This session featured two speakers: Dr. Rober Appelman, faculty member for Indiana University’s Instructional Systems Technology department, and Dr. Sonny Kirkley, CEO and researcher at Information in Place, Inc. and adjunct professor in IU’s School of Infomatics.

In this session, there was a call for converging language and approaches to design for game designers and instructional designers. Pure game (entertainment only) designers find adding the instruction/assessment pieces to games challenging and pure instructional designers find challenges in making content fun.

Dr. Kirkley reviewed several projects his company has developed. In all, the challenges of managing stakeholders (who want to have a say in the project’s direction) as well as the external vendors/developers is greater than the challenges of actually making the game.

One example he discussed was the Virtual Astronaut project which is a 10-year project and they have completed the first year (it’ll be multiple modules added to the core game over time).

It is designed for middle school students and is based on problem-based learning using a first person explorer of STEM curricula. They collaborated with Virtual Heroes on this project.

What I took away from this presentation are the following:

  1. The struggles we have right now for simple instructional multimedia are likely to only increase with games (bring it on!). One reason is that funding (especially iterative funding) can force problematic processes. We’ve already seen this one…
  2. A well-defined process (including detailed game design documents) are essential once the project officially begins. See Gamasutra’s article on this topic.
  3. Authentic assessment within the game is the goal. If we can be smart about assessment up front, we will have a good chance of being successful.
  4. The design team needs to articulate their own theories of learning and ideas about what makes games fun — at the outset — in order to minimize conflict later and better communicate from the start.