Five Things Game Designers Can Teach eLearning Designers


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Game designers continually create engaging, dynamic experiences for players. What if eLearning developers could take some of those ideas and techniques and apply them to our own eLearning design and development?

Participants in this session will learn the five elements that game designers include in almost every game and that eLearning designers and developers can add to eLearning to make it more engaging and impactful. Based on the bestselling book The Gamification of Learning and Instruction, this session provides tips and techniques to make your eLearning an engaging, dynamic experience for your learners. You’ll learn how to create more engaging and interactive instruction based on the principles of game design without the cost or effort of creating an entire game.

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Five Things Game Designers Can Teach eLearning Designers

  1. 1. Five Things Instructional Designers Can Learn from Game Designers By Karl M. Kapp Bloomsburg University Gamification of Learning &Instruction EMAIL: TWITTER: @kkapp BLOG:
  2. 2. Covert Takeaway Challenge
  3. 3. Notes Slides Additional Ideas
  4. 4. 4 2 3
  5. 5. What variables do I balance to keep my person happy? Work Life Harmony How should I manage my time?
  6. 6. What leadership strategy should I use?
  7. 7. Not another online lecture.
  8. 8. Sorry, had you on mute, could you repeat the question.
  9. 9. I am going to need more coffee.
  10. 10. “Study of 2,300 people found only 6% of organizations are successful in influencing behavior change among employees.” --Al Switzler
  11. 11. We need to think more like Game Designers
  12. 12. The Dragon Slayer Mission
  13. 13. You are a game designer at SuperGame Corporation which has hit some hard times lately.
  14. 14. It is Friday at 4:55 PM and you only have two things on you mind…
  15. 15. Hey someone wants us to create a game about slaying dragons.
  16. 16. We are competing internally for the project. Winning team earns the right to work on the project.
  17. 17. Two Development Teams teama teamb
  18. 18. Rules • A statement is presented – Choose the best response • Text Keyword Response: – To 37607 Standard Texting Fees Apply! Take out your textmachines
  19. 19. How To Respond via Texting Amaze Inamaze alright TIPS 1. Polleverywhere has no access to your phone number 2. Capitalization doesn’t matter, but spaces and spelling do Amaze
  20. 20. Each team will be confronted with a series of questions. The team that correctly answers the questions wins the work.
  21. 21. What about the other team?
  22. 22. Losers are assigned to the Watching Paint Dry game that’s been under development.
  23. 23. Wow, I heard about that project, its almost as fun as… never mind. Dragon Slaying is much better.
  24. 24. First decision about this dragon slaying game is how to start the game…what should the players first in-game experience be?
  25. 25. You have two choices: Tell the player three things he/she needs to know about slaying dragons. or Begin with a fight between the player and a small, dangerous dragon.
  26. 26. Why does this answer make sense? Not Sure?
  27. 27. 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 battling a dragon.
  28. 28. Research indicates that learners who used interactive games for learning had the 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.
  29. 29. Too often instructional design is about the content and not about the actions that need to occur. Game Design is about action.
  30. 30. 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.
  31. 31. It is always a good idea to build curiosity into a game. Reveal locations of dragons throughout the course of the player’s journey.
  32. 32. Here are some of my notes on the subject.
  33. 33. A sense of suspense, mystery and intrigue draws people into games and can draw them into learning as well.
  34. 34. OK, next decision, 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.
  35. 35. It needs to be challenging. 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.”
  36. 36. In fact, give them the Kobayashi Maru of challenges.
  37. 37. Harsh!
  38. 38. Look! 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.
  39. 39. Well said!
  40. 40. 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.
  41. 41. Seriously, you are asking me this question. The player needs to be at risk.
  42. 42. No risk, or danger equal no skin in the game. Get the player emotionally involved by putting him or her at “mock” risk.
  43. 43. 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.
  44. 44. Do you punish failure in your learning design or do you allow and encourage the freedom to fail?
  45. 45. Last decision, should we: Give player choices about what level to enter the game. or Create one path for every player.
  46. 46. Choices, players need choices. Look, let me tell you what motivates people.
  47. 47. People are motivated when they have autonomy, mastery and relatedness.
  48. 48. Hey, isn’t that the Self-Determination Theory?
  49. 49. Why, yes…yes it is.
  50. 50. 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. 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
  51. 51. Lot of information, thanks. So let me ask one more question.
  52. 52. Ok, so which team won?
  53. 53. Well, there all winners to me….
  54. 54. Ugh….
  55. 55. How about a re-cap…
  56. 56. Here are five tips to help an instructional designer to think like a game designer: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) Begin with activity Create curiosity, mystery, intrigue Create a challenge for the learner Put learners at “mock” risk Give learners choices
  57. 57. Bonus information.
  58. 58. Mobile game designers create games to be played over time. Use time to your advantage
  59. 59. A study using a randomized control group conducted a trial between Aug 10, 2009, and Nov 30, 2012, at ten sites in southeast India with over 500 subjects. Working Indian men (aged 35—55 years) with impaired glucose tolerance were randomly assigned to either a mobile phone messaging intervention or standard care. Ramachandran, A. et. al. Effectiveness of mobile phone messaging in prevention of type 2 diabetes by lifestyle modification in men in India: a prospective, parallel-group, randomised controlled trial The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, Early Online Publication, 11 September 2013 doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(13)70067-6
  60. 60. “Use stairs instead of an Elevator” “Avoid snacks while watching TV; you may overeat. “ Ramachandran, A., et. al.., Effectiveness of mobile phone messaging in prevention of type 2 diabetes by lifestyle modification in men in India: a prospective, parallel-group, randomised controlled trial The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, Early Online Publication, 11 September 2013 doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(13)70067-6
  61. 61. Lowered risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 36%. Ramachandran, A., et. al.., Effectiveness of mobile phone messaging in prevention of type 2 diabetes by lifestyle modification in men in India: a prospective, parallel-group, randomised controlled trial The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, Early Online Publication, 11 September 2013 doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(13)70067-6
  62. 62. Larsen DP, Butler AC, Roediger HL 3rd. Repeated testing improves long-term retention relative to repeated study: a randomized controlled trial. Med Educ 43: 1174–1181, 2009. Dobson, J. L. (2013) Retrieval practice is an efficient method of enhancing the retention of anatomy and physiology information Advances in Physiology Education 37: 184–191, 2013; doi:10.1152/advan.00174.2012.
  63. 63. Covert Takeaway Challenge
  64. 64. Copy of Slides and Notes available at Contact Karl at:
  65. 65. Covert Takeaways • • • • Learning should be engaging. Stories provide a context for learning. It is ok for a learner to struggle. Simply adding points, badges and leaderboards does not make learning effective.