Learning Blog

Random despatches from places where L&D meets software and systems

I've always been fascinated by games possibly because my parents were big card and board game players. I vividly remember playing my first game of Space Invaders and trying to perfect the "Kamikaze" method which, if you were careful, promised a whole afternoon's worth of game play for a single 10p piece. 

Learning games, or using fun mechanics for serious learning purposes, has a rather checkered history. Unfortunately creating games is a seriously expensive business, as are simulations, but as part of an out of hours personal learning project while I was Director of Digital Strategy at Prosell I tried to exploit the power of multiple choice questions in a variety of game formats to improve learners' product knowledge and selling skills. In kinda MVP-stylie.

Throughout the course of these various experiments, I learned that:

  • you can actually build games quickly and cheaply if you already know a reasonable amount about software and pay very close attention to modularisation and code re-use
  • you can use these games repeatedly with different sets of (randomised) quiz questions
  • there is a vast amount of re-usable game code already out there which is either freely available or dirt cheap
  • getting the games to be SCORM compliant within GameMaker, the development engine I used, was a complete nightmare
  • "proper" game developers deserve endless respect
  • spending a small amount of "extra" money on sound and graphics to "polish" your game yields disproportionate benefit

There were a whole raft of games, one an HMTL5 betting game, a re-versioning of something I first created more than 15 years ago, which better discriminates between learners' scores by introducing an element of risk into the game.

I also experimented with incentivisation too. In the racing game I designed and developed for SsangYong, dealers learn about the features and benefits of their different cars and, in this case, the Motability scheme and once they get 100% they are taken to a different level, the "lap of honour", and the person with the best time was given a high street voucher.

Glass half full, these games genuinely turbo-charged learners' engagement with the learning subject matter - people really learned stuff!. Glass half empty, there remains the not inconsiderable challenge to make these games responsive, i.e. work on, e.g. smartphones, another imminent nightmare. These experiments continue.