Imagine having our students being so engaged in a complex, goal directed activity, that self-consciousness disappears and time becomes distorted and they do it, not for external rewards but simply for the exhilaration of doing!

This is what can happen when we play well designed video games. I am sure many of us have either experienced it, or witnessed it in adults and children, that complete and energized focus on the game, the fun and fulfillment, the intense involvement, where nothing else matters but the game! What is it about playing good video games that enables this level of engagement?

This level of engagement has been referred to as ‘states of flow’ or being in ‘the Zone’. Simply put, for this flow experience to occur, a game needs to:
  1. be intrinsically rewarding, and the player is up to play the game
  2. offer the right amount of challenge to match with the player’s ability, which allows him/her to delve deeply into the game
  3. create a sense of personal control over the game activity

As teachers, if we have an understanding of the basic principles of good game design, we could use it as a starting place for designing more engaging learning environments. Think about it, students in traditional, teacher led classes have little control over what they learn, are passive recipients of material chosen by teachers and must conform to the pace and ability level of the group through group instruction. Contrast the characteristics of what happens when children play video games. In good video games, players have clear goals, are challenged, often have the opportunity to collaborate and their performance is assessed according to clear criteria with multiple sources of feedback. Imagine basing our learning environments along the principles of good game design, and therefore giving students more control over their own learning. Imagine having classrooms where ‘states of flow’ exist!

To learn more about the principles of good game design, come along to our Good Game Design workshop.