Gaming Industry raises the Bar again - What Education can learn from the newest Game Design

Some weeks ago, I wrote a piece on what education can learn from game design. Back then I focused on artificial intelligence. Two days ago, I read another interesting piece about the evolution of games which I think can teach education a great deal.


The newest trend is about the story line and how the player can actively influence it by his or her decisions taken whilst playing the game. Up to now, most stories are pretty linear and decisions taken by the gamer have very little effect on the ending of the story. This is apparently about to change and a reason for that seems to be the decline of revenue. Customers expect more than linear stories from A over B to C.

A couple of years ago, the game “Fable” of renown game creator Peter Molyneux was a first step toward this new type of gaming experience. Based on the decisions the gamer took, the character they were playing in the game became either more evil and feared by the population or a fighter for the good over time. The interesting thing was that the entire world reacted accordingly.

The upcoming Star Wars Game “The Old Republic” will feature about 20 different endings an “a million ways to get there”. Based on the character class the player chooses (Jedi, Sith or one of six other classes) and the decisions the player will take like for instance saving an in-game character’s life, the story line is going to take a new direction.

If we now take a look at the most common online courses of today it is clearly visible that those are far behind the gaming industry. And though the motivation of the two industries may be different, I believe that education would greatly benefit from including similar mechanics. Gamification of educational content is just one aspect here and something that has caught my attention for the moment is the idea of there are “no wrong answers” and the start-ups that will emerge in the coming months on that philosophy.

The thing is this. If people start to consider games as boring it is pretty easy to imagine what a standard online course is considered to be. Why aren’t there interactive language courses with a story line that reacts on the answers I choose in a dialogue instead of telling me “wrong answer, try again”? Why aren’t there math games that let me construct a bridge or house which I could then test under “real world” conditions?

I truly believe that a combination of actively influencing a story line in combination with a reaction upon the decisions taken would make learners feel more appreciated or valued if you will and encourage them to continue learning with that program instead of only getting negative feedback in from of a summary assessment when a chapter or course is finished and some answer were marked as incorrect whereas they may be not the ideal answer but they learner gave his or her answer with a certain intention which eventually should be taken into account.

Picture: Lucasfilm Entertainment 2010 - Star Wars The Old Republic

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