Category Archives: Games in Training

Using Games in eLearning Part III – The Basic Structure of an eLearning Game

In the previous two posts of this series, we discussed:

Let us now determine the structure of a game and see how this structure helps us establish an emotional connection between the learner and the content.

A learning game isn’t very different from the entertainment games, except that the theme of a learning game is “learning,” and not “entertainment.” The basic structure of the two types of games is almost the same.

A Learning Game consists of:

  • An environment
  • A Challenge
  • A Reward/Punishment
  • The Learning

Let us look at these four factors in more detail.

The Environment of an eLearning Game:

An elearning game like all other types of games has to first gain the attention of the gamer, and then it has to sustain it. A game, unlike other learning activity, should be high on immersion, and establish a suspension-of-disbelief, to whatever extent it can. Thus, an eLearning game requires that you establish an environment. You can do it through a story, a visual, or a scenario.

The Challenge in an eLearning Game:

Every game should include a challenge. A challenge is “a demanding or a challenging situation,” or, if we speak in terms of motivation, it is something that urges you to act towards a specific objective. A challenge can be incorporated in an eLearning game, by asking the learner to use the knowledge gained/skill developed through the content to <achieve a goal>. Remember that goal has to be designed keeping in mind the audience’s profile.

The Reward/Punishment Associated with an eLearning Game:

Every learner wants to “gain something” from a success, and is driven to avoid “losing something” through a failure. A challenge doesn’t transform into a game unless the learner has something to gain or to lose. Thus, an eLearning activity will not convert into a game unless you establish a reward/punishment for the outcome.

The Learning in an eLearning Game:

A game is a game and NOT an eLearning game if it doesn’t result in learning. Remember that learning or reinforcement of learning should result from the process of playing a game, and not as a reward for the game. Very often, eLearning game developers end up creating games where upon completing a game successfully, the learner learns – but otherwise he or she doesn’t learn! Instructionally, such games leave nothing for a person who doesn’t play well. Make sure that your eLearning game doesn’t suffer from this issue.

That’s all for now, dear readers! If you’d like to learn more about developing eLearning games, drop me a line, and I’ll write more about it.


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Using Games in eLearning – Part II – How are Games Different from other Learning Activities.

Why People Play Games?

Simply put, most people play games because they want to satisfy their esteem needs. The first three needs in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (the physiological needs, the safety needs, and the family & belongingness needs) are known as the deficiency needs, which prompt us to fulfill them through their deficiency.

However, everyone who has his or her deficiency needs fulfilled, experiences the need for esteem. We all wish to be famous, or victorious, or rich, or brilliant…essentially better than our neighbors (real or virtual) in some or the other way.  We play games because games help us to vicariously fulfill our esteem needs.

Another reason for playing games is physical. Our brains have a neurotransmitter called Dopamine. When our system is flushed with Dopamine, we feel energetic and excited. In other words, Dopamine helps us experience thrill and adventure – It gives us pleasure.

These two reasons combine and drive us towards playing games. Games enable us to vicariously experience fame, victory, affluence, respect, even thrill and adventure.

How are Learning Games Different from Other Learning Activities?

The main difference between learning games and other learning activities is that Games establish an emotional connection with the learner. The learner “feels” something (thrill, pleasure, esteem) when he or she plays a learning game. In other learning activities, the learner doesn’t “feel” but only “thinks.”

This feeling is what makes learning games different and more sought after than other sorts of learning activities. Recently, one of our online course participants spoke of how she was drawn into a particular learning interaction because it was a “game”. She had a lot of fun trying to get a term to land in the right place, and without even realizing that she was learning, by the time the game ended, she had learned.

Thus, in a learning game, the conscious experience for the learner remains the game, which learning makes its way into the learner’s mind silently, almost effortlessly. The learner “enjoys” the game and its corresponding rewards and experiences the corresponding emotions. Thus, the learner’s attention is fastened on to the game while the learning is conveniently transferred to the learner’s mind. This isn’t possible in any other kind of learning experience.

The Psychology Behind Games” is an excellent read for those who want to get into the mind of the gamer.


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Using Games in eLearning – Part I – How Games & eLearning came Together?

How Games & eLearning Came Together?

There was a time when Online Content looked and also functioned exactly the way a book did! There would be some content on the screen, and when the learner pressed the NEXT button (or “flipped” the page) the content would change.

The eLearning content of today is dramatically different from that of the past. As in the case of all other products and services, this change too was driven by demand. As the eLearning consumers began sampling a wide variety of online content, they became more aware of the interactive possibilities . And so there came a time when they became immune to the charms of basic navigational interactivity.

This demand from the audience resulted in eLearning content becoming much more interactive than ever before. From the vanilla navigational interactivity, we’ve already moved to Multiple Choice Questions, Drag and Drops, Click and Views, and a variety of other interactive hooks to retain the learner’s attention. But for our ever-curious, ever-exploring audience, even this wasn’t enough.

The reason behind the audience’s ever-growing need for more interesting content isn’t difficult to understand. The game developers of the world were busy creating almost-life-like experiences for their audience, and as their audience was often our audience as well, we found ourselves looking at a target audience that was still not happy with the level of interactivity they found in their eLearning courses.

Remember that it’s the thrill of winning that keeps an individual glued to a game; and the suspension of disbelief makes the gamer a character in the game! There was no way to beat games in their ability to gain and sustain the audience’s interest, and so, the eLearning providers moved forward and embraced games as a potential learning activity.

Now, almost every good eLearning course includes games, which are designed and developed with two parallel and equally important objectives – educate and entertain.

In the next post of this series, we will discover how games are different from other types of learning activities.


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