I’ve already spoken my thoughts about a couple chapters of this book in a previous blog post, but as of last week I have finished the rest of the book. This has probably been my favorite pedagogy and gaming book so far: it’s well-written, a quick read, and the author clearly knows their stuff about both teaching and gaming. Even though it’s 6 years old now, I would say teachers interested in incorporating games into their lessons would get a lot of value from reading this.
On to what I’ve pulled from the rest of the book:
Part I: Theory
There are several different lists related to learning, the most useful of which is Prensky’s 5 levels of learning from games (which actually can function more as an assistant for game design, i.e. figuring out what each of these IS in your game).
- How to do something, i.e interaction with the system (for my first game: point-and-click)
- What to do in the game, i.e. game progression/goals
- Why you do things in the game i.e. long-term affects
- Context and value systems in the game
- The ability to make decisions based on the value system in the game
The other lists were related to game pedagogy in areas other than literature, as much (especially early) gaming pedagogy is centered around primary and secondary education for teaching math and sciences.
Part II: Practice
This section was fantastic – it inspired a lot of design spreadsheets on my part. It has a lot of fantastic advice for the early stages:
When you begin to think about games for learning, start with the learning objectives you want the students to achieve during the session [in my case, individual game], which can then form part of a design specification for the game you want to use.
Then, think about the types of activity that you would normally undertake with students in order to meet those outcomes. How might these activities be [effectively] embedded into a game?
And for overall lesson incorporation: A game is part of the overall learning package. If the game itself cannot fully meet all learning objectives, there can be additional outside activities surrounding the game. While I am not doing a lesson plan, we have talked about how information (esp. cultural) reinforcement could happen through this method – having quizzes or exercises that relate to the information learned from playing a game.
They also had a list of things to include for Effective Game design for Learning:
- Support active learning: encourage exploration, problem-solving + inquiry
- Environment should engender engagement [immersion]: explicit + achievable goals, high level of interactivity, large world, multiple pathways to success
This point, I’m going to argue about a little. Not that these are bad things for an immersive game, but there are many types of games out there, and one game doesn’t need ALL of these to be immersive. A huge world, multiple endings, or even high interactivity can help, but there is a huge amount of wonderful little games that don’t have those things that are completely immersive. I’m gonna throw interactive fiction as a genre out there. While there are IF games that have big worlds and high interactivity (however one quantifies that), many have limited options and a small environment that are just amazing. The goals aren’t always clear either, and a game that encourages exploration might actually benefit from not having a clear goal with an explicitly defined path from the beginning. The player’s ability to completely ignore the main questline in Skyrim, for example, is what makes the exploring aspect of it so fun. Games with a sense of urgency to their goals and quests hinder the player’s comfort in exploration. That is not to say that having a clear goal means having a sense of urgency, but that is a pretty common theme.
- The game world should be appropriate for the learning context: ie fits with the curriculum or assessment , personally relevant to students (motivation)
- The game should provide ongoing support: initial ease into gradual difficulty
Whether a game is useful or appropriate will depend also on the type of students and their backgrounds, experiences, and preferences. I’ve talked a little bit about this before, but I run into the extra challenge of having an audience that I know nothing about save that they have access to internet and presumably are high-intermediate to advanced FL learners.
There is a chapter in this book about skills required for game creation, which reminded my once again why I wish I had a whole team of people. According to this, skills needed are: a subject expert, educationalist, game designer, programmer, interaction designer, graphic designer, and writer. While among the three people working on this we have all of these skills covered (mostly) it’s a ton to focus on at once.
That’s the bulk of stuff for the rest of this book. The next several posts will likely be more about the game design process/progress.