Agile each have their benefits, but for game design you need to go with the latter; there is too much evolving in the game design process. This post goes through an actual example of iterating while prototyping a new game.