A lot of people want to design learning games, aka “serious games.” However, many L&D people have gotten very enthusiastic about the gamification and game-based learning trend without actually being game players themselves.
If you do not play games, you will find it very difficult to design a great game. In the learning game design workshop that Karl Kapp and I offer (the next one will be at DevLearn 2014), the very thing we do is to play some games. Game play helps you learn game design, and it helps you become evaluative about what game elements and game mechanics optimize the game play experience. The lessons you learn from playing a lot of different commercial games will translate into good game design decisions for serious games.
Playing games helps you experience game elements such as chance, strategy, aesthetics, levels, rewards, achievements, scoring, competition, cooperation, and resources. You can observe how other game designers have used these elements with great (or poor) effect and consider how well the elements might translate into a game that also is specifically intended for learning. You experience different core dynamics and decide how fun they are.
Evaluation through play needs to be a deliberate experience. It is more than a matter of simply playing a lot of games. It involves analyzing the games you play—sometimes in great depth.
We’ve put together a template for you to download so you can do your own game evaluations. It includes a quick sample analysis of Knowledge Guru as well as a blank sheet for you to copy and use as you evaluate many different games. Here’s a few games to consider analyzing:
- Scurvy Scallywags
- Candy Crush (yes, you need to check this out because you need to understand why it’s been so popular)
- Tiny Thief (available for Android too)
- Garage, Inc. (available on App Store; this is the desktop version)
Download the Game Evaluation Worksheet