Online games have presented organizations with an opportunity to communicate new learning concepts, terminologies and technology information in ways that learners often find engaging and involving. When learning is fun, learners look forward to the experience. With learning games, adoption takes place more readily, without the learner feeling the pressure of completing yet another task or the guilt of wasting time.
The game development function is best left to outside specialists. However, the responsibility for making it a success cannot be delegated. Here are some key questions that a business manager should ask when presented with the prospect of developing or evaluating learning games:
1. What will the gamers learn? Defining the learning objectives is always a good place to start, but some other questions might include: What are the specific subject-matter elements that gamers should know at the end of the experience? How might the potential audience respond to a learning game? Remember, this is a game. Don’t try to turn it into a course. Make sure the messages that are communicated through games are straightforward and appropriate for your audience.
2. What kind of a game play will we use? Understanding the types of game play that are available can help determine which works best to meet your learning objectives. Will it be, for example, a dexterity game, where being able to control online objects swiftly garners points? Or will it be a memory game, where being able to recall prior information helps win points? Will the game be a reality-based experience that depicts a real-life situation with characters that are maneuvered by the gamer to achieve high scores? Whatever the game genre used, it should offer the flexibility to emphasize the subject matter and engage the audience at appropriate cognitive or emotional levels.
3. Which game scenario will facilitate learning? Scenarios that are in sync with the current news and time will help create a favorable buzz about the game. The setting may include a fictitious learner engagement, a haunted castle, a carnival or a reflection on pop culture. Scenario choice should be closely aligned with audience demographics. The setting also should be intriguing. It has to capture and then hold the attention of the audience.
4. Will the game present an engaging storyline? Gamers will suspend their disbelief to accept the premise of any story, but won’t keep it suspended for too long if the story goes awry. Whether it’s rescuing a robot dog or finding a hidden gem, the steps to accomplish the goal and the conditions around those steps must be consistent with the game narrative. Too many bells and whistles with no justification as to why they appear will make the game feel like a movie with no plot.
5. Will the game concept be easy to promote? Can the game be explained in 30 seconds or less? If not, simplifying the concept might help. Will the game evoke an emotion (excitement, laughter, curiosity) when described? If not, a more powerful scenario or a stronger storyline may be needed. If someone were to try the game, would the learning value be self-evident in the first 60 seconds? If not, some folks will dismiss the activity as frivolous and wasteful.
6. Will the game be sticky enough to keep them playing? Your audience may be comprised of frequent gamers, casual gamers and non-gamers. The game should offer higher levels to allow them to play longer and stay engaged in learning. The most broadly appealing game, however, also invites the novice to its fold. With the use of tips and hints, game play can ensure that players achieve early success to fully engage the uninitiated. If adequate learning concepts are represented in the first few levels, even those who may not survive the game for too long will walk away having learned something.
By creating learning games to engage and attract learners, an organization can increase trials, improve completion rates and generate interest in any subject matter. With the blending of voice, video and data technologies, it was always going to be a matter of time before a blending of content such as education and entertainment followedï¿½and why not? People need to be awake and engaged to learn, and ï¿½funï¿½ is a great motivator for staying awake.
Tom Kelly and Nader Nanjiani are the co-authors of ï¿½A Business Case for E-Learningï¿½ from Cisco Press. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.