I’ve enjoyed a few video games. Some of those games, like the King’s Quest series and the Myst series, were purely for entertainment. I spent many enjoyable hours on them. Then, there were the educational games. My favorites were Qin: Tomb of the Middle Kingdom and SimEarth. In the former, you play a researcher and, in order to solve various puzzles, you need to learn about the middle kingdom. In the later, you are trying to get life on earth to develop by adjusting everything from axial tilt and rotation speed of the planet to atmospheric conditions and more. In all of those games, I experienced what Csikszentmihalyi called “flow” – being fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
I learned a lot in those educational games – things I still remember even after almost 20 years for Qin and almost 30 years for SimEarth. However, had some character popped up on the screen and said “your learning objectives for this next section are…” or, “now, it is time to take a quiz to see what you’ve learned…” I think perhaps I would not have experienced ‘flow’ and I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be remembering info from the game 2 or 3 decades later.
And that, in a nutshell, is the gist of the research report, **Instructional Designers Take All the Fun Out of Games: Rethinking Elements of Engagement for Designing Instructional Games. Let’s not start a game, or interrupt a game, by mentioning learning objectives or assessment. Instead, we need to find ways to embed those contextually within the game environment… perhaps similar to my example:
I’m designing a game for newer online faculty. The purpose of the game is to teach faculty different design strategies to improve engagement and learning effectiveness. To ’embed’ the learning objectives, one of the first thing faculty will experience is an instructional designer providing them with feedback on an online course that needs revision. This feedback is, in essence, the learning objectives. However they will be stated in real-world terms during dialogue.
As the faculty member progresses through the game, making redesign choices that impact engagement and learning effectiveness, there will be some sort of feedback mechanism – perhaps visual dials to show values for each quality. Some choices will result in increased engagement and/or effectiveness; others will result in decreases in either or both. The point will be for the faculty to get positive values in both areas. Doing so means they’ve ‘passed the quiz’ without actually taking a quiz. There will also be options to “re-test.” Going through a scenario a second, third, or more times can result in different levels of engagement / effectiveness each time.
After I get a draft of my game done – I’m doing it using an interactive fiction tool first so I don’t stress about visual design – I’ll post it here for you feedback. I’m sure it will require multiple iterations as this will be my first attempt at a game and with branching scenarios. 🙂
**In the future, we’ll tackle the problem of Instructional Designers crafting titles that are informative yet succinct. <grin>