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Martin Blazey Top 10 concepts in games design

Modern computer games have their roots in board games and board games have their roots in much older board games, some developed as early as 2700BC. It is a testament to the engaging nature of games and their good design that some games like Chess are still with us today.

If you are considering adding games into your eLearning remember that they can be as simple or a complicated as you want. But, in either case, you really should consider some important elements of game design to help you create better learning experiences that actually work and feel like games.

Here are my top 10 concepts in game design:

  1. Gamification
    This is the catch all term used to describe the application of game mechanics and game archetypes to eLearning that may be a non-game context. Gamification (sometimes called simply – Good Design) is applied with an expectation that it will increase learners engagement through the use of measurement tools, feedback loops and a shared competitive experience using leader boards and badges.
  2. Procedural Rhetoric
    Sometimes known as simulation rhetoric, procedural rhetoric is a concept that embodies as series of models and processes that describe the rules of the world (either in fictitious game world or as a simulation of the real word) to the user without the use of words, images (still or moving) or writing. Whilst the game or simulation may employ words, images and video, they are all at the service of the rules belonging to the world the user is interacting with. They are the veneer on the surface of a deeper and richer set of mechanics that create the world and the rules which the player adhere to in order to be rewarded and complete the game.
  3. Game Design
    Game design is the process of creating the goals, rules and challenges found within a game.
  4. Sound Design
    Sound design is the process of creating audio. Good use of sound design can bring a deeper engagement and believability to a game that absorbs the player into the world.Computer (1)
  5. Level Design (or Environment Design)
    Sometimes known as environment design, level design is the process of creating environments for players to ‘live’ in – this can include the design of entire universes and their worlds, planetary biospheres, meteorological conditions and large scale geological formations or objects and cities, right down to plants, blades of grass, and bits of debris you can kick around in the game. In an eLearning game the simplest example might be what scenario background you choose to have on the screen at any given moment. Good environment design increase the ‘realness’ of the players experience.
  6. Character Design
    Is the visual representation of a character. This can take the form of drawings, illustrations or 3D models. In eLearning character design may be used less than in ‘real’ games, but a well implemented character provides an engaging point of reference for the learner. A character in an eLearning game can be a guide to update the learner on their progress, provide help or introduce scenario based games and provide a friendly face to the learner throughout the learning.
  7. Emergent Behaviour
    Emergent behaviour is behaviour in a game that is not property of the game itself, but arises from the interactions of the user and the various components of the game. A good example is where a player is given control over the game in such a way that it allows them to create objects to solve puzzles or complete a task. In nature emergent behaviour can be seen in birds flocking – where flocking is not the behaviour of a single bird but of groups of birds.
  8. Self-efficacy
    An individual’s belief in his or her capacity to learn. It reflects to what degree a person has confidence in their ability to control their own motivation, behaviour and social environment. In games this can be attained by creating obstacles and tasks that can be overcome through the development or mastery of a skill. A really simple example is in a quiz (a quiz is a form of game right?) where the learner is allowed to review content after failing a quiz, then retrying it in order to pass.

  9. Human-Computer Interaction
    In the context of games, Human Computer interactions (HCI) are a set of interactions between the human and computer that promote the tasks required of the game through the use of some kind of interface. For example a shooting game where walking in the game requires a physical action via a USB bike controller, creating an interaction that means walking in the game requires you to peddle the bike. You may have come across something similar in gym where a TV only remains on as long as you row on the rowing machine. More common game interfaces include controllers, joysticks, and on screen graphical elements like a menu, and inventory’s for storing and sorting items collected in the game. It is worth noting that most HCI research and implementation is created in Western countries, from a male perspective and in support of the development of male cultural competencies. As such, there is some sense of unconscious bias in the development of HCI theory and their implementation in games which should be considered when developing learning games for a diverse group of people, possibly from different cultures and backgrounds.  
  10. Feedback Loops
    Feedback Loops can be considered part of the Human-Computer Interaction element above, but deserve some further highlighting as they are used a great deal in games. There are two types of feedback loop, positive feedback loops and negative feedback loops. A positive feedback loop reinforces a user’s actions in a game, for example an action causes the same reaction as it did before but with each time the player does so the reaction get bigger and better. A negative feedback loop is the opposite of the positive feedback loop – it acts as method to restore balance to a game. For example, if a player does something that has a negative effect on something it will be increasingly harder to repeat the action.

Contact us today to see how we can help you create efficient, results-oriented eLearning campaigns for your people.


Martin Blazey, Senior eLearning Developer, Bray Leino Learning

In my blogs I will be talking about what to look out for in eLearning, what good eLearning might look like now and in the future, and what some of the most interesting ideas might mean for eLearning as well as a fixation on game-like technologies and how they might be good for eLearning.

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