5 Tips for More Engaging Educational Games (Part 3)

Educational Game Development Services

What does it take to make an engaging educational game–one that kids want to take outside the classroom and show their family and friends?

Now that you have a deeper understanding of the tips displayed in Part 2, we can shift our focus to help improve the smaller details of managing gameplay to suit your desired curriculum.

Build fundamental concepts and introduce basic mechanics first

With educational games, users face two learning curves. One with the curriculum, and another with the game mechanics. While it sounds fundamental, you’d be surprised how out of sync the two end up in many educational games. You should always start out with the most basic concepts of a subject and get the player acclimated to the basics of the mechanics around them first. Once the player has a core understanding of the subject matter and gameplay, you can start to add on the deeper concepts and more involved mechanics. Your material should always build alongside your gameplay in terms of difficulty. In the sense that a game gets harder the more you progress, the difficulty of your subject matter should also gradually increase.

The game GeoMoto, by Gamedesk, does a fantastic job at this by starting off  teaching players the essentials of globe navigation and accessing information (such as Convergent, Divergent, and Transform) then gets into more advanced topics such as the layers of the Earth, continental drift, and mid ocean ridges allowing players to recreate these epic events with gestures.

Introduce new gameplay mechanics through means of an accompanying scenario

Dumping all of your mechanics in a streamlined tutorial may become overwhelming to a new or young player. Showing everything you have to offer in one go can also be a missed opportunity for keeping interest later in the game. You should introduce your mechanics gradually through a gameplay scenario in which you use said mechanic. If you want to introduce moving, ducking, and jumping mechanics, use a carefully-designed tutorial level to acclimate them to the game controls, one at a time, with the more complex maneuvers afterwards.  Let player to acclimate themselves to the controls allowing the level to be replayable or used as sandbox. Give it some context, too, such as a “playground” or “obstacle course” to help drive the point home there’s no thinking here, just some fun learning the basics.

When it comes to introducing the mechanics surrounding the curriculum, this is the best chance you have at explaining the game world and how the challenges tie into it. For example, if teaching kids about photosynthesis perhaps they encounter a gardener who is sobbing because his flowers will now grow. “I’ve given them, water, rich soil, and air, but they just won’t grow. I feel like something is missing.” This is a great opportunity to introduce the push/pull mechanic as players need to push the potted plant from the shade into the beam of sunlight nearby.

Use narrative to compliment your curriculum

Players appreciate narrative, and providing one will help raise their stake in progression. This is one of the big benefits to having an e-learning game as opposed to a text book or quiz: the context is fun and it’s an adventure! Having a fun story to go along with your curriculum could help students retain the information better since they associate it with something fun and positive as opposed to a boring book or a powerpoint.  

From the get go, you want to illustrate to your player the reason in which they’re playing and why they should stick it out. Having vast amounts of gameplay with no conceivable end points. The end goal doesn’t even necessarily need to fit with the curriculum either. In fact, the most transformative objectives could ultimately be the most motivating for a player.

For example, if a student is playing a game about learning American history, maybe the end goal would be to assist a prominent figure like George Washington in an epic quest to save America. And why battle the British, when you can take on robotic space aliens who want to obliterate country, in an epic interstellar debate on American history!

Constantly notify player progression

Often times it can become easy to lose sight of a main objective when you’re focusing on the details of gameplay and other ancillary tasks you may need to complete along the way. It may be a good idea to outline your mission with some sort of a roadmap or checklist that the player can easily access in order to stay on track with the objective. Better yet, you could also integrate something of that nature onto the main UI of your game for ease of access.

Having a menu for objectives and goals can be even more beneficial if you’re making an open world or sandbox type game. If players get stuck in a certain spot on the game it would be helpful if they could pull up a menu to get them back on target.

If you don’t want to clutter your screen with unnecessary buttons, you could also utilize dialogue and VO to remind the player of their objective. Perhaps every 3-5 minutes you could have a character or narrator interject with something like “Hey don’t forget to do (blank)!”

In the Workinman developed Smart Cycle title: Mission to Tech City, a helpful little robot follows needs your help getting to Tech City, his home-metropolis. As you progress, he reminds you of the destination, offers clues, and even point out how close you are getting as the city becomes more visible off in the distance.

Consult with professionals and get feedback from students

Having a teacher consult with your design team your game or app can ensure that you’re properly covering the curriculum with an appropriate approach a professional would take. More often than not you may get input that the game really dives home Point A, when it’s really Point B that classrooms want to emphasize. Teacher input can be invaluable as to subject leveling and mastery can be measured and handled.

Getting feedback from students can be beneficial for the analysis of your gameplay. A student play tester would be perfect for determining whether or not  a task or teaching method within your game becomes too tedious and overwhelming. Students are also great for the analysis of the overall fun factor of a game as well. Since so many schools and curriculums these days are opting to use more interactive methods of teaching, a student would have quite a bit of experience on what makes those types of games enjoyable to play.

Workinman Interactive for hire on your next Educational Game Development project

If you are looking to develop an engaging educational for kids and adults alike, or just need the kinks worked out on an existing title, give us a shout. With over a decade of cross platform game design and development experience, our professional design teams have the knowledge and tools to produce attractive, engaging games to meet your goals. Contact us today to get started.

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