There are essential elements that every mobile learning game should have. Specifically, I found six that are a must when developing any learning game. No, I am not talking about developing the next Halo or World of Warcraft games but something any non-developer can use when they develop their own game. Here are the six elements every mobile learning game should have:
1. Intro Page & Logo
I know this one may sound funny and at times may not seem necessary but having a good logo will set the whole theme for the game and really establishes this as a game. Without it sometimes it can just be a nice looking quiz. A logo also establishes the objective, for example Beat the Banker. Just by looking at the logo we see that we are going to be competing against a banker which appears to be very unhappy so even though we don’t know how to play yet we still get some concept of what we will be doing and because it presents the challenge in the logo “beat the banker” it also establishes in the learners mind that this is a game and I know when I am taking training that I seem to perk up a little more when I come to a game because in most peoples mind a game is fun so having a great logo will grab your learners attention in a couple of seconds and it prepares them to play and learn. Typically I will add a play button on this page so the learner can engage in the game from the very start by clicking on play.
2. Use an Instructions Page
If you use eLearning Brothers games you’ll notice the first slide is always the logo and the second slide is the instructions slide. I think this is essential for helping the learner understand what they need to do and clearly define how the learner will play the game. Those who don’t feel they need the instructions can go on but a lot of people like reading the instructions of the game so they can get a higher score or do better. This page should carry over the theme of the game as well as the logo to tie it all together.
3. Game Board or Game Objective
This is where the game becomes a game. Adding a score to your game is important but even boring quizzes have a score. You need to give the learner some objective. I recently read a great articule by Karl Kapp entitled “Does your learning have any action and adventure?“. I can take that and ask my own question. Does your game have any action or adventure? Are you presenting the learner with some type of objective or challenge? When the learner is presented with adventure or challenge they retain so much more. I remember working with a client on some course development and when they implemented a simple game giving the user a challenge to review content before the quiz they found that the results of the quiz drastically increased because the students were able to review the content before the quiz in a fun and engaging way.
With every game we create we try to establish a game board or game objective that we present to the learner and then progress the learner through that game board. For our marathon game we show the learner the finish line and after each question return them back to the game board to show their progress throughout the game so they can see how their player is progressing. With Beat the Banker we show the cases that the learner still has left and they need to choose a case to continue but still after each question we return the user back to the game board so they can see their progress and readjust their strategy and improve their scores. Without a Board Game we take the learner through a traditional game board landing on spaces and answering different questions hoping they don’t land on a piece that will take their score back to zero. This is what makes a game fun and engaging so go beyond the normal “score tracking” and add some type of game board or objective, whether it be clearing objects from a desk or diffusing land mines you can do something to make your game more engaging.
4. Questions to Progress
Like I mentioned before we are not building Halo or World of Warcraft so we have to infuse some learning elements into the game. Once you gave a game board or objective you then take the learner through series of questions of challenges. Traditionally these could be normal multiple choice questions, true or false or something similar. While these tend to have a bad wrap I think they are still quite effective but make your design of the questions still fit into the style of your game.
For example, you may also want to think about going beyond the typical question type into more learning challenges. Let’s say I choose my game board piece and it takes me to a question where I need to sort items into the correct bin. This is just a category drag and drop question but if you present it in a way that is more engaging you can still get good results. So tell the learner something like “Quick, you only have a minute or two to sort the email into the correct bins” or “Your challenge if you choose to accept it is to sort the email” or “We have an correct answer sneaking around here somewhere, look through all the objects you see to find the correct one” something where you are telling the learner the challenge instead of just asking a simple question like which answer is correct.
In our templates we leave the question writing to you so have fun with it.
5. Present Feedback
One additional element you can add to your game is the way you present your feedback. If we are writing more engaging games like the examples above then let’s write the outcome if the do or don’t accept the challenge or they don’t get something correct. So you show them something going wrong or that visually shows them that was good or that was bad. I think we can become more creative in our question and feedback writing without going the easy route by sticking with simple boring questions and answers. Feedback is essential right after the question.
In college I took a behavioral psychology class (that’s right, I was a Psychology need before I became a computer nerd). In the class we had to train rats and pigeons how to obtain the food. The way we did this was instant positive reinforcement. We would reward the animal with food when they did even the slightest adjustment to our end goal. The key was we had to reward the animal instantly. I think we need to reward students instantly instead of at the end so they can see immediately what they did write or what they did wrong instead of waiting till the end of the game.
6. Results Page
During the game we keep taking the user back to the game board until they have accomplished their objective or until they have finished all the game pieces on the game board. The final essential part of any game is the end results. For example, at the end of “Deal or No Deal” you always see what happens to the user whether it be them finishing without any money or them winning the game. The results page will give the end user the final outcome of how they did. Since this is a learning game eLearning Brothers always programs in games with a play again button. I see games as a review that preps them for a final quiz. Why not allow the user to play again and again practice the content they need to know for the quiz as many times as they need to to prep for the quiz? Isn’t our objective to help the learner learn? So, if they are going to learn why not give them the chance to practice over and over until they have the content down? Point is allow the user to learn and practice then they can do better when it comes to the quiz.
Mobile Learning Game Conclusion
With these six elements you can create engaging games that will help your learners be more prepared and more knowledgable about what they are learning. I think games should have just as much prep and planning as the entire course does. Game on and happy mobile learning!