Edu-Games Design Framework

In the recently-concluded semester at Gamedec.UKW, we ran the first edition of Educational Games Design module for senior gamedecs. The module had 45 h lecture + 30 h design lab (in the new iteration of the programme, it will be 30 h lecture + 45 h lab). I took 30 h of the lecture component, with Piotr Milewski doing 15 h of the lecture plus the whole lab. Here is the edu-games design framework I developed for the students. 


 > Best practice: work with a structured Design Document

1. Your Target Group

Define school type, year(s) of education, age group, programme etc., including the institutional setting:
  • formal education (school or higher-ed)
  • non-formal education (e.g. museum, library, culture centre, extracurricular after-class school clubs)
  • professional training or coaching (may be industry-specific, e.g. for firefighters, or focused on transversal skills)

2. Expected Learning Outcomes

What skills, knowledge and/or competences will your game improve?
  • pick a specific section of one school subject, or a mix of two or more subjects
  •  describe the intended educational effect of your game as a list of learning outcomes (a.k.a. instructional objectives)
Suggested resources:

> learning outcomes (step 2) for a specific target group (step 1) can be found in a school > textbook + teacher's book, or in the national curriculum (podstawa programowa).

3. Learner's Activities Leading to Learning Outcomes

  •  divide the learning outcomes into knowledge domains
  •  match the outcomes to specific activities that the learner/player should be doing in order to achieve the outcomes
Suggested resources:

> K. Kapp, 2012, Gamification of Learning and Instruction, Chapter 8: Applying Gamification to Learning Domains (how to divide learning outcomes into domains)

> teacher's / instructor's manuals relevant for your edu-outcomes, target group and institutional setting (how to pick the right activities for the expected outcomes)

4. Gameplay Mechanics Based on These Activities

  • select core gameplay mechanics that will be based on the above activities
  • list motivations that are likely to work with these mechanics
Suggested resources:

> K. Kapp, 2012, Gamification of Learning and Instruction, Chapter 8: Applying Gamification to Learning Domains (basic guidelines on matching knowledge domains and learning outcomes with game mechanics)

> platform-specific (board / larp / digital) edu-games literature (more details on matching learning outcomes with game mechanics / dynamics / components)

> Lepper & Malone, 1987, The Taxonomy for Intrinsic Motivations; and other literature on player/learner motivations, e.g. Karl M. Kapp, Lucas Blair, Rich Mesch, 2013, Gamification of Learning and Instruction: The Fieldbook, Chapter 11: Gamification (which motivations are likely to be stimulated by selected activities and mechanics)

5. Make a Good Game

  • design, prototype, test, iterate > make a good game!
  • playtest with the intended target group, preferably in the target setting (e.g. in the school classroom)
  • do not insert edu-content to be read next to gameplay (it won't be read if it doesn't help to make progress in the game)
  • do not insert isolated edu-activities that are conflicting with gameplay (if gameplay is broken by a disconnected edu-activity, it ruins immersion and kills fun)
Suggested resources:

> any (not just edu-) game design sources specific for your tech platform (board / digital etc.)

> Jesse Schell (2015), The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses 2nd ed, selected lenses

>  any (not just edu-) general game design literature (on characters, settings, visual assets, player experience, replayability etc.)

6. Measurement, Assessment & Feedback

  • your game should measure player/learner's progress in the game
  • your game should include evaluation of player's achievement of learning outcomes
  • your game (or live facilitator) should provide evaluative and instructional feedback
  • ...all of which works best when it's integrated with gameplay mechanics
Suggested resources:

> Karl M. Kapp, 2012, Gamification of Learning and Instruction, Chapter 10: Selecting the Right In-Game Achievements

> selected teacher's / instructor's manual on the measurement & evaluation of learning outcomes in the respective field

7. Embed Your Game in the Process of Instruction

  •  what activities or outcomes should be done before playing your game?
  •  what follow-up activities should be done afterwards?
  •  consider equipping your game with teacher's aids and lesson plans


Reading List for the module

General edu-theory and practice

Young Digital Planet. The Book of Trends in Education (2015).

IACBE (2014). Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives and Writing Intended Learning Outcomes Statements.

Declan Kennedy, Áine Hyland, Norma Ryan (2006). Writing and Using Learning Outcomes: a Practical Guide.

Beata Balińska. Polska Rama Kwalifikacji dla uczenia się przez całe życie.

General edu-games & edu-gamification

Kapp, Karl M. (2013). The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook: Ideas into Practice. Chapters: 2, 3, 5, 12.

Kapp, Karl M. (2012). The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. Chapters: 8, 9 + "Taxonomy of Motivations" in 3.

Marcin Łączyński (2013). Gry szkoleniowe. Przewodnik praktyczny. Chapters 2-4.

Serious games: market issues

David Wortley (2014). "The Future of Serious Games and Immersive Technologies and Their Impact on Society". In: Youngkyun Baek, Ryan Ko, Tim Marsh (eds.) Trends and Applications of Serious Gaming and Social Media

Sande Chen (2015-16). The Big Picture series.

Blake Montgomery (2016). Is the Educational Games Industry Falling Into the Same Trap It Did 20 Years Ago?

Edu- board games

Brian Mayer & Christopher Harris (2010), Libraries Got Game: Aligned Learning through Modern Board Games. Chapter 4.

Kate Rossiter & Kate Reeve (2010). "It's Your Turn! Exploring the Benefits of a Traditional Board Game for the Development of Learning Communities". In: Edvardsen & Kulle (eds.) Educational Games: Design, Learning and Applications.

Bernie Dodge (2012). First Steps in Board Game Design. EDTEC 670, San Diego State University.

Edu- role-playing games

Thomas Duus Henriksen (2006).  Educational_Role-Play Moving beyond entertainment.

Myriel Balzer (2011). Immersion as a Prerequisite of the Didactical Potential of Role-Playing, International Journal of Role-Playing #2

Michał Mochocki (2013). Edu-Larp as Revision of Subject-Matter Knowledge, International Journal of Role-Playing #4.

Sarah Lynne Bowman and Anne Standiford (2015), Educational Larp in the Middle School Classroom: A Mixed Method Case Study, International Journal of Role-Playing #5

Martin E. Andresen (ed.) (2012). Playing the learning game.

Edu- video games

Ian Bogost (2007). Persuasive Games. The Expressive Power of Videogames. Chapter 1.

Peter A. Smith & Alicia Sanchez (2010). "Mini-Games with Major Impacts". In: Jan Cannon-Bowers & Clint Bowers, Serious Game Design and Development: Technologies for Training and Learning.

Kristian Kiili (2010). "Call for Learning-Game Design Patterns". In: Edvardsen & Kulle (eds.) Educational Games: Design, Learning and Applications.

Dennis Maciuszek and Alke Martens (2010). "Patterns for the Design of Educational Games". In: Edvardsen & Kulle (eds.) Educational Games: Design, Learning and Applications.


Self-selected teacher's/instructor's manuals relevant for the instructional objectives, target groups and institutional contexts defined in your lab projects.