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Scott Hewitt

Real Projects - Creative e-learning solutions

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Game Based Learning – It Isn’t Just Leaderboards And Points!


Game Based Learning is not just about reward systems and leaderboards or allocating points to learner performance. Game design and game theory can become a very useful part of an elearning designer toolbox. You can also use elements of game design in your projects without it become a 100% Game Based Learning project.

During all the time I've been involved in elearning I've played computer games. I've been fortunate to have been involved in the development of computer games and I've been involved in game based learning for many years. I'm going to share some of my insight into game based learning to give you an introduction into how we use game based learning and game techniques in our projects and how you could use it.

You need to play some computer games!
If you are thinking about getting involved in game based learning then I suggest that you play some computer games. If you have a tablet or smart phone you can quickly and easily download games from the app stores. It is important that you try to play a range of games and not just games that you already like. Spend some time looking and playing the games and create a list of the games that you have played.

What did you like about the games? Starting thinking about the things that you like in games, this could be:

Music - How did the music and mood change through the game?
Interface - Did it use a hub system to navigate through the menu? How did you navigate in game?
Reward system - Where you rewarded for your performance? Could you spend your currency?
Progression - How quickly could you move through the game - What did you do if you got stuck?
Knowledge acquisition - What was the learning curve?
Character recovery - Did your character had the ability to recovery and recuperate
Feedback system - Did you get feedback from the game?
Ability to fail and learn - Could you try things repeatedly?

All of these elements can be applied to your elearning projects! Look at how many games now uses recovery and recuperation systems within their characters - I'm personally interested to see how we can uses this within a quiz, interaction and learning design. Do you lock out people if they get a quiz incorrect? If you do - why? What type of feedback systems do you have within in your elearning courses? What interface system do you have in your courses? Are they always linear? Could you offer a hub interface?

Speak to a Game Designer
Find a game designer or someone with a background in building game based learning. Game designers understand game theory and the mechanics of how games work. I've mixed up elearning designers and games designers on elearning projects and game based learning projects to develop new ideas on both types of projects.  Game designers can provide an insight into new design areas like:

Content Immersion

Look outside of elearning and traditional gaming for inspiration
We regularly look at other industries like the game industries to see what technologies and production techniques they are using. At the moment we are really interesting in M.V.P. (Minimum_viable_product) and fast prototyping using apps like Proto.

I'm personally interested in Alternate Reality Games and the work of Jane McGonigal "My best effort so far? SuperBetter, a game that has helped more than 250,000 players so far tackle real-life health challenges like depression, anxiety, chronic pain and traumatic brain injury."

Game in a day
This is a workshop that I’ve ran a few times where we’ve had to come up with a game idea for a subject that we would typically cover in an elearning course. It has allowed people to think differently and we’ve come up with some great ideas that we’ve then applied to the elearning courses. We’ve also set up these workshops with our local university and use rapid development tools and  software like Thinking Worlds to actually create Prototype games and courses. You can see examples on Game Based Learning pages. The idea of the session is to generate new ideas, especially if you are stuck using the same development elearning tools, graphic packs and content. You can come up with new ideas by thinking about it from a different angle.

Rapid Prototyping
I previously mentioned Proto but we also use a range of other development tools. Have you thought of using development tools like Thinking Worlds or Unity 3d to create and prototype some new ideas? Have you heard about Game Maker? These tools might give you inspiration for a new project?

Using mini-games
We are often asked to develop mini-games that are used within courses or standalone. If you having used game based learning before then mini-games are a great way of testing game based learning within your organisation to test and measure the effectiveness.

There is a lot more to Game Based Learning that just leaderboards and awarding points. The techniques that you can learn from game design can be applied to your elearning project to improve your course design.

Do you use game design in your instructional design? Have you thought about using game based learning? What elements from games could you include in your design?

As for me Bubble Bobble is my all time favourite computer game. It was released in 1986. It has brilliant music, multiple endings, simple yet brilliant gameplay and it has allows you to progress each time. Check it out!

About the author: Scott Hewitt is the founder of Real Projects, an elearning company that helps companies create innovative elearning solutions.


3 Responses

  1. Example of a game to change attitude with no points
    I’ve been interested in the application of game mechanics to acquisition of new knowledge, skills and attitude for some time now. In theory it looked great, but I wanted to experiment with game design myself. Here’s the first result:

    I was wondering how learning professionals who understand the value of gamification and who have set learning objectives and assessed their playing (learning) audience can actually get started with game design. I love your idea to just play a load of games. I’m sure this will be a great way for the “less creative” instructional designer to get done ideas.

    Thanks for the tip!

  2. Thanks for the feedback

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the feedback! I read your blog article – great idea and really easy to create an icebreaker or mini game idea in the work place. Very similar ideas to what we've done to the game in a day session.

    One of the first thing I asked people to do if they want to start a Game Based Learning project is play games – it helps a great deal to understand how games work and why people play them. From our elearning designer you can pick up so much from game design – interface design, level design, menu structure.

    Thanks for reading,


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Scott Hewitt

founder - real projects

Read more from Scott Hewitt

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