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TH301 - Start Thinking Like a Game Designer: An Interactive Learning Experience


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In games, players immediately take action, make meaningful decisions, and volunteer to spend more and more time finding treasures or defeating villains. Meanwhile, many corporate e-learning experiences are less than engaging. What instructional designers need to do is steal ideas, techniques, and methodologies from game designers and incorporate those ideas into our instructional design. This session will provide a model that can be followed by instructional designers as well as research-based recommendations for helping instructional designers think more like game designers. The result will be interactive and engaging instruction. This will be an intermediate-level session, and some knowledge of instructional design will be helpful. Also, bring your smartphone and devices, as you will be interacting with the content and voting on answer choices while this interactive adventure unfolds.

Published in: Education
  • Thanks for posting this Karl! I wasn't able to attend in person, but I love the concepts and will use them in my next game design :)
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TH301 - Start Thinking Like a Game Designer: An Interactive Learning Experience

  1. 1. TH301 - Start Thinking Like a Game Designer: An Interactive Learning Experience Karl Kapp Professor, Bloomsburg University @kkapp
  2. 2. Design takeaway challenge.
  3. 3. Karl Kapp Presents:
  4. 4. You are a game designer at SuperGame Corporation which has hit some hard times lately.
  5. 5. It’s Friday 4:59 PM you and your colleague have only one thing on your mind.
  6. 6. Suddenly, your boss calls you and your colleague into her office. Ito and Jasmine come into my office.
  7. 7. Yes? Yes?
  8. 8. Look, someone wants us to create a game about capturing dragons.It appears to be a craze or something.
  9. 9. Working name is… “Dragónmon Go”
  10. 10. You are competing internally for the project. Winning team earns the right to work on the project.
  11. 11. Two Teams ATD Winners ATD Champions Open Internet browser in separate window or on mobile phone.
  12. 12.
  13. 13. Each team will be confronted with a series of questions. The team that correctly answers the most questions wins the work.
  14. 14. What about the other team?
  15. 15. Losers are assigned to the game “watching paint dry.”
  16. 16. Wow, I heard about that project, its almost as fun as… never mind. Dragon Capturing is much better.
  17. 17. Get it together. Now let’s hear about the dragon capturing game.
  18. 18. First decision about this dragon capturing game is how to start the game. What should the player’s first in-game experience be?
  19. 19. You have two choices: Tell the player three things they need to know about capturing dragons. or Begin with by having the player start capturing dragons right away.
  20. 20. Why does this answer make sense? Not Sure?
  21. 21. Good game designers know that games are engaging because they require action right away. Action draws in the player and encourages further engagement. Start by capturing a dragon.
  22. 22. Too often instructional design is about the content and not about the actions that need to occur. Game Design is about action.
  23. 23. Research indicates that learners who used interactive games for learning had greater cognitive gains over learners provided with traditional classroom training. Vogel, J. J., Vogel D.S., Cannon-Bowers, J., Bowers, C.A., Muse, K., & Wright, M. (2006). Computer gaming and Interactive simulations for learning: A meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 34(3), 229-243.
  24. 24. Ok, next decision. Provide a map with the location of all the dragons. or Create a sense of mystery and curiosity concerning the location of dragons.
  25. 25. It is always a good idea to build curiosity and mystery into a game. Reveal locations of dragons throughout the course of the player’s journey. Check out my notebook on this subject.
  26. 26. A sense of suspense, mystery and intrigue draws people into games and can draw them into learning as well.
  27. 27. Twittermission
  28. 28. OK, what do we decide next, should we: Make the game easy so we don’t discourage the players. or Make the game challenging, knowing some players will fail the first few times.
  29. 29. Jones, B., Valdez, G., Norakowski, J., & Rasmussen, C. (1994). Designing learning and technology for educational reform. North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. [Online]. Available: and Schlechty, P. C. (1997). Inventing better schools: An action plan for educational reform. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Chapter 2 “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction.” It needs to be challenging.
  30. 30. Look! Good games give players a set of challenging problems and let them solve those problems until they can do it automatically. Then those same games throw a new class of problem at the players requiring them to re- think, their now—taken for granted—mastery. They must learn something new and integrate into their old mastery.
  31. 31. Well said!
  32. 32. Actually, my good friend James Paul Gee said those words, I’m quoting him.
  33. 33. Always good to cite sources!
  34. 34. Also, keep in mind things that are too easy or too difficult will not pique a learner’s interest because they lead to boredom or frustration. Research has shown that challenge is correlated with both intrinsic motivation and motivation related to the desire to seek competence and self confidence. White, R.W. (1959) Motivation reconsidered: The concept of competence. Psychological Review, 66, 297-333.
  35. 35. In fact, give them the Kobayashi Maru of challenges.
  36. 36. Harsh!
  37. 37. Well, the next decision, should we: Put the player at risk, they could die at any moment. or Let the player safely explore the environment.
  38. 38. Seriously, you are asking me this question. The player needs to be at risk.
  39. 39. No risk, or danger equal no skin in the game. Get the player emotionally involved by putting him or her at “mock” risk.
  40. 40. In games, failing is allowed, it’s acceptable, and it’s part of the process. Games accommodate failure with multiple lives, second chances and alternative methods of success.
  41. 41. Research indicates that our brains grow when we make a mistake because it is a time of struggle. Moser, J. Schroder, H.S., Heeter, C., C., Moran, T.P., & Lee, Y.H. (2011) Mind your errors: Evidence for a neural mechanism linking growth mindset to adaptive post error adjustments. Psychological Science, 22, 1284-1489. Our brains react with greater electrical activity when we make a mistake than when we are correct.
  42. 42. Do you punish failure in your learning design or do you allow and encourage the freedom to fail?
  43. 43. Last decision, should you: Give player choices about what level to enter the game. or Create one path for every player.
  44. 44. Choices, players need choices. Look, let me tell you what motivates people.
  45. 45. People are motivated when they have autonomy, mastery and relatedness.
  46. 46. Hey, isn’t that the Self-Determination Theory?
  47. 47. Why, yes…yes it is.
  48. 48. Cordova, D.I., & Lepper M. R. (1996) Intrinsic motivation and the process of learning: Beneficial effects of contextualization, personalization and choice. Journal of Educational Psychology, 88, 715-730 When given control over their learning, research has shown that learners invested more and attempted more complex strategies than when they had no control. So give learners control.
  49. 49. And give our game players control over which dragon to capture and in what order. Cordova, D.I., & Lepper M. R. (1996) Intrinsic motivation and the process of learning: Beneficial effects of contextualization, personalization and choice. Journal of Educational Psychology, 88, 715-730
  50. 50. Lot of information, thanks. So let me ask one more question.
  51. 51. Which team gets to design “Dragónmon Go”? Which team won?
  52. 52. Well, they are all winners to me.
  53. 53. Ugh….
  54. 54. How about a re-cap…
  55. 55. Here are five tips for thinking like a game designer: 1) Begin with activity 2) Create curiosity, mystery, intrigue 3) Create a challenge for the learner 4) Put learners at “mock” risk— encourage mistakes 5) Give learners meaningful choices
  56. 56. What game elements are in this presentation?
  57. 57. 1) Story 2) Character 3) Competition/teams 4) Real-time feedback 5) Meaningful Decision making 6) Uncertain ending 7) Allowing failure 8) Uncertainty
  58. 58. Don’t forget: • Turn Learning Objectives into Questions. • Incorporate Storytelling into Design Process. • “Force” Learner Reflection. • Establish Team-based Cooperative and Competitive Situations.
  59. 59. You can use more realistic settings for storytelling.
  60. 60. Can I have a moment of your time?
  61. 61. Well, I am busy…
  62. 62. How should I respond? A) It’s only a moment. B) When is a good time for us to talk? C) Ok, but let me ask you one question before I go.
  63. 63. Explore Spectrum of Options Low Tech Card/Board Games Medium Tech Audience Response/ Augmented PPT High Tech Video Game Level
  64. 64. Transfer Activity: Your Content 1. Turn objectives into questions. Maintain open loop. 2. Add a reflective exercise into learning process. 3. Create a story to draw in learner. 4. Use a team concept/audience response to encourage engagement. 5. Think like a game designer: curiosity, open loops, freedom to fail, 6. Create meaningful choices (not “no-brainers”).
  65. 65. Questions?
  66. 66. Learning Courses: Gamification & Interactive Learning YouTube Channel: Karl Kapp Twitter @kkapp Web Resources