所以，第一步就是玩游戏，玩大量不同类型的游戏。如果你只玩一种类型的游戏（电子游戏、桌面游戏等），那么你应该拓宽眼界，探索不同类型的游戏和访问不同的游戏论坛。 在你玩不同类型的游戏时，你要思考是什么让这种游戏“有趣”，以及游戏的机制和元素如何让游戏变得“有趣”。（如果你觉得某游戏对你来说无趣，那么是什么让别人觉得有 趣？你不可能是所有你玩到的游戏的目标受众。）
为什么强调“乐趣”？因为游戏中的乐趣可以刺激学习——或者说就是学习。乐趣是成功的游戏的必要成分。Kevin Werback在他的关于“游戏化”的在线课程中，定义了8种类型 的游戏乐趣。这8种类型的乐趣都恰好与学习行为或人们必须学习的东西大有关系。
2、达到目标（人类是目标导向型动物。目标对于我们大部分来说都是强大的激励因素，达到目标能让我们产生满足感。与现实学习有关的游戏中的目标是非常强大和有效的。目标 在商业中无处不在：减少报废率、减少安全故事、增加多少的销售量、开发多少的客户……达到大部分目标都要求改变行为；往往要求学习以不同的方式做某事或做得比你现在能 达到的程度更好。）
6、收集——大量游戏都有收集系统，即以收集某物作为玩家的目标。扑克本质上也是一种收集游戏—-收集到最好的牌你就赢了。几年以前在玩家中非常流行收集《口袋妖怪》卡 片。桌面游戏《冒险》与包含收集玩法——通过策略开拓领土。如何开拓领土？收集玩法能吸引很多人，可以轻易地与学习游戏相结合。在商业中，在做出下一步决策前，我们通 常需要收集信息。
8、角色扮演或想象——许多游戏都允许玩家进行这两种活动中的一种或全部，而人们也喜欢做这些事。《第二人生》这款一度风靡的游戏通过允许人们创建代表自己的角色，来激 发人们角色扮演的渴望。GameOn网站上有两款学习游戏，让学习者一边想像自己处于不同的时空中，一边学习时间管理和协商技能。幻想让人们得以放心大胆、不惧失败地尝试新 活动和学习新技能。
这个文件夹里有传统游戏（如拼字游戏）、热门游戏（《Words with Friends》、《切绳子》）、益智游戏、冒险游戏、街机风格的游戏等。类型广泛。有些游戏我只玩了一次； 有些我玩了非常多次（即使我并没有很喜欢它们）。我仍然希望知道是什么让我不太喜欢的游戏流行起来，为什么有些人认为它们有趣，我可以借鉴其中的什么机制。
3、阅读规则不容易学会游戏——如果我们所谓的“容易”是指花5分钟的话。我认为这种复杂程度的规则不成问题，因为游戏的体验很丰富。我认为规则的复杂度通常与游戏体验 的丰富度相当。简短的游戏的规则也简单。而可能性和策略性强的游戏需要的规则和说明也更复杂。然而，我确实认为在有了一两次游戏经验后，我应该能够掌握基本的规则。如 果还是不行，那么我就会失去兴趣。
《Rise of the Blob》（Facebook、Android、iPad）：这是一款恐怖游戏。与《机械迷城》完全相反，游戏中有大量奖励和成就，因为它是靠IAP获得收益的。思考一下你对这么 多奖励和成就的看法，以及你对这款游戏的兴趣能维持多久。
《The Grading Game》：我喜欢这款游戏的设计，我认为非常巧妙。思考一下你对其美学、游戏目标、消极反馈的运用（在学习型游戏中一般不使用消极反馈）、以及以时间作为 严格的约束。消极方面，你认为把“教学”信息放进规则中如何？是否可以改进？如果可以，你会怎么改？
《Mystery Math Mansion》（iPad）：这款游戏针对的是学生。注意游戏的美学、奖励系统和选择数字还是符号的策略。也有必要注意一下，它们如何把游戏活动与成就等级相结 合。问你自己，游戏的目标（解放萤火虫）是不是符合目标受众的期待。你认为目标受众会重复玩这款游戏几次？
《Dragonbox》：这款可爱的小游戏是用来教五岁小孩子学习代数的。想一想：这款游戏应该当成纯粹的教学工具还是将其他形式的教导结合进来？游戏的美学是否具有广泛的吸引 力？你认为作为玩家完成和取得成就的奖励的三星系统如何？（如果你得到至少一颗星，那么你可以继续游戏；如果你拿到三颗星，那说明你找到了解决问题的最佳方案）。我的 观点？我自己也会使用三星系统；我喜欢这种系统，因为它一方面允许玩家进展，另一方面玩家能通过获得的星星数得知自己的表现如何。我认为游戏的美术设计很简单但很聪明 。只靠这款游戏，我是不可能学会代数的，但如果能加上一位好老师的正规解释，我认为会是一种很棒的学习方法。（顺便一提，我讨厌代数。这款游戏确实给力。）
1、获得所有“Topic Mastery”，成为“Knowledge Guru”。
1、竞速：在使用了这种动态的游戏中，玩家要互相竞争或对抗游戏系统，以争取最先完成任务、达到目的地或目标等。Milton Bradley的《Game of Life》就是一款竞速游戏。《 马里奥赛车》也是一款典型的竞速游戏。使用这种常见动态的游戏是非常容易设计的。
2、收集：当游戏具有收集动态时，游戏目标就是通过收集一种或几种东西。《Knowledge Guru》使用收集动态。玩家必须收集“Topic Mastery”徽章。一旦他们收集到所有徽章 ，就成为“Knowledge Guru”。《Trivial Pursuit》将收集与竞速相结合：首先你必须收集一系列色卡，然后成为第一个到达中心圆圈并正确回答最后问题的人。
2、有时候动态会与学习目标相同。思考一下你的项目是否存在这种情况，并把动态调整到合理。例如，我们做一款游戏，给玩家的挑战是，要求他在项目受时间、资金和管理机构 要求限制的情况下，始终按公司价值观办事（良好的沟通、职业道德、团队协作等）。在此我们使用了两个主要动态：竞速（玩家要在给定的时间内完成游戏）和构建/养成（玩家 必须建设一个符合特定要求的项目）。这些动态确实与他们的真实目标一致，都是在有限的时间下开发一件产品。
在每个月末，玩家需要滚动骰子去决定他们是否能够继续待在收容所里。如果他们获得的点数是1或6，他们便能够继续待在收容所里。否则他们便需要离开那里。（游戏邦注：这 是我们在桌面游戏《A Paycheck Away》中所创造的一个规则。）
一个只会在玩家完成之前关卡后才解锁的关卡。（《The Knowledge Guru》便是一个典型的例子。接下来两个机制也出现在这款游戏中。）
在销售游戏中，通过问消费者问题而赚取现金或失去现金都是直接与现实销售员的责任联系在一起，即现实中的销售员必须在问题出现时问消费者一些有意义的问题。比起那些不 知道如何提出一个有效问题的销售员，那些了解自己的产品且能够提出相关问题的销售员更能轻松地实现销售目标。这些支持并鼓励现实行为的游戏机制正是游戏公司想要看到的 。
在《The Knowledge Guru》中，机制会提供给那些错过问题的玩家即时反馈，让他们能够立即再次尝试。这样的游戏机制支持通过反复帮助玩家巩固记忆，通过反馈帮助玩家学习 的学习原则。即时反馈加上再次尝试的即时机会能够进一步巩固玩家的记忆，并在之后唤醒这些相关信息。
在《A Paycheck Away》中，我们想要模拟无家可归的现实经历——因为某些艰难的选择或不可预期的事件导致一个人背井离乡。我们的游戏机制主要便是反射这些现实的挑战。一 个有效的例子便是在每个月末掷骰子。这便等同于在现实世界中的一个问题，即是否允许一个人在30天过后仍住在收容所里。在现实世界中，收容所通常都遵循着一个规则，即要 求人们在30天后离开，但是如果没有其他等待名单的话，这些人便可以继续住下去。
同样地，在《A Paycheck Away》中，玩家还必须在每一轮中选择“工作卡片”和“机会卡片”。工作卡片代表现实中也存在的工作。如果多个玩家同时选择了一份工作，他们便需 要通过掷骰子去决定谁才能获得这份工作。（要求掷骰子的机制也等同于现实世界中的工作竞争。）
游戏机制既有可能推动游戏玩法变得更有趣，也可能降低这种乐趣。不要假设你在游戏设计一开始便能够定义机制，然后再也不碰触到它们。测试并完善游戏机制非常重要。你可 能会认为游戏机制非常棒，但是通过游戏测试却发现它隐藏了玩家对于游戏“乐趣元素”的认知，更糟糕的是，它还隐藏了学习体验。相反地，你可能会需要添加一些通过观看玩 家游戏才意识到的有趣机制。
例子：在《The Knowledge Guru》的早期创造中，游戏性只会出现在定时回合中。玩家每一回合将面对10个问题，并需要在2分钟时间里回答所有的这些问题。如果不能在规定时间 里答出所有问题，他们便会遭到处罚。那些乐于竞争（以及擅于快速阅读）的玩家便很喜欢这一机制。但是大多数玩家却不想看到这样的机制，因为这只会导致他们失去动力。他 们认为快速阅读能力只是做好一件任务的元素，但却不是游戏的学习点。所以我们便删掉了时间元素，并完善了学习体验，并且未减少游戏体验。当然了，我们也调整了其它机制 。即我们为此采取了各种变量，希望最终获得自己和玩家都会喜欢的机制。
对于学习类游戏，以合作为元素通常比纯竞争更好。与其他玩家的直接竞争可能导致玩家失去动力或产生消极反应。相反地，玩家合作克服游戏挑战往往能激励玩家和培养团队精 神。合作让玩家们共同努力，竞争让玩家们互相对抗。只有一个玩家或一支队伍获胜，意味着其他人都输了。玩家的关注焦点会因为你采用的元素或结合元素的方法而发生变化。 竞争也是可以使用的元素，但你必须考虑到它可能产生的结果。
例1：我们设计了一款辅导游戏。游戏中的跨国公司希望把产品开发和发行时间从10-12年减少到8-10年。他们认为辅导是减少这些时间的方法之一。但我们也知道，有时候超出人 的控制之外的因素会影响开发时间……所以我们把运气当作一种元素放进游戏中。当玩家登录面板的特定空间时，他们抽出一张“生命开始”卡片，这张卡片会积极或消极地影响 他们的时间表。策略不起作用。这些卡片模拟诸如经济衰退、公司雇用冻结、预算损失等现象。
Learning Game Design Series, Part 1: Play and Evaluate Games
by Sharon Bollergame
Last week’s post gave an overview of the entire process for getting started in learning game design or creating game-based learning. This post focuses on Step 1, which is to play and evaluate games. If you don’t like playing games, don’t try to design a game because you’re going to hate this step. Game design is a bit like writing a book; you’d never attempt to write a book if you first hadn’t spent time reading and evaluating several books. Those who would attempt to write a book without having ever read one probably wouldn’t create any great work of literature.
So step 1 is to play a lot of games—and play a lot of different types of games. If you focus on one particular genre (video games, board games, etc.), then you should expand your horizons and explore different genres and game forms. As you play all these different kinds of games, think about what makes them “fun” to play and how the game’s mechanics and elements make them fun. (If they aren’t fun for you, what makes them fun for others? You’re not the target audience for every game you play.)
Read on to discover three things:
Why FUN matters
How to evaluate games you play to learn more about game design and get ideas for designing your own games
Six games to play and evaluate to help you get startedWhy FUN matters
Why the focus on fun? Because the fun in a game helps learning happen—or IS the learning. Fun is not frivolous; it’s integral to a successful game. Kevin Werback, in his Coursera MOOC on gamification, identifies eight types of fun in games. These eight types of fun all happen to integrate nicely with learning, or are things people need to learn to do.
Winning (You think this doesn’t link to the workplace? We all like to achieve a win state – over a challenge, over a competitor, over ourselves – beating a previous personal best, for example.)
Achieving goals (Humans are goal-driven creatures. Goals are highly motivating to most of us and achieving them is very satisfying. Goals in games that link to the real-life learning we want a target group to do can be powerful and effective. Goals are everywhere in business: reducing percentage of scrap, reducing number of safety incidents, increasing sales by X, adding X customers. There’s behavior change required to achieve most goals; that frequently
requires learning how to do something differently or better than you currently do it.)
Triumphing – this can be triumphing over a competitor, or the game itself, or over individual challenges within the game. Many of us enjoy feeling victorious, particularly if we gained victory by mastering a difficult problem or challenge. We have feelings of triumph in the workplace as well: vanquishing a difficult project, prevailing against difficult business odds or challenges, etc.
Collaborating – a highly valuable business skill, this is a fun element of many games, too. People get social and emotional satisfaction out of collaborating with others. Often people enjoy collaboration much more than they enjoy competing. And organizations WANT people to collaborate in the workplace to achieve business results.Exploring and building – Games like Sims, Minecraft, and Civilization are about doing these things – and many people find exploration and building powerfully motivating and “fun” to do – so fun, in fact, that they can spend literally hours of time doing these things within a game. These are key skills inside the workplace. Exploration is an under-rated business skill that closely links to something more people understand within business: research.
Collecting – lots of games feature a collection “dynamic” where players’ goal is to collect certain things. Poker is essentially a collection game – collect the best cards and you win. The Pokemon card craze of a few years ago is about collection. The board game Risk combines collection – acquiring territories – with strategizing. HOW will you gain those territories? Collection appeals to many people’s sense of fun and can be incorporated easily into learning games. In the business world, we often have to collect information before we can move forward with decisions.
Problem-solving or strategizing – these are higher-order thinking skills that lots of people enjoy doing. Consequently games that feature these elements have lots of fans. Chess is a classic example of a strategy game. World of Warcraft is a modern-day example. Games in the adventure genre are all about problem-solving – figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B. Problem-solving and strategizing are part of growing and managing any business – and most jobs within a business.
Role playing or imagining – many games allow us to do one or both of these things and people love doing them. Second Life, a once-popular virtual environment, leveraged people’s desire to role play by allowing people to create avatars to represent themselves. GameOn Learning has two learning games that both have the learner imagine themselves in a different place and time – while learning time management and negotiation skills. Fantasy can provide a powerful means of letting people feel free to try new behaviors and acquire new skills while feeling safe and minimizing fear of failure.
Okay, so you have a list of fun. Now, how many games should you play to help build your skill set? My answer? A lot—and never stop playing new ones! I have three folders on my iPad labeled Games, Games 1, Games 2. Here’s a view of one of these folders:
This folder contains a mixture of traditional games (Scrabble), popular games (Words with Friends, Cut the Rope), puzzle-type games, adventure games, arcade style games, etc. It’s highly eclectic. Some of these games I may only play once; others I will play multiple times (even if I don’t like them very much). I still want to understand what makes them popular, why some people thing they are fun, and what mechanics within them might trigger an idea I could use in a game I create.
Evaluating what you play
Playing games for enjoyment is different than playing games to evaluate the quality and efficacy of the game design. Here’s a laundry list of questions that go through my mind as I play games with evaluation of them on my mind:
What’s the game goal? Is it clear? Is it compelling to me? Why or why not?
What’s the game’s core dynamic? Is it exploration, collection, “race to the finish,” solve—or a blend of two different dynamics such as collection AND race to the finish?
Are the rules clear? How do I learn them?
What game mechanics (aka rules) make the game most fun? Which one(s) would I change? What would happen if I did? (Suggestion: Try changing one of the mechanics and re-playing the game to see how it alters the play experience and the sense of “fun.”)
Do the aesthetics of the game draw me in? What emotional reaction do the aesthetics elicit in me?Is the game “balanced” in the sense that it accommodates different player levels? How?
Do I feel like the game is a good match for its target audience? (We play games intended for school-aged kids at times. I have to evaluate the game’s play in the context of who it is intended for, which isn’t me.)
Is there a story associated with this game? How does it enhance the game play experience? How did the designers weave the story throughout the game? If they didn’t, why not? Would it add/detract from the game if they did?
What’s the balance between strategy and chance? Do I feel like I have control over the outcome by the choices I make in the game or do I feel the outcome is almost all chance? (e.g. the card game War is all chance. Chess is strategy.) How does the “chance” factor affect how I feel about the game?
Is the game cooperative, competitive, or a blend of both? How does this make me feel as I play the game? Does it increase or decrease my motivation to play?
If the game is competitive and I lose, how does this make me feel? Does it motivate me to play again or do I want to avoid playing again so I can avoid losing?
If it’s a digital game, how easy is it to navigate? How clear is the navigation? Can I quickly learn by exploring?
Finally, as a learning game designer, what elements from this game could I use in a game I design?
Here’s a starter list of 6 games to play and evaluate. One of them is a board game, the other five are digital games. In my suggestions I’ve included some notes of my evaluation of the game design and game play to show you how I do it. (I’m not saying this is the only right way – just my way). Keep in mind I am including games in this list that I do NOT consider to be fun. You have to play some bad with the good. It helps you contrast and compare.
Settlers of Catan board game. This is one of the best games I’ve played and I admit to loving it. Here’s some of my notes and evaluative comments:
This game leverages both cooperation and competition. I like that. My motivation to cooperate depends on how well I’m doing and how well others in the game are doing. I notice that if four people are playing, two people may cooperate to hinder a third player. I also notice that it is pretty difficult to win this game without cooperating with others. The strategy is figuring out when to cooperate and when to refuse to cooperate.
This game offers a lot of possible ways to win/strategies to employ. I consider this to be a plus. I can leverage ports. I can focus on acquiring Development Cards instead of building a visible empire in the form of cities and settlements. I can focus on earning achievements that can help me toward victory (longest road or largest army). Or if I want, I can blend a variety of these strategies.
The game isn’t easy to learn from reading the rules—if we translate “easy” as taking 5 minutes to learn (aka Apples to Apples). I don’t take this as a negative because the game offers a rich playing experience. I think the complexity of the rules often equates to the richness of the game play. Simple, short games should have simple rules. Games that offer more possibilities and strategies may require more complex rules and explanations of game play. However, I
do think I should be able to master the basics with one or two game play experiences. If I need more than that, I’m going to lose interest.
I like the way the game accommodates different skill levels. You can adjust the board’s layout to make it easier or harder to play.
The game incorporates chances to even out the odds and allows players to trip each other up. It does so via a nonplaying character – the Robber – who can mitigate the power of any one player or to help a player who is losing shift his/her fortunes.
The Robber works best when there’s four or more players. It doesn’t work as well with only two players. Many players have figured out how to adjust the rules for the Robber to offset this, which is interesting to me.
The game communicates the odds of any dice role as part of the playing board, which is interesting. I can factor those odds into my decisions on where to place my settlements and cities. This gives an element of strategy to something typically thought of as only chance. Again, a very interesting and useful game design technique that I might want to use myself.
If I needed to create a learning game where chance and strategy combine to produce a result, what ideas could I glean from Settlers? There are a lot of work situations where chance and strategy combine. Any product launch has elements of chance as well as strategy. There are a lot of things we don’t get to control as we design, develop, and launch a product. How could I make sure the game is MOSTLY strategy but includes the chance elements that reflect reality?
Now, here’s five other games for you to play and evaluate. I’ve given you one or two things I’ve noted, but you can come up with plenty more on your own.
Machinarium (iPad and desktop). This is an old-style adventure game. Pay attention to the complete lack of rewards and achievements in this game. Why aren’t there any? Does it need them? (No, the task is the reward. It’s interesting to solve the challenges. The reward is the satisfaction from solving the challenges.) Other things to evaluate:
The contrast between game play on the desktop and the iPad.
Rise of the Blob (Facebook, Android, iPad). This is a horrible game that is the complete opposite of Machinarium. It’s FULL of rewards and achievements because it makes money from in-app purchases. See what you think about the sheer volume of the awards and achievements and how long the game holds your interest.
The Grading Game. I loved this game design. I thought it was very clever. See what you think about the aesthetics, the game goal, the use of negative, almost mean, feedback (traditionally a no-no in learning games), and the very punitive use of time as a constraint. On the negative side, what do you think of the placement of the “teach” info on grammar rules? Could that be improved? If so, how would you do it?
Mystery Math Mansion (available for iPad). This game is targeted toward grade schoolers. Pay attention to the aesthetics, the reward system, and the strategy choice of selecting numbers versus symbols. It’s also useful to notice how they incorporate levels of play and achievements. Ask yourself whether you think the game goal (releasing fire flies) is appropriate for the game’s target audience. How much repeat play do you think the target audience would do?
Dragonbox. This nifty little game is supposed to teach algebra—even to five-year olds. See what you think. Does it stand alone as a teaching tool or should it be combined with some other form of instruction? Do the aesthetics have broad appeal? How do you feel about the 3-star system for letting users track both completion and achievement? (You can progress if you get at least a single star but 3 stars indicate you’ve solved the problem in as few moves as possible)
My opinions? I would use the 3-star system myself; I liked that it allowed for players to progress while also giving evaluative info about how well they performed. I thought the aesthetics were simple but clever. I would NOT have learned algebra with this app alone but it would have been great combined with formal explanations offered by a competent teacher. (I hated algebra, by the way. This game would have really helped.)
Last week I talked about Step 1 – Play Games. This week I move on to Part 2 of my multi-part series titled “Getting Started in Learning Game Design.” Here ’s a quick review of the 5-step process.
This post (along with the next few) will focus on Step 2: Get Familiar with Game Terminology and Elements and How to Use Them. Before you can design a good game you need to be able to craft game goals, select game dynamics, create strong game mechanics, and choose appropriate game elements. Today, I’ll focus on two things: game goals and game dynamics—and how they link together.
The game goal is a description of the object of the game. Or rather, what you need to do to win the game. These are all game goals associated with learning games we’ve created:
Earn topic mastery across all topics and become a Knowledge Guru.
Achieve territory sales of $700K and maximize customer satisfaction.
Build and test a bridge that meets all stated specifications within 45 minutes.
Get all players out of homelessness within 3 months’ time.
Get everyone off of the elevator in as few moves as possible. (This is a brand new one for a game we have under development now.)
What to think about when creating a learning game:
The game goal isn’t the same as a learning goal or a learning objective. For instance, in the elevator game (Goal 5 above), the learning goal is to be able to identify the tasks associated with the 5 steps of incident investigation. We’re using a game in which you have to get everyone off the elevator to help people learn tasks and steps.
If your game isn’t fun, take a look at the game goal. Is it really a game goal or just a description for how to complete a learning activity? (Match tasks and steps is an example of a learning activity.)
You need to be able to recognize and select from different game dynamics. The game dynamic can actually BE the game goal, or the means by which players achieve the goal. A game can focus on a single dynamic or combine a couple of different ones. Common game dynamics include:
Race to the finish: If you use this game dynamic in your game, then you have players competing against each other or against the game system to be the first one to finish a task, reach a destination, hit a specific target, etc. Milton Bradley’s Game of Life is a race to the finish game. MarioKart is a very literal example of a race to the finish game. It’s a common dynamic and it’s pretty easy to design games that use it.
Collection: In collection is the dynamic, then the game goal is achieved by collecting one or multiple things. Knowledge Guru uses a collection dynamic. Players have to collect Topic Mastery badges. Once they get all of them, they become Knowledge Gurus. Trivial Pursuit is a combination of Collection and Race to the Finish: first you have to collect a set of colored chips and then you have to be the first player to make it to the center circle and correctly answer a final question.
Territory Acquisition: In this dynamic you are trying to acquire territory, land, or real estate. Risk is a classic example of this type of game. Monopology is a game that combines Territory Acquisition and Collection dynamics together.
Solve: Games that use this dynamic require players to solve puzzles or problems. Players are trying to figure something out. The board game Clue uses the Solve dynamic. Adventure-style games (such as Machinarium) use this dynamic as well.
Rescue or escape: This dynamic is used a lot in adventure games where you have to get to a treasure and then get out of a castle, off an island, etc.
Forbidden Island combines collection (getting four treasures) with escape—get off the island before it sinks.
Alignment: In this dynamic, you have to get things in order. Many puzzle games use this dynamic by having you get all colors or shapes in a certain order to win the game (think Bejeweled).
Construct/Build: the game of Sims uses this dynamic. Your goal is to build things. Minecraft also uses this dynamic.
Capture: your goal in Capture games is to capture something that belongs to your opponent. Checkers is about capturing your opponent’s checkers. Capture the Flag is literally about capturing the opposing team’s flag.
What to think about when creating a learning game:
The game’s “fun” is partly dictated by how engaging the players find the dynamic you’ve selected. When you are creating initial prototypes ask yourself, “How would the game change if I changed the dynamic from X to Y?” (e.g. from Race to the Finish to Capture)? Then try it and see what happens.
Sometimes a dynamic will logically align with a learning goal. Think about whether this may be true for your project and leverage dynamics that make sense.
Example: we did a game designed to focus learners on the challenges of applying company values (excellent communication, ethics, teamwork, etc) within the constraints of a project where time, money, and regulatory requirements had to be managed. We used two major dynamics in this game: Race to the Finish (People had a specific amount of time in which to complete the game) and Construct/Build (They had to build an object that conformed to specified requirements). These dynamics definitely aligned with their real world environment where they worked under time constraints and they were developing a product.
Make sure you distinguish between game goals and learning goals. Get familiar with plenty of different game dynamics, and think about how you can incorporate different dynamics into your learning games. Experiment with blending a couple of dynamics together. Find out what happens if you change a dynamic entirely.
Welcome to Part 3 of my multi-part Learning Game Design series. In my last post, I talked about Step 2 in my 5-step process for getting started in game design: getting familiar with game elements. Specifically, I focused on game goals and game dynamics. This post will stay on Step 2, but now we’ll be focusing instead on game mechanics.
A game’s mechanics are the rules and procedures that guide the player and the game response to the player’s moves or actions. Through the mechanics you create, you define how the game is going to work for the people who play it. So just to be clear, the mechanics describe rules the player follows and the rules the game itself follows.
Examples of explicit rules or mechanics that PLAYERS follow
These kinds of rules are examples of what you might find in a written set of rules the players read before playing a game:
At the end of each month, players have to roll a die to see if they can stay in the homeless shelter. If they get a 1 or a 6, they stay. Otherwise, they have to leave. (This rule is one we created as part of A Paycheck Away tabletop game.)
When players pass Go, they collect $200. (Most of you will recognize this as a rule in Monopoly.)
If you are the Pilot, you can fly to any location on the island. (This rule is from the game, Forbidden Island. It’s available in the App Store as a digital game for the iPad or as a tabletop game.)
Examples of mechanics or rules that GAMES follow
The mechanics listed below are all from digital games I’ve helped develop—they are coded into the game. None of these mechanics are explicitly stated for the player, though players can often figure out what the mechanic is as they play the game.
A level remains locked until a player successfully completes the previous level. (A publicly available sample would be The Knowledge Guru game. The next two mechanics also apply to this game.)
When players respond incorrectly to a question they get immediate feedback on what a correct response should be, followed by an opportunity to re-try answering the question.
Correct responses to Path A questions earn players 50 points, correct responses to Path B questions earn players 250 points, correct responses to Path C questions earn players 1000 points. The scoring algorithm is a great example of game mechanics that the game itself follows.
Once the first level is completed, all subsequent levels are unlocked and available for completion in any order the player chooses. (We applied this rule, and the one below, to a sales game we created—a description of the game is available here.)
A player earns sales dollars for each appropriate, relevant question they ask the customer. A player loses sales dollars if he chooses an irrelevant question to ask. If a player chooses to ask a “neutral” question, he doesn’t gain or lose any dollars.
The link between game mechanics and the learning experience
Game mechanics contribute to the fun of the game, but they also are a significant part of the learning experience. Here’s some examples of how game mechanics I’ve described link to the learning experience:
In the sales game, the dollars earned or lost by asking the customer questions directly links to the real-world responsibility of sales reps to ask meaningful questions of their customers when issues arise. Sales reps who know their stuff and can ask relevant questions are going to find it easier to meet sales goals than will reps who do not know how to ask good questions. This game mechanic supported and encouraged the real-world behavior the company wanted
In the Knowledge Guru game, the mechanic is to provide immediate feedback to players who miss a question and then let them immediately try again. This game mechanic supports the learning principles that repetition helps cement memory and that feedback helps people learn. Immediate feedback, coupled with an immediate opportunity to re-try, further cements memory and the ability to recall the information later.
In the game A Paycheck Away, we wanted to simulate the real-world experience of being homeless—the difficult choices, the unexpected events that throw a person off course, the challenges of securing housing. Our game mechanics were critical to mirroring these real-world challenges. One example is the roll of the die at the end of each month. This equated to the real-world question of whether someone would be allowed to remain inside a homeless shelter once 30
days elapsed. In the real-world, shelters often have a rule that requires people to leave after 30 days, but they will make exceptions if the shelter doesn’ t have a waiting list.
Also in the game A Paycheck Away, players have to select a “jobs card” and a “chance card” on each turn. The jobs card represents a job that might realistically be available in the real-world. If multiple players want the job, they each have to roll a die to see who actually gets the job. (The mechanic of requiring the die roll equates to the competition for jobs in the real world.)
Game mechanics can also make gameplay more, or less, fun. Don’t assume you can define the mechanics at the start of your game design journey and then never touch them again. It’s critical to test and tweak game mechanics. You may think a game mechanic will be great, only to find out via play-testing that it is hindering the players’ perception of your game’s “fun factor” or, worse, actually hindering the learning experience. Conversely, you may discover you
need to add a game mechanic that you hadn’t considered until you watched people play your game.
Example: In early renditions of The Knowledge Guru, game play occurred in timed rounds. Players got a round of 10 questions with two minutes to answer all 10 questions. They were penalized for failing to answer questions in the two-minute time period. Those who were wildly competitive (and fast readers) liked this mechanic. However, the majority of players did not like this mechanic, and it actually demotivated them. They felt their ability to read fast was a factor in
doing well—and fast reading wasn’t the learning point of the game. We eliminated the time element, which then improved the learning experience and didn’t detract from the play experience as we feared it might. Of course, we also tweaked other mechanics in the process. It took us numerous variations on scoring to get it to a place we, and the players, were happy with it.
You want your game mechanics to be clear, enhance the game play experience, support your game goal, and contribute to the learning experience. They are not an afterthought. They are a critical component of a good game design. You will not get them perfect on your first design attempt—you’ll want to test and tweak—but this is all part of the game design process.
Welcome to Part 4 of my multi-part Learning Game Design series. In my last post, I talked about game mechanics. These are are the rules and procedures that guide the player and the game response to the player’s moves or actions. Now we’ll move on to game elements.
Every game has “elements” or features that keep people engaged. Some games have a lot; others have very few. The choice of what to include should be deliberate. With learning games, you should consider how each element supports the learning process. There are many game elements you can include; this graphic shows 12 common ones:
Note: Because there are so many, this post focuses only on the first five. I’ll be covering the others in my next posts.
For a game to be interesting, there needs to be some sort of conflict. Conflict comes in many forms, but it always represents a challenge for the player to overcome. The challenge could be physical obstacles, it could be combat with another player, or it could be a puzzle that has to be solved.
Things to ask yourself about incorporating conflict as an element in your learning game design:
Given what I want people to learn, what conflict is most appropriate? Should I incorporate a conflict that arises with other players or should I incorporate challenges that all players work together to overcome? Or should I include some sort of challenge against the game itself? Example: puzzle-style games are really a challenge that pits you against the puzzle.
How can I best represent the real-world conflicts I want people to deal with? Example: conflict between quality and time constraints or quality and budget.
What game mechanics can I create to simulate the real-world conflicts/challenges players encounter?
Cooperation and/or competitionWith learning games, cooperation is often a better element to use than competition alone. Direct competition with other players can demotivate learners or set up a negative dynamic. In contrast, cooperation between players to overcome a game challenge can often motivate players and foster teamwork. Cooperation
gets people working together; competition pits people against one another. Only one person or team wins—while everyone else loses. The players’ focus is very different depending on which element you employ or how you combine the two elements together. Competition can be appropriate, but you need to consider the outcomes it can produce.
Questions to ask yourself when designing a learning game:
Do my players need to compete in the real-world or is competition not a factor in using the skill or knowledge I want people to learn?
If competition is part of the real-world context, do I incorporate it into the game as players working together to beat the game or as players competing against each other within the game?
Will competition motivate or demotivate the target group I’m designing the game for? What negative consequences might occur if only one person wins and everyone else loses, and how do I manage those emotions?
Strategy and chance
Strategy puts control into the players’ realm in the form of decisions they can make that affect gameplay or their odds of achieving the goal. On the other hand, games that are heavily based on chance put the player in a highly reactive mode, one where they have little control over the outcome.
A game can have neither strategy or chance, it can combine both, or it can only focus on one. Gambling games are largely games of chance. Games with little or no strategy or chance built in can be less interesting to play than those that use these elements.
Questions to ask yourself when designing a learning game:
Is my game unintentionally creating win states that are largely achieved by chance or a specific sequence of events? (This can happen more easily than you think. We recently played a board game where it became clear over several game plays that the person who got to go first—which was determined by age—had a much greater chance of winning than the person who went last.)
Do I blend strategy and chance in a way that mirrors the skill I want my player to learn, or the context in which they will have to apply the skill?
What control do players have in the real-world over decisions? How do I design that into the game?Case in Point
Example: We devised a coaching game for a global company that wanted to reduce its product development and launch timeframe from 10-12 years to 8 to 10 years. They felt coaching was one means of reducing this timeline. We also knew, though, that sometimes factors outside someone’s control would affect the development timeline… so we included chance as an element. When players landed on specific spaces on the board, they drew a “Life Happens” type of card
that either positively or negatively influenced their timeline. Strategy played no part in the effect. These cards simulated things such as an economic downturn, a hiring freeze within the company, a loss of budget dollars, etc.
Example: I designed a game to simulate the pressures of maintaining the company value of ethics and honesty while dealing with last-minute requirement changes from a federal agency. In essence, if players hadn’t planned well, they ended up not having enough time to test their products before the regulatory agency arrived to inspect things. Many players signed forms in the game indicating that tests had been performed. The game mimicked a real-world issue, and
my strategy elements were designed to support this.
Example: The cards below are from A Paycheck Away. They are chance cards that players have to draw on each turn. These simulate real-world things—good and bad—that can happen but which the player has no real control over.