Soon I will be presenting at the ASTD International Conference in Washington, DC. My title for the presentation is Three Mysterious Keys to Interactive Learning: Game-Thinking, Game-Elements, and Gamification. I am presenting Wednesday morning so, if you can make it—it would be great to have you in the session.
As part of that presentation, I will be defining the term “Game Thinking” from the perspective of an instructional designer. I’ve done some research but there is not a lot out there concerning game-thinking as an instructional designer. I did find one source I found interesting, check out the Gamasutra article by Andrzej Marczewski which provides his take on game thinking. And check out his blog, he has some good ideas about games and gamification.
Here are some thoughts I’ve had about the definition this morning.
Game thinking, from an instructional game designer’s perspective, is approaching the design of a learning event from the perspective of learner actions and activities that lead to a meaningful outcome while navigating some sort of risk. Meaningful outcomes involve overcoming challenges and solving problems through thoughtful decision making by the learner. It also involves risk; games include the risk of giving up territory, of having to start over , or of not successfully completing the endeavor. With nothing at risk, there is little to gain.
When employing game thinking, the focus on actions and activities takes precedence over the parsing and delivery of content as is taught in traditional instructional design. The emphasis is on activity, not on content—Outcomes, not objectives.
Bloom’s taxonomy (used by instructional designers) speaks to actions such as remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating but a game designer thinks about running, dodging, filing, marching, sorting, problem-solving, manipulating, searching, and even sneaking around.
To paraphrase Jess Schell, the instructional game designer is creating a tool (the game) to provide the learner with the experience of learning a new concept, idea or gaining knowledge. The instructional game designer can’t create the experience, only the tool that enables the experience. The thought process of how to create the tool to ultimately produce the experience is game thinking.
An instructional game designer thinks “What experience do I want the learner to have?” What the instructional game designer must do is to figure out the critical elements to include within the game to produce the desired learner experience and outcomes. Another way to think about it is to consider “What problems does my game ask the learner to solve?” or “Can the learner generalize from this experience to other, similar experiences?”
So we can sum game thinking by saying Action/Risk/Experience/Outcome (4 clues to game thinking).
Any comments, what do you think about the definition, on point or off?
PS. Notice how this ties in nicely with the Serious eLearning Manifesto