Chris Luchs, associate dean for career technical education at the Colorado Community College System, says it’s just as important for educators to know the different kinds of game design as the kinds of fun.

Designs can include:

Sandbox Genre: allows users to drive what they want to do, such as create and control the environment. There’s no existing structure or storyline and the action occurs because of the player. Examples include Minecraft and Civilization.

Educators can design projects within a course, or whole courses, that focus on student creation. For example, leading topics covered within a subject based on student questions and interest and designing “maker” homework to go along with it.

MMO/MMORPG: These Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games are ones that incorporate the People Fun element, and it’s these groups that dictate the action in a game. World of Warcraft is one example, and can better help instructional designers understand how to develop group-based learning projects.

Quests: This design, what could be considered most traditional in terms of course design, has structure and scaffolding that goes behind a target end-goal. It’s important to note that during these quests, multiple “achievements” can be unlocked by the player and there are usually chances to go above and beyond normal play to unlock secret achievements (think: extra credit and alternative credentialing through digital badges).

“How do you create quests and make them fun?” asked Luchs. “This is a question every educator needs to consider when building their lesson.”

An example of the ‘badges’ awarded to players in World of Warcraft (click here for the full infographic):


Raids: This type of design, believe it or not, is currently valued by Fortune 500 companies. Raids challenge gamers to come up with strategies to solve problems in the shortest amount of time possible.

John Seely Brown, independent co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge and adviser to the provost and visiting scholar at the University of Southern California famously said that due to the nature of raids and online gaming in general, high-level players of World of Warcraft make better employees than those who have an MBA from Harvard. Read the full article and Brown’s reasoning here.

Virtual Online Communities: Behind most game design is the basic platform of an online community, capable of group text/chat and verbal communication with headsets.

“There’s a while online community behind all games, and these are integral to most mastery,” said Luchs. “You have back-channel discussion boards, wiki pages, YouTube videos and tutorials, and even Flickr guides. Educators should see this wealth of online resources as the same that should be available to your course. Integrate online forums and chats, create those Flipped videos, provide access to links in Syllabi, et cetera.”

“Creating a quest/game is like creating a course,” concluded Luchs. “Performance optimization is critical but you have a variety of choices in how you create the best optimization for your students and your subject. Do you want to increase Mana (intellect)? Increase overall mastery? Lower the hit rating to increase mastery? Lower the critical strike rate to increase intellect? Play some games and find out!”

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