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Monday, October 6, 2014

Get your Gaming On

Have you ever sat on your couch just trying to beat that one last level..... All you need to do is this one last thing and something keeps you from putting down your phone/tablet/computer/controller. The next thing you know it's late at night and the "congratulations" music sounds. A huge wave of accomplishment washes over your body and you can finally continue on with your day or go to sleep!

A properly built game is addicting.  It has intrigue, interest, mystery or relate-able characters that wants us to keep coming back or download the next edition.  Trust me I can relate. I love my Xbox and can easily get sucked into playing video games way later than I anticipated. So naturally a recent trend in the eLearning community grabbed my attention; Gamification, the practice of using game elements and processes to enhance a learning experience with high levels of engagement.

I recently sat down with my old trusty PowerPoint slides and a piece of paper to finally get an idea for a game out of my head. My currently employer is a health software company and our primary focus is on product training. I had these ideas of grandeur for creating a game that would provide entertainment all while reviewing the product. A super hero comes swishing on the screen asking for you to help save people across the U.S. All you have to do is accurately complete a simulation of the software. It combined a lot of things I like to do (games, super hero's, graphic design) with something I deal with daily (my job lol).

 Let me tell you! There is some serious analysis and development (both graphically and software wise) that goes into a game.

So, to make it easier on everyone else I complied a list of things you need to know and understand before you get started and during the development phases. Since this topic is extraneous and I could go into a whole bunch of different tangents (neuroscience, engagement training, etc) I'm going to focus on the elements that you need to get started.

1. Identify a Goal

This goal will help drive you learner and should be the main focus of your training.  Like a course this could include elements of a learner objective but will definitely need to be more robust in order to account for the different angels a game can take.

2. Develop a Situation/Story

Now that a goal has been established you can either tie the situation in with the game (HR policy game with bad employee) or create a situation completely separate to create the illusion of fantasy. The situation should be created like a simulation that asks the who, what, when, where and why. Your situation/story should have a beginning, middle and end as well as a climax to help drive the learner. Conflicts really help to pull in the learner and establish a driving goal to complete the task.

3a. Develop a Character

Your character should have characteristics, thoughts, feelings and certain attributes.  How will they handle defeating the bad guy? Do they speak in a certain way? Does it matter if it's male or female? What does the character look like?  Why does he/she dress that way? Adding all these elements creates a multidimensional character that is both realistic and relate able. Certain character choices can also help carry themes through a person with ratty clothes and dirty skin to show poverty. You should always have at least one character in a game but can include as many as you feel fit into the goal you've established.  Creating a villain offers the opportunity to put good against evil and create opportunities of struggle and triumphs.

3b. Develop the World

Similar to the character a world should take into account the specific characteristics, thoughts, feelings and certain attributes you wish to convey. Where is this world? What is it's history? Where are we going? Why do people act a certain way?

3c. Develop the Interface

This is where I have been struggling lately. A beautifully designed interface means different things to different people so establishing the specifics can be a bit tricky.  I've been researching this topic and honestly can't find a common ground.  Sure some have timers while others have progress bars.  You might have your characters collecting coins or lives.The only solid advice I was able to take away from my fact finding mission is to take into consideration the story, goal and final output.  If you have any comments or article suggestions please feel free to post them below or tweet me @jvalley0714.

4. Establish rules

Rules help to establish a certain level of understanding while playing the game.  Showing how and why you'll recieve points, lose a life or advance to the next level. You rules should help drive the goal, simulation and character while working in your particular world and interface.

Do you like playing games?  What system or game? Do have a great example of eLearning game? Share below or tweet me @jvalley0714 :)

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