Key Deciding Questions For The Game-Based Learning Approach
Antonio Guillem/

Game-Based Learning Approach And All The Useful Points You Should Know About

Though game-based learning sounds the easiest option for immersive learning, it is by no means easy.

It requires a whole lot of time, money, research, analysis, programming, and creativity.
Therefore, before deciding on using games in a WBT/microlearning or other online learning modes, there are a host of factors that a learning professional has to consider.

Gaming for entertainment is vastly different from gaming for formal educational content, especially corporate curriculum. Therefore, a learning professional designing K-12 curriculum for a lesson in Physics can easily tailor the content to create games compared to his/her counterpart creating eLearning curriculum to train turbine engineers.

Deciding Factors For Game-Based Learning

Before deciding on game-based learning, it is extremely important for you to ask the following questions:

1. Is The Client/Stakeholder Open To Game-Based Learning?

The clients/stakeholders are often the final deciding authority on what instructional strategy will work best for their organizations’ learning needs. Learning is serious business for many organizations and many clients often think that games may not fit the requirement. So, the conviction of the client is a necessary pre-condition.

2. What Is The Average Age And Profile Of The Learners?

This question, answered during the audience analysis stage, requires consideration before deciding to use games for learning. Though the older audience is not averse to games, it is the younger audience who welcome the idea with gusto. Therefore, the game-based approach is likely to find more avenues for success with the younger audience.

3. Can The Content Be Tailored To The Confines Of Gaming?

For example, a software training course cannot be taught purely through games. If one needs to use games, they need to be used during assessments or for other interactive purposes.

4. Is The Subject Too Serious For A Game?

For example, government statutes and medical practices are subjects that need a certain amount of seriousness. Games can make the subject frivolous and circumvent the purpose. However, when used prudently, games can adequately complement the subject as a means to reinforce key concepts.

5. What Percentage Of The Content Can Be Taught Through Games?

This implies that though the content can be perfect for games, there may be sections that cannot be presented as games. For example, while teaching about road safety, it is fine to have a game to teach traffic rules. However, it is important to teach the learner all the traffic rules upfront.

6. What Is The Budget For The Learning Program?

Gaming is not cheap, and it involves investments in terms of time and money. Therefore, it is very critical from the cost point of view to ascertain if the budget permits a game-based learning course in entirety or a few games interwoven into the content or none at all.

7. How Relevant Is The Game For The Learning Content?

It is important to pick a game that delivers the content without giving the impression of being forced. It is important to first ask oneself: "Is the game really needed for this training content?". Only if the gaming idea is the ‘best bet’ for delivering the Learning, should you embark on this path.

8. What Programming, Instructional Design And Graphical Expertise Is Available Within The Team?

Gaming is synonymous with these 3 key elements. To create a good game, it is vital to have the adequate expertise or the gaming idea will never succeed.

Deciding On How To Use A Game In Learning

Games can be used in learning for:

  • Assessments
  • Simulations
  • The entire course content

In the future, games may be applied in various other ways. However, the above formats are often the favorite of many learning professionals.

It is far easier to blend game-based simulations and assessments as part of learning than delivering the entire course in the gaming format. So, you have to make the wise choice based on all the criteria mentioned earlier.

Game-Based Assessments

Weaving games into assessments is the easiest approach to using games for learning. This approach will not have an adverse effect on the overall budget or the learning strategy. It is quite easy to throw in a game and add the immersive element to the learning.

Before deciding on using a game for an assessment, you need to ask the following standard questions:

  • Is the content suitable for a game-based assessment?
  • Is the game relevant to the assessment?
  • Will the game enhance the learning impact?
  • Does the game-based assessment map to the relevant learning objective?
  • Will the game involve a massive programming effort?
  • Is the game simple enough to play and effective enough to test the learning objective?

After obtaining the answers to the above questions, you should take the following step-by-step approach to build the game-based assessment:

  1. Identify the objective and related content that is suitable for the game-based assessment.
  2. Research on the appropriate game to use. Ensure that you choose a game that is:
    • Easy to play
    • Easy to understand
    • Effective for reinforcement
  3. Analyze how the game needs to be modified for the purpose of the assessment.
  4. Consult the programmer about how much programming efforts are needed and what kind of modifications would help minimize programming complexities.
  5. Write the game-based assessment as a part of the storyboard and obtain necessary approvals.
  6. Coordinate with the media developers and programmers to ensure the game-based assessment meets the conceptual requirements.

Game-Based Simulations

Simulations can easily be blended into games for the purpose of learning. The challenge here is to create a virtual environment that will meet the objectives of gaming and guided practice.
Game-based simulations are often used for various high-level strategizing such as practicing for army combats, mechanical design etc.

For the purpose of learning, it is wise to choose game-based simulations that are simple and easy to play. An effective game-based simulation offers the following distinct advantages:

  • They allow the learner to work towards a concrete goal by choosing the actions that lead them to the goal. In the process, the learner also faces the consequences of the mistakes, if any, and gets the opportunity to correct the mistakes. Therefore, the learner gains knowledge of all the actions required to perform a task through trial and error.
  • Since, the learner practices crucial concepts in a risk-free setting, he/she has the liberty to try the activity multiple times and gather important ‘lessons learned’ that will help him/her face real-life scenarios more easily.
  • Game-based simulations, when combined with hands-on training, result in very successful learning experiences. Many institutes that teach driving use virtual simulations along with actual practice sessions on the road. When simulations are given the immersive experience of gaming and then followed up with hands-on practice, the learning is enhanced and reinforced manifolds.

Game-based simulations can prove to be very expensive, which implies that it is important to analyze the extent of programming, research, and investments. Also, be sure to ask all the other pertinent questions regarding relevance to learning, enhancement of learning impact etc. before deciding on using a game for the purpose of learning simulations.

Game-Based Course

Very few corporate subjects lend themselves to a complete game-based course. If a decision is made to develop the course in a completely game-based approach, it is important to obtain the following without fail:

  • Client consensus
  • Budget approvals
  • Time and effort approvals

Having obtained the above approvals, research for a game using the following evaluation parameters:

  • Can the game sustain the entire course curriculum?
  • Can the game be played without making the content frivolous?
  • Can the game and the content be structured at different levels of complexity for the learner to progress from one level to another?
  • Can the game be built on a story/theme that makes the gaming activity interesting?
  • Can the game be played without any other elaborate built-in instructional content for the learners?

Plan for a parallel iterative development that gives room for corrections ‘on the go’. This approach might prevent a number of review rounds of the storyboards by the client because it is difficult to visualize game-based course content based on the storyboards alone. A developed, though unfinished course gives a far better understanding of the content, navigation, and functionality of the course.


Games are here to stay as long as it is human nature to want fun while learning, rise up to challenges, work towards goals, and compete with others. If you want to get your game right, go ahead and get the answers to all the questions that will build up to a successful game.