You are all in. You want to incorporate games into your learning experience. Do you go with one large game as THE learning solution or do you incorporate several smaller games… what we call “mini-games?”
A large-scale game can provide learners with a powerful, immersive learning experience. However, such games can be complex to design and develop, and they typically require lots of personnel hours to produce. If you are new to the learning game design arena, they can be an intimidating task.
Sometimes, a small “mini-game” can provide you with the level of engagement you want while not requiring as much time and effort to produce. Consider using a mini-game if these things are true:
- You want to teach or reinforce a single learning objective (e.g. Compare 5 products, Distinguish between 3 things, Classify 4 personality types, Recommend the right settings, etc.). If you have more than a single objective in mind, a mini-game is not a realistic choice.
- You want total playing time to range between 5 and 15 minutes of time and no more. It’s not a “mini-game” if it takes an hour for people to play.
- You are not seeking a game that people will play over and over again. Most mini-games are structured as matching activities, puzzles, or quick scenarios. Once the problem is solved, people typically don’t want or need to replay the game, particularly if you design it so they cannot complete the game without getting things right.
- The game functions with other components in your curriculum and is not the only way you are teaching something. Mini-games tend to be a one-and-done activity so they function best when combined with other things. A mini-game might be a great pre-work activity or a good activity to include in an online learning event or eLearning course.
Let’s compare a situation where a mini-game was the right learning solution with a situation where a more comprehensive serious game was needed.
1. Incident Investigation
These thumbnail images link to different mini-games. They are meant to be used in one of two ways: as part of a larger endeavor to teach incident investigation and/or as a quick reinforcement of basic concepts related to incident investigation. Each mini-game has a single learning objective. (A full-blown game might have several.)
In The Elevator Game the game goal is for learners to get 11 people to the right location in a building by 3 p.m. The learning goal is for them to accurately identify the activities associated with the five steps of the incident investigation process. Play the mini-game.
In Late for Lunch the game goal is for learners to get to lunch before starvation sets in. The learning goal is for them to accurately identify the information they need to gather regarding a recent accident that occurred at their job site. Play the mini-game.
In Making Gold, the game goal is to escape from the evil alchemist’s laboratory. The learning goal is to accurately distinguish between an incident, an accident, and a near-miss. Play the mini-game.
2. Product Launch
We recently completed a major curriculum design and development project associated with the launch of a product. The curriculum included pre-work components, and a two-day live event. One of the pre-work activities was a mini-challenge called Making Fuel. Learners had to correctly compare 7 competitors. The second game was a full-scale learning game. It used Knowledge Guru’s game engine to create a four-topic game that helped learners master product basics before attending the live launch workshop.
The screen grab above shows a mini-game that has the same functionality as the Making Gold game. The game goal is to get fuel into the car. The learning goal is to match competitor weaknesses to a product.
This screen grab shows a full-blown game that uses Knowledge Guru game engine. In this game, the players gain product knowledge through game play. The game goal is to win the Racing series by completing four different races. The learning goals included: 1) Match the features of the product with related competitive advantages, 2) Match the competitive advantage with related benefits or savings, 3) Select the differentiating features and benefits of the product versus selected competitor products, and 4) Select differentiating features and benefits of the product versus selected competitor products.