April 9-12, 2008
Montréal, Québec, Canada

Workshops: Description

Game-Based Learning: Design Principles in Practice

Steven Allison-Bunnell, eduweb, USA
David Schaller, eduweb, USA

The past few years have seen a surge of interest in digital learning games, inspired by a broad array of research emphasizing the effectiveness of problem-based, anchored instruction. These, in turn, are based on the insight that all learning is situated in direct experience and concrete contexts. Games are by definition experiential and employ rich contexts for the player to explore. Current software packages ranging from Flash to Unity now offer museums the tools to design games that recreate the rules of nature and society in a rich, contextualized world for players to explore.

How can museum staff create games that offer such rich opportunities for learning about their collections and content? This workshop will explore several core design principles of learning game design, giving participants an opportunity to brainstorm and craft concepts for several learning games. These principles include:

Challenge – Players tackle a clear, fixed challenge that is relevant to them. Frequent feedback guides them towards success, clarifying both successes and failures, and promoting feelings of competence.

Curiosity – Cognitive curiosity is triggered by discrepant events and other paradoxes arising from the game play. Sensory curiosity is triggered by multimedia elements.

Control – Players have meaningful control over their actions in the game, causing clear and powerful effects in the game universe. Contingency, choice and power are key elements of control.

Fantasy – The context of the game includes some degree of fantasy, which engages the emotional needs of learners while providing relevant metaphors or analogies.

In order for the two small groups to effectively work together and to be properly facilitated, we would prefer to final enrollment in the workshop to a maximum of 16.

This is an all-day workshop.

Workshop segments:

1. Large group

Introduction to learning games. Discuss the cognitive theory behind learning games. Present examples of games with extrinsic and intrinsic content and and discuss their advantages and disadvantages for museum learning games.

2. Small group

Brainstorm several simple games with extrinsic content (e.g. a casual game).

3. Large group

Present small group concepts for casual games.

Review popular extrinsic-content game genres (role-play, simulation, puzzle, alternate reality, etc.). Discuss content-driven gameplay: how to design meaningful in-game challenges and feedback schemes for sustained engagement.

4. Small group

Brainstorm a game with intrinsic content. Select a genre, sketch out in-game challenges and feedback schemes.

5. Large group

Discuss options for the game’s visual styles: abstract and realistic, 2D and 3D.

6. Small group

Brainstorm the visual style of the group’s game.

7. Large group

Design charrette: share and discuss small group game concepts

Discuss ways to leverage game-play experience to consolidate learning beyond the game (online forums, on-site connections, etc.)

Open forum for additional questions and discussion.

This workshop is now full.

Workshop: Designing Educational Games [Full Day]

Keywords: game-based learning, game design, learning games, casual games, role-play, simulation, puzzle