How to Make a Video Game for Learning: Content Considerations

Posted: January 31st, 2016 under Filament Games, Opinion.

Game design is a complex subject to cover, but there are some litmus tests for what makes good learning game content. The following list will help you determine if you have the right type of content for a learning game.

Games do some things extraordinarily well and unique to their medium.

  • Games can compress time. Manipulating time allows for interaction and feedback on processes that occur at rates too fast or slow to observe naturally. It is easy to cover topics like evolution, geology, or chemical reactions.
  • Digital experiences can replicate what would be expensive or impractical to do in real life. Examples of games that leverage this are simulations for pilots, firemen and soldiers.
  • Some games are considered advanced toys where you can manipulate complicated systems that are difficult to learn through traditional methods. Experimenting and interacting with complicated systems is the best way to learn them. Games can create these systems and interactions on any scale, ranging from cells to planets.
  • Technology in classrooms is quickly relegated to automatic grading. Most projects miss the advantage that games can dynamically adjust per user, behaving much more like a personal tutor.
  • At the heart of games, the core of their engagement, is choice. Games offer players the ability to navigate complex decisions, evaluate tradeoffs, and explore new environments while receiving instant feedback. These are the most valuable and unique aspects of games.
  • It boils down to this: If content is more effective to teach with another medium (books, movies, role playing, etc), it shouldn’t be a game.

Games made purely for entertainment value attempt to create a space where the virtual world draws you in and you become more invested, interested, and excited about the potential experiences in that space. Learning games flip that paradigm and inform, inspire, and drive passion about the real world.

Good educational games, are in fact, good games. All games teach you the elements of the game and establish incremental progress to the point of mastery. Educational games simply have foundations in reality and accelerate your path to mastery.

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