Top 10 +1 Instructional Game Design Best Practices

Here are the top ten best practices for instructional game design. (Plus a bonus)

  • Practice #1 – Design the learning game to meet specific instructional objectives. (Seems obvious but it gets overlooked more times than one would think.)
  • Practice #2 – Embed the learning game into a curriculum using the following structure: Set up the game and tell the learners what they will learn, then allow them to experience the game and when the game is over, debrief the learners to highlighting the learning aspects of the game.
  • Practice #3 – Keep rules, scoring and leveling simple. Complicated games confuse and frustrate learners.
  • Practice #4 – Get learners comfortable with the rules and game play before they start. If the game does seem complicated or is tough to get started, provide a tutorial round or a practice round that does not count for scoring, leveling or winning. And/or create a short video explaining how to play the game.
  • Practice #5 – Do not focus the game on “winning” only. Games are emotional and people do not like to lose. A disappointing or frustrating experience can occur if a learner loses early. He or she may then check out of the experience. Focus on learning outcomes.
  • Practice #6 – If possible, create the game so learners must work in groups. Groups facilitate learning better than individual game play (according to several research studies).
  • Practice #7 – As much as possible, the cognitive activities in the game should match the cognitive activities on-the-job. The closer the two match, the better the learning transfer.
  • Practice #8 – Plan for replayability. Games for learning are most effective when multiple sessions are involved. This means the ability to play again with another strategy or another approach, not just doing the same thing over and over again.
  • Practice #9 –Make the game interactive, focus on player activities. Passive game play is no better instructionally than a lecture.
  • Practice #10 – Determine metrics a head of time. Decide how you are going to measure the effectiveness of the game before you design the game.
  • Practice #11 – Winning should be primarily a result of knowledge acquisition or creation. While good games need chance and random events, the winning-state should be the result of learning.

What are your best practices? What am I missing?

Posted in: Games

Leave a Comment (2) ↓


  1. KarlKapp September 6, 2013

    True, if geeks are involved, the more complicated the better. LOL

  2. HiSocial September 5, 2013

    Hi Karl,

    Let me change this one” Keep rules, scoring and leveling simple”…unless your learners are geeks

Karl Kapp
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