How to Make Educational Games That Engage Your Players
MarketsandMarkets states that the global gamification market is projected to grow from $9.1 billion in 2020 to no less than $30.7 billion by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.4%.
As the competition between game creators becomes more and more intense, it’s crucial to provide players with great UX/UI design, follow game market trends, and develop a seamless solution.
In this article, we’ll give you tips on how to design an educational game and provide a step-by-step guide for eLearning game development.
eLearning game market trends
We’ve selected major trends in eLearning that will dominate the market in 2021 – 2025.
- Gamification becomes an integral part of recruitment and training programs. The COVID-19 pandemic made companies shift to fully online recruitment and training solutions. It brought the need to create flexible and engaging training programs for remote teams. Gamified eLearning modules help employees to understand new processes and receive real-time feedback on their learning progress thanks to game components.
- Human-centered educational game design. User feedback is driving the design of gamification strategies. Standardized gamification systems are becoming a thing of the past. Users are frustrated when they receive content that has nothing to do with their interests, hence the trend for personalized learning pathways in educational games.
- Gamification provides robust data and insights. One of the key benefits of gamified training software is the ability to provide actionable data. It means companies can track the progress of their employees and make any adjustments in the program. Gamification analytics can also support product innovation. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts (one of the world’s largest doughnut chains) created an online game called On Your Mark to help collect customer insights in exchange for Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards.
- Gamification partners with immersive technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) are introduced in onboarding and various training activities to fuel engagement. Exxon Mobil, for instance, adopted gamified VR to provide safety training for its employees.
Source: Exxon Mobil
Types of eLearning games
Whether educational games are for adults (e.g., corporate games) and or kids, they are divided into six types:
- Roleplay games. Learners take on the role of a character, usually the protagonist. The character might be represented as an avatar, or the educational game may be constructed from the learner’s point of view. Role-playing eLearning games are especially useful in the workplace to support customer service, soft skills training, or empathy development.
- Timed games. Learners must work against the clock to complete a challenge. Playing against a timer can stretch learners, and adds a new dimension to learning tasks. Such games are great in compliance training to boost engagement or where employees have to make quick decisions.
- Collaborative games. Learners must work in teams to complete a challenge with help from others. These games are designed to promote teamwork, and to encourage a single player to seek outside help to finish a game task. In the workplace, collaborative games can support team skills or act as an ice-breaker in an induction program.
- Decision games. Learners choose the most effective course of action or decide how to respond to a given situation. There may be an optimal set of options but there can also be ambiguity with no perfect decision possible. Often, players can replay the game to see what will happen if they make a different decision. Decision games are great for leadership training and other soft skills development.
- Detective games. Learners must explore the game trying to solve puzzles, mysteries, or challenges. They are useful in helping to develop problem-solving skills. It is a good way to teach aspects of compliance where observation is important.
- Competitive games. Learners must compete in teams or as individuals to score points and win the game. It motivates learners, allowing them to compare their performance against others. Such games are useful in situations where workplace learning needs to be completed within a tight deadline, or as part of a team-building challenge.
Educational game development step-by-step
We will guide you through our process of educational game development: discovery, educational game design, development, QA, release, and support.
This step includes:
- Design discovery. This is the phase when we identify user personas, write user stories, and prepare information architecture, user flows and high fidelity wireframes. Our team thinks about the skills a particular educational game should develop: critical thinking, organizing, collaboration, risk management, awareness, and empathy.
- Technical discovery. We prepare documentation with information about general data flow, project architecture, development, QA principles, and technological set.
Educational game design
When you make your own educational games, it’s better to opt for custom design as it offers full freedom in creating the designs and features you want.
Read also: Awesome Game Website Designs Examples
Agente’s educational game design best practices
- Focus on an impressive start. Capture the learner’s attention right from the start. Storytelling will hold the attention of individuals, so you could start off your game with a cutscene (animation or video) that tells users what the character in the game is doing and why.
- Allow player representation and decoration. A simple icon or an animated avatar gives a player something to represent their person as they play, which dramatically increases their interest in the content and stake in completion.
- Give concise and gratifying feedback. When it comes to eLearning, we need to approach special effects with a little more care. Don’t make effects too flashy. When you create an educational game, respond to player inputs with effects and messaging that are clear and concise.
- Make tutorialization interactive. Here are some quick tips:
- Avoid blocks of text. Keep it light and to the point, and if you have a lot to cover in text, cut it up and spread it out over several levels.
- Use visuals instead of text. Replace a paragraph explanation with an arrow or a highlight to point users to their next interaction. Then highlight or animate the next button to press.
- Make your tutorial contextual. Don’t explain to your players that they need to walk, then run, then jump, then crouch, then attack. Dish it out in stages, right at the point they are required to use it.
What you get after the design stage
- UX wireframes — the backbone of your entire project layout. These deliverables allow all stakeholders to agree on where the information will be placed before the developers build the interface out with code.
- Prototype — demonstrates the proper placement of the interface. It gives the customer a complete idea of how the site will look like in the final result.
- High-fidelity UI mockups. They give a realistic and dynamic picture of the product.
At this stage, our engineers develop frontend and backend sides and make a product requirements document, which communicates the capabilities that must be included in a product release to the development and testing teams. There are elements that must be present in any educational game.
The sense of achievement is reached by the introduction of the following elements:
- Progression bars
Game players get satisfaction from level accomplishment and skill development. The progression motivates continued effort. Leaderboards also provide a social status element, as do points and badges.
Rewards provide extrinsic motivation and recognition for time, effort, and skills attained. Closely related to achievement, rewards like collectables, bonuses and power-ups can be scheduled into the learning experience. Both fixed and variable reward schedules are popular game mechanics. Rewards can be based on completing a number of actions, or distributed at set intervals.
An adventure setting, a disaster scenario, or a beating the competition narrative all boost learner interest and motivation.
Put the learning experience into a narrative setting. Add characters, conflicts, and resolution to immerse the learner in the storyline.
Timers (counting up total time) and countdown clocks create a sense of urgency. Even a schedule of events can focus the learner's attention to the task at hand.
This may include avatar selection, avatar customization, choosing themes, character naming, and interactive conversation.
Use the information from learner input fields. For example, if the learner inputs a nickname into a text field, use the nickname within the environment or narrative.
Games provide numerous satisfying moments and micro-interactions: a sound effect, a hover-state animation, or a cut-screen narration. But beware of too much flare!
Provide nuanced environmental reactions to learner actions through subtle animations, easter eggs, sound, and cool transition screens.
For each project, we employ a particular set of technologies to develop custom software that perfectly meets our clients’ requirements. The Agente team follows the agile approach, demonstrating the software after each stage of completion to synchronize watches with the customer or revise something if needed.
Our QA team creates a test plan, goes through every test scenario and provides the test summary to make the educational game work as it was intended. If the product needs tweaking, it’s returned to the development team.
The test strategy is created in advance by the QA team. This document describes the company’s common approach to software testing.
When the QA team and the client are fully satisfied with the product development, it is released to users to see how it behaves. It can be returned to the development team if there are still issues to fix.
The Agente team implements CI/CD pipeline to deliver code changes more frequently and reliably. This approach enables us to focus on meeting business requirements, security, and code quality, because deployment steps are automated.
In the final stage in the development of educational games, we provide support after the release. It includes fixing bugs, resolving queries, developing new features and code updates upon request. Agente guarantees two-month support after the release date depending on the cooperation model.
How much does it cost to create your own educational game?
Educational game development costs are influenced by several factors: the scope of work, the complexity of features, the number of specialists involved, the presence of costly elements like animations, etc.
On average, it will take around 2000 hours to create an MVP. The rough calculations for this project look like this:
- Front-end and back-end development: $40 000.
- UI/UX design: $20 000.
- Management: $7 000.
- Testing: $5 000.
Total cost: $72 000.
This is for an MVP version. The complete app with complex features will take about 2500-2600 hours and cost around $85,500 – $90 000.
These figures are not set in stone; the final cost will depend on your creative idea.
In the time we’ve been in business, we’ve had numerous projects in the eLearning sphere, including digital classroom management systems, corporate microlearning, educational platforms, and games. One such project is The Daily FinQ.
The game helps players to understand the basics of personal finance, as well as investing and borrowing money. So we created a fast, fun, free game to improve the knowledge of all things financial.
The game can be played twice daily. Players can accumulate digital points and awards and move up levels by answering finance questions correctly.
If you want to build your own educational game that will stand out among thousands of others on the market, it’s important to choose the right educational game development partner. Agente has a vast experience in the eLearning sector, including LMS, games, and educational platforms. Drop us a line to make your idea into a robust eLearning solution.
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