Back to the drawing board ... game

I play a fair number of games and try as many different apps as time permits just to see how they work and get ideas for how to make learning and presentations more effective. As I have mentioned before, playing games is essential for anyone who is even remotely interested in applying gamification concepts to projects. Heck, I think playing games is essential for many reasons, but since this blog focuses a lot on learning (as do I) I'm going to try not to stray too far from the path today.

A few of the games I have played lately and what I learned/relearned/was reminded of include:

Township - aesthetics matter ... a lot

It's not that this game necessarily offers something so unique that isn't available in other games, but I just love the look of it. I find the art beautiful and fun and it draws me back. This is a concept I have stressed with instructional designers. You have to create something that people want to look at, and that is easy to use. The design shouldn't take center stage and overshadow the content, but you do want the content to be in a readily and easily consumable package that people want to dive into.

Gardenscapes - find ways to make things social

I always harken back to something I heard Gabe Zichermann say once: "No product ever failed from being too social." And this is one of the lessons on Gardenscapes. The characters in the game have a Facebook feed in the game which was an element I hadn't encountered before and thought was pretty clever. It is also a match-3 game at heart but what it adds is another important element - story. To advance the story you have to play the matching rounds. The addition of story is another element I encourage people to explore in their learning. I also encourage them to remember that just adding a discussion board to a course doesn't make it social.

Paradise Bay - consistency with surprises and the ability to choose

There are tons of games within the game here. Do you want to play the "speed rounds" when the Trade Fair opens or prefer a more casual experience? Do you want to explore every nook and cranny of all the other islands? Do you want to collect pets? There are many things to focus on and then little mini-games around seasonal themes and such. So how does this go back to the learning? Well, how can you add ways to explore side projects within the larger course context? Do you need to show them everything that is coming in the course syllabus or can you insert little side missions and bonus challenges along the way? How can you provide a consistent learning path with some detours and surprises along the way.

But I also, as the title implies, did something different this week. I played a new board game (well it was new to me). In the hurry, hurry daily grind, where I have rarely had time for more than a few minutes with my phone/tablet to play a game, I took the time to sit down with my husband and learn to play Splendor. Now the game itself is not terribly hard to learn to play but wow what a brain twister to get myself away from the learn as you go, start without too much intro mobile apps and back to the read the rules and learn before you even take your first turn. Ouch, brain cramp. 

I listened to my husband read the rules and then I read several sections that I wasn't quite sure I was clear on and still we both were kind of like, hmmm, OK I think I got it. Let's try this but before we did my husband pulls out his phone and says: "Someone must have a YouTube video about playing this game." So we watched, first a video that was part tutorial and part review by a guy that was so excited and geeked out about playing that it definitely got us a little pumped up. Then the second was a straight up, how to play video and boom, all the fuzzy parts started to clear up. And we got right to playing. 

So what's the lesson here? Well there are many. One is that not everyone will learn the same way. Another that it often depends on what you are learning how you like to learn something. Another that it is useful to offer different media for learning. Another is that if you beat your husband on the first try he will spend the next week plotting his revenge and trash talking you about how he is going to kick your butt the next time. 

So, what have you been playing lately and what ideas did you pick up? Let me know.

(Banner image based on Splendor by David Goehring)