Student’s take: Analyzing existing game designs to become a better designer

Using educational games for learning (or even regular games for education), has become an innovative approach for educators, researchers and game designers. The truth is, spending some time seeking out a well constructed and creative game can not only be entertaining or educational; it can inspire and reinvigorate those creative juices in game designs. One of the amazing things about game design is the fact that you can construct anything your heart desires, in any form (brick-man or 3D), theme (adventurous or strategic) and mechanics (clicking a mouse or involving physical movement like a Wii controller).

Image credit: Game-ontwerp “Game Design” artwork

There are several reasons why we should explore a variety of games and to draw inspiration from their designs. Here are a few:

  • It boosts creativity and inspires new perspectives.
  • It improves understanding and makes you more knowledgeable.
  • It shows you different gaming styles, thought processes during their creation.

The challenge becomes finding the choice of game that can truly be inspiring. It is without doubt, that games can act as a powerful motivational tool to provide learning outcomes now-days, whether it is a creative minecraft ‘world-building’, or a more competitive E-sport scene such as DOTA 2 or League of Legends(LOL), all posses key aspects that attract players to invest their time to practice and become better. This might be the reason why educators, parents and game-design companies invest more time, money and effort, not only try to entertain, but also try to promote an enjoyable learning experience.

Image credit: Brainpop – “Game Making Tools” artwork

By following Homer et al.’s description from the website’s front page (which I believe are the core concepts for this study), four key aspects that educational game should propose will be used to examine examples provided by the website, and more games that are commercialized will be analyzed. We will try to look into how the four key concepts are linked to some of these popular games? What concepts based on game design can be extracted? Once extracted, whether it can provide pedagogical implications towards new game designs? How these game designs can be applied specifically into educational curriculum?

Although including certain commercialized games such as League of Legends (or LOL) might not directly fit in the educational category, I think it is still worth mentioning based on the ability to attract user-popularity and the expanded community it can derive to. I personally am a LOL player, and am quite familiar to some of these derivative such as art work, music videos, cosplays etc. In fact, Riot Games (the company behind LOL) has recently announced new plans to expand into the LOL world by announcing new forms of games, comics and even a new film productions if possible! Who said that an educational game can’t be designed to fit some of these criteria that LOL offers? I’m sure simple mechanics supported with fantastic artwork can definitely attract (or lure) children to at least tryout the game right? If we can combine a cool name on top such as LOL,ROFL,ROFLMAO (the last one being debatable), this might become a huge success! Therefore, I believe some of these games does promote positive learning outcomes in a variety of ways.

Image credit: Electronic Arts- “League of Legends-Team Fight Tactics” art concept
Image credit: Electronic Arts- “League of Legends-Team Fight Tactics” art concept

Without further ado, the following table shows the analysis on the six games explored:

Name of Game Pros Cons
Minecraft: Education edition (video game) Can interact with a wide group of students

Can directly assess academic curriculum knowledge
Involves direct interaction between teachers and students
Potential internet addiction
Screen radiation
Requires heavy software and hardware investment
League of Legends series (video game) Provides a variety of game choices with different designs
Can develop strategic/ complex problem-solving skills during game
Involves teamwork and communication skills during game
Potential internet addiction
Academic curriculum may be hard to assessScreen radiation
Wii console games (video+ physical game) Involves physical movement
Provides a variety of game choices with different designs
Provides strategic/ complex problem-solving during game
Limited student interaction due to two consoles
Potential internet addiction
Kahoot! (video game) Can directly assess academic curriculum knowledge
Involves direct interaction between teachers and students
Supported by typical classroomhardware/software
Game design lacks variation
Encourage competitiveness rather than teamwork skills
EcoChains: Arctic Life (board game) No screen radiationCan develop strategic/ complex problem-solving skills during game
Involves teamwork and communication skills during game
Involves most complicated introduction rulesGame kit has limited service lifeOnce kit is missing components, have to re-purchase game
Forbidden Desert (card game) Can develop strategic/ complex problem-solving skills during game
Involves teamwork and communication skills during game
Involves most complicated introduction rules
Game kit has limited service life
Once kit is missing components, have to re-purchase game
Frogs and Fish (physical game) Involves most physical movement
Can interact with a wide group of studentsNo screen radiation
Academic curriculum may be hard to assess
Game requires sufficient space to play
Possible physical injuries

As these games are explored, combining with personal experiences, I think that board games tend to have over-complexity in rules to learn before playing, which is a typical limitation. Students need to have steep learning curves in order to do well or even play properly.

Image credit: UKchessblogger.com “chess game” artwork

 In terms of games that combine physical activity, this form of game tend to have the most straight forward game instruction and simplest designs. As it interacts with our physical movement,it is much easier to conceptualize in so many ways compared to card games.

Image credit: The Physical Educator.com- “Frogs and Fish”

Depending on the type of game played, video games tend to provide the most versatile learning outcomes, which is why I personally think that Minecraft: Education edition has the greatest game design listed above. Not only it allows interaction between teachers, parents and students by providing digital citizenship in forms of avatar, but also with the aid of appealing character visualization, the excitement from passionate students stimulates the level of engagement allows educators to observe how students learn through gaming. It provides the same experiences that computer programming gives where students can attempt creative methods through trial and error, and when connected to textbook content, promotes a learning environment that is not confined, and this new dynamic is refreshing!

Image credit: Electronic Art- “Minecraft education edition”

In terms of a new game design, I think the ownership of digital citizenship that Minecraft is a crucial key aspect to attract student’s engagement into the classroom. By analyzing a wide rage of games, I think it a software development is the most suitable form in order to apply in school environments, but also the easiest way to generate a user-base to allow feedback involving as many users as possible.


Image credit: Gamasutra “Narrative Design Tips” framework
Image credit: Slideshare.net Electronic Art- “Lucky Lady Games-game achievement” design

Once the game concept can be implemented into the classroom, some of the art concepts on the avatars appearance can be improved. offering new ‘skins’ and ‘gadgets’ for example. Whether it is by unlocking stages of the game or achieving certain high scores, should attract students to study harder to aim for perfection. Although this game design idea is still at a rough stage, it resonates to my core that more money and skills should be invested in order to create a shared, online universe for students, teachers and parents to share their experiences, and by adapting modern technology, introduces learning experiences and outcomes in a new perspective.

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