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Don't Think Like an Instructional Designer—Think Like a Game Designer

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Game designers create immersive experiences that keep players engaged for hours. 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.

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Don't Think Like an Instructional Designer—Think Like a Game Designer

  1. 1. By Karl M. Kapp Bloomsburg University Gamification of Learning &Instruction EMAIL: TWITTER: @kkapp BLOG: Don't Think Like an Instructional Designer—Think Like a Game Designer
  2. 2. Covert Takeaway Challenge
  3. 3. The SuperHero Mission
  4. 4. You are a game designer at Rock’n GameDesign Corporation which has hit some hard times lately.
  5. 5. It is Friday at 4:55 PM and you only have two things on you mind…
  6. 6. Hey someone wants us to create a game about….
  7. 7. … Superheroes Learning Lady Meta-Cognition
  8. 8. BulletPoint: AKA Board-Dumb Distractress: AKA Apathy … and Supervillains
  9. 9. We are competing internally for the project. Winning team earns the right to work on the project.
  10. 10. Rules • Text the word karlkappto 37607 Take out your text- machinesStandard Texting Fees Apply!
  11. 11. Two Development Teams TeamA TeamB
  12. 12. Each team will be confronted with a series of questions. The team that answers the most questions correctly wins the work.
  13. 13. Losers are assigned to the “Watching Paint Dry” game that’s been under development.
  14. 14. Wow, I heard about that paint drying game, its almost as fun as… never mind. Superheroes are much better.
  15. 15. First decision about this Superhero game is how to start the game? What should a player’s first in-game experience be?
  16. 16. You have two choices: Tell the player detailed information they need to know about being a superhero. or Begin with a battle.
  17. 17. A Battle!
  18. 18. Why does this answer make sense? Not Sure?
  19. 19. Good game designers know that games are engaging because they require action right away. Action draws in the player and encourages further engagement. Start with action. It helps defeat boredom and apathy on the part of the learner.
  20. 20. Too often instructional design is about the content and not about the actions that need to occur. Game Design is about action.
  21. 21. 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. Research indicates that learners who used interactive games for learning had the greater cognitive gains over learners provided with traditional classroom training.
  22. 22. Here are some of my notes on the subject.
  23. 23. Ok, next decision. Provide a map with the location of all the Supervillain hideouts. or Create a sense of mystery and curiosity concerning the location of hideouts.
  24. 24. Build curiosity & mystery into a game. Reveal locations of Supervillain hideouts throughout the course of the player’s journey.
  25. 25. A sense of suspense, mystery and intrigue draws people into games and can draw them into learning as well.
  26. 26. 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.
  27. 27. 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.” This should be easy. You can’t stop all of us. Uh, oh. This is a challenge
  28. 28. In fact, give them the Kobayashi Maru of challenges.
  29. 29. Harsh!
  30. 30. Look! Things that are too easy or too difficult will not pique a learner’s interest because they lead to boredom or frustration. White, R.W. (1959) Motivation reconsidered: The concept of competence. Psychological Review, 66, 297-333. Research has shown that challenge is correlated with intrinsic motivation and motivation related to the desire to seek competence and self confidence.
  31. 31. Well said!
  32. 32. 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.
  33. 33. Risk, in games, failing is allowed, it’s acceptable and it’s part of the process.
  34. 34. Do you punish failure in your learning design or do you allow and encourage the freedom to fail?
  35. 35. Last decision, should we: Give player choices about what level to enter the game. or Create one path for every player.
  36. 36. Level One Level Two Level Three Choices, players need choices. Look, let me tell you what motivates people.
  37. 37. People are motivated when they have autonomy, mastery and relatedness.
  38. 38. Hey, isn’t that the Self-Determination Theory?
  39. 39. Why, yes…yes it is.
  40. 40. 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 Where to next?
  41. 41. Lot of information, thanks. So let me ask one more question.
  42. 42. Which team won?
  43. 43. Well, there all winners to me….
  44. 44. Ugh….
  45. 45. How about a re-cap…
  46. 46. Here are five tips to help an instructional designer to think 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 5) Give learners choices
  47. 47. Covert Takeaway Challenge
  48. 48. What Questions Do You Have?