As an industry-leading educational game developer, we straddle two worlds. On one hand, we have a lot in common with commercial entertainment video game developers – the technical craft of making games for learning is really no different than making entertainment video games. On the other hand, we also have a lot in common with traditional elearning companies who think about how to engage learners with content. So what’s different about working with an educational game developer?
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You are going to hear a lot about transfer and outcomes.
Video games can be fun to play, can be really challenging, can make us feel like a hero, and can sometimes be a great social outlet. As an educational game developer, we can make games that have those qualities, too. But on top of that, we challenge ourselves to make a game, for example, that will actually teach someone to read or to keep someone safe in a chemical safety plant. No pressure! The very nature of educational video games means that we want our players to be different after playing our game. We want them to have learned something, to have been inspired, or to have a new mindset. To accomplish this, we hone in on a set of learning objectives and outcomes and then everything about the game – the design, the visuals, the mechanics, are all tuned to work together to transfer the knowledge, behaviors or mindsets to the player.
We think about scaffolding and feedback as supports for learning.
In a commercial video game, designers use a combination of scaffolding and feedback systems as an inviting and motivational way to gently move the player through knowing nothing about the game to eventual mastery in a way that feels positive and successful for the player. It’s one thing to do that to teach a player how to sling birds at towers, but the stakes are so much different when you are trying to teach someone fractions! As an educational game developer, we use the same techniques but are extra sensitive about getting this right as we never want to turn a player off from learning. We scaffold our learning games to make you feel like you are just challenged enough (but not too much) and can even design the game to speed up or slow down depending on your rate of grasping the concepts. On the backend, we pour in a healthy dose of feedback to engage and motivate the player to keep going.
We design the player’s identity to set them up for success.
In every game, you are asked to be someone – whether that be a war hero, a monkey, or waitress – that works with the narrative of the game. A well-designed game presents you with a compelling world and invites you to be the hero – how great is that? In learning games we do the same, but what’s special is that identity that we hand you can be specially designed to empower you to be more successful at learning.
We need to understand the context in which the player is going to play the game.
I suppose both commercial video game developers and educational game developers need to know the basic facts about what types of devices the game is going to be played on, what languages does it have to be available in, what platform it will be played on, and how your player is going to acquire your game. But for a learning game, we need to know even more. Where is the game going to be played (work, school, home, etc.), who needs to see the results, how is the game going to be disseminated, what data needs to be collected and potentially aggregated, and so on. An educational game developer will need to know the context so they can create a game that works for the end user and the setting in which the game will be played.
Ready to learn more about working with an educational game developer? Contact us today!