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Chris Hadfield
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What Computer Game Design can Teach us for Lesson Design

A good computer game, like a good lesson plan, challenges a player’s skills but also makes it not too frustrating or impossible to win.

One of the core features of computer games besides the graphics, sounds and story is something you don’t notice immediately. Some games do not do it very well but some became famous for it: Game Artificial Intelligence.


From the humble beginnings in games like Pacman to the great successes we know today like the Halo series, Game AI showed generations of kids that a computer can be pretty smart and sometimes even mean. Some of the better computer games adapt to the way the player reacts and then find new ways to compete. The aim is of course to keep the player interested in the game and engaged in the sense to make it just as difficult to challenge the player’s skills but on the other hand not to make it too frustrating or impossible to win.

Another part of good game design is that the controls are self explanatory and most gamers won’t be bothered with reading a manual before starting the game. If something is boring and thus means the player understood a strategy or principle of the game there needs to be a way to skip it and move on.

Now if we apply this to a classroom environment the big problem or challenge if you will lies in the mix of students and consequently diverging interests, talents and results in different skill levels students naturally have. Not every student learns at the same pace and therefore teachers need to adapt the lesson to the skills of the average student in the class. That still might be too difficult for some and way too easy for others. All in all, it is most of the time frustrating for most people involved, the teacher included.

I do not see it as an easy challenge to find and offer a way that every student in the classroom can learn at their own pace with the teacher coming in as sort of the game manual or cheat book, offering help when nothing else works but the learning experience and the joy of learning and teaching for everyone involved would be very rewarding.

Picture: Halo Reach, Bungie / Microsoft Game Studios

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