Did you know the best way to design a digital game is to start with a paper prototype?

Or that the ADDIE model for designing learning solutions doesn’t work so well with games? You should use an agile approach instead.

Here’s one for the Directors and Managers reading this: did you know that your Learning Designers may not have the skill set to start designing effective instructional games, even if they are great at creating eLearning and ILT? corporate learning games - playtesting

Getting Started in Learning Game Design

We’ve said it before and I’m sure we’ll say it again: game design is a unique skill set. Creating instructional games, where the game mechanics actively encourage and support learning, is not a skill that comes overnight. If you want your instructional games to do more than award points and badges, you’re going to have to study game design… and invest some time (and maybe money) in professional development. If you try to design a learning game without proper study and practice, you’re vulnerable to a few common mistakes:

  • Game mechanics that fail to support, or even detract, from the learning: Sharon Boller referenced an early mechanic of timed responses we tested with Knowledge Guru in a recent blog post; since the goal of Knowledge Guru is not to answer questions quickly but to answer them correctly, adding a timed element into the game took away from the learning and stressed players out.
  • Games that are too simple: Players will get bored quickly if a game is too linear. The design of a “Click Next” course is not going to translate well to an instructional game.
  • Games that rely on blind luck: In a learning game, the decisions a player makes should directly affect their success in a game. The players should not feel their success hinges on a random drawing or roll of the dice.
It takes practice to avoid making mistakes like these… but your investment of time and focus will pay off. Experienced designers eventually learn how to link game mechanics to the desired learning experience. That’s when games really show their value for learning.

Professional Development Opportunities for Learning Designers

Let us help. Whether you just want some free information to guide your own learning, a day-long workshop experience that gives you a repeatable process you can use to practice designing games, or a tool you can use to create games easily without worrying so much about the design, we have something for you.

We’ve been growing our game design skill set over the past couple of years through peer groups, conferences, designing our Knowledge Guru game engine and custom game development for clients. Now, we have two great opportunities to share some of that knowledge with you. One of them is even free.

Play to Learn: Designing Effective Learning Games

Play to Learn - Designing Effective Learning GamesSharon Boller, creator of Knowledge Guru® and President of BLP, partners with Karl Kapp, Ed.D, to lead this all-day workshop. We walk through the research and case studies that support the efficacy of games, evaluate digital games and board games to generate ideas, then break into groups and go through the process of creating paper prototypes and play testing. You’ll leave with a 5-step roadmap you can use again and again on game design projects.

Sharon and Karl have gave this workshop at ASTD ICE in May 2013… and it quickly sold out. This session, held in downtown Indianapolis, will be the most cost-effective ways to attend the workshop. The best part about this workshop? You get to prototype your own game… and test the prototypes of others. Have a look at some of the prototypes past participants created:

[camera slideshow=”play-to-learn-game-examples”]

Karl Kapp and Sharon Boller

The Details:

  • August 28th, 2013
  • 8:15 am – 4:15 pm
  • Held at ExactTarget in downtown Indianapolis
  • 20 N. Meridian St, Indianapolis IN46204
  • Cost of $459 includes a copy of Karl’s book, “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction”

Eventbrite - Play to Learn: Designing Effective Learning Games

A Primer On Play: How to Use Games for Learning

Not ready to commit to an all-day workshop? We’ve been offering our free webinar on game-based learning basics for 6 months now. Several hundred people have attended… and the webinar shows you the basics of getting started in game design. You’ll learn how the power of feedback loops and linking game mechanics and learning elements can help you combat the forgetting curve.

May 11 am webinar - Register Now

You can also register here.

Just a Starting Point

Designing an effective learning game is not a tasks you can complete in a single afternoon. You’re not going to learn pick up all of the skills you need in a one hour webinar, or even in an all-day session. We like to think our offerings are great for kick-starting your game-based learning knowledge, but they are definitely just the starting point of your learning. The hard work is the practice.

What we can do is teach you how to practice and give you the tools to continue your own learning. In our sessions, we share the research and case studies we have found valuable in the field of instructional game design, and give you the tools you’ll need to teach others in your organization that games are a good idea.

Keep in mind that neither Karl Kapp or Sharon Boller started out as game designers. In a recent interview, they both shared how they began their careers in instructional design, saw the power and value of games early in their careers, and started incorporating games and immersive experiences into the solutions they developed.

Even if you and your team of instructional designers are new to game design, you should not be discouraged. Many people have added real game design skills to their toolkit, and you can too.