Gamification design, game design, instructional design, it’s all easy, or?

There is a misconception that game design, gamification design, learning design, instructional design, user experience design is easy. Mastery in any of the types of design will make the craft seem easy and because everyone has played games and taken courses, so surely it can’t be that hard to make something. A lot of the time when people want to buy a service, they reckon we can just mash something together in a couple of hours and hey, presto the job is done. In my years of working in all of the above, I have found the reality to be slightly different.

For me coming up with ideas and concepts is the easy part, communicating them and translating them into meaningful experiences and content that is the harder part. Once we have the high-level concept approved, we then expand and work on storyboards and more detailed designs (oh and that is after we have spoken to the target audience).

It is at that point, some of our clients feel they are now also expert on the type of design and they want to make changes. Now, if it is superficial and small stuff, we tend to go with it. But when the core design, whether it is gameplay, delivery channels and methods change, then we tend to throw in our expertise and explain the impact of those changes. In gamification and game design, we tend to find it will then be accepted and we agree typically to let the data drive future changes.

When it comes to learning design, everyone these days seems to think they can make an effective course and they know stuff about learning and instructional design. Just because we now have the tools with which we can create content on the fly doesn’t make them of good instructional value. There are some formula’s and recipes to follow to make your content useful to learners. From what I see coming from homemade or in-house on the fly, it doesn’t seem to be as easy as people think.

I reviewed a number of on the fly videos recently, which had taken several days to be created and a number of edits, so the true on the flyversions probably were worse. Anyway, here are a summary of errors: they missed why what they were explaining was important or even mattered. Actors and explainers blocked what they were trying to show with their body and when there was a second actor in the video to demonstrate something, they were basically left sitting looking mighty bored.  As a real motivational clincher, in some videos, the people were told off for doing it wrong too often. Background noises included someone actively interrupting the recording, banging of doors and other equally fun noises, etc. Needless to say, we advised against using these videos completely.

So if you are the DIY kind and really want to make your own instructional video, the 4 MAT questions are a good starting point:

  • Why
  • What
  • How
  • What if

When you watch people play games on live stream, you will often hear the commentators explain why they may have chosen that move, what it is they are doing or trying to achieve and they also explain a lot of what if scenarios and what they would have done in the player’s shoes. The how question is answered if you get a player to actually show you how they do what they do. YouTube is full of ‘How to” videos for lots of questions, so those videos are worth making.

Is it easy, well actually getting it right tends to take a number of tries and from years in the field of learning, game and gamification design I can tell you it tends to take iterations and a base of knowledge to put meaningful content together. For a start, I would recommend reading and learning the base knowledge of the kind of design you want to do. After that practice and putting it to the test with the public will give you the best feedback and learning.




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