Teaching like a game designer

playing monopoly

All teachers and leaders seek new ways to engage their students and followers.   Games have a profound potential as teaching tools.   I wanted to share some of the key questions that have helped me in my quest to become a game designer.   (I still have much to learn)  The questions serve as a checklist for designing and evaluating game designs.  I hope that they can serve teachers, leaders and innovators who seek to create teachable moments through their own game designs.   Please keep in mind that you don’t need to be a programmer or technology expert to design games.  Play is a natural part of being human.   Some of the best games are played with no technology.   YOU can design your own teaching games.

I want to give a “shout out” to Dr. Jane McGonigal for teaching these core questions in her book “Reality is broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.”    I would also invite you to review her TED talk.

1) What is the goal of the game?   As educators, we want our activities to be aligned with teaching objectives.  For instance, we may want our students to learn geography.   While this is a fine objective, many high impact games wrap the objective in mystery and story.   “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?”, the legendary game that helped to launch game based learning, challenged students to join a quest to find the infamous criminal, Carmen Sandiego, and bring her to justice.   Players of this game learned aspects of geography on accident. (or by design!?)

It’s true that many games do not have a profound story(i.e. chess, checkers, spades,etc.), but designers of games should make the goal of the game clear.

2) What are the rules of the game? Think about your favorite game.   How would you describe how to play your favorite game to a friend?  As we answer this question, we probably need to address the following concerns:
– Players
– Objectives(s)
– Procedures of the game
– Resources
– Conflict
– Boundaries
– Space

3) Why would someone volunteer for the work of your game?  We all love Angry birds.  What are the qualities of this game that encourage us to throw small little birds against buildings, bricks, and strangely colored little pigs?  As we use games to design educational experience, are we appealing to our desire for fun?   Are we designing our game to appeal to our need to be social and collaborate?   Are we appealing to our players desire to serve a high or epic purpose?  Are we appealing to players who like to compete against each other?

4) How does the player receive feedback?  As we design our learning experiences, players need a way to know that we are winning.  Do the players receive points or badges?  Do the players receive praise for doing a good job?

Gameful educational experiences have a unique opportunity to make failure fun.   We can design the player experience to keep the player coming back for more.   In some teaching environments, failure is discouraged.   In a gaming environment, we find fun ways to bring our students back into the game, provide meaningful feedback, provide corrective instruction,  and help them master the skill or topic at hand.

For fans of project based learning, consider visiting http://www.gogamestorm.com/ .   What game could you use to help your class to brainstorm project ideas?






Photo from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/upturnedface/6661061039/sizes/m/in/photostream/

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