Books: Design your our games and activities.
Design Your Own Games and Activities: Thiagi’s Templates for Performance Improvement, by Sivasailam Thiagarajan.
Tell me and I’ll forget;
Show me and I may remember;
Involve me and I’ll understand.
As a university lecturer, I have often thought how much of teaching is actually game design. A lot of what I do is design activities to provide certain kinds of experience for my students. And while fun is not the primary goal of these activities, every teacher knows the importance of making exercises engaging and entertaining.
With this in mind, I went looking for books which addressed the design of such activities. If teachers have been doing it for generations, surely someone has stopped and asked how to do it well? There seem to be endless books cataloguing class exercises others have designed for one purpose or another, but I have found very little work that analyses why these exercises work and how new exercises might be designed.
In my search, this book caught my eye. Both the title and the publisher’s blurb (“The most highly acclaimed authority on games for performance improvement shares his game-building secrets.”) promise to teach you how to design your own games, and maybe let you in on some of the ideas behind their function.
Sadly, it is not so. What you get is 30 or so briefly-described ‘template’ games. which you can fill out with your own material. There is no discussion of learning theory or design principles. There is just “add your topic material here”. Thiagi’s secrets are still his own.
So while this book is a disappointment, I am still hopeful that someone out there in the education community has given deep thought to this popular idea. This is one of the thing that fascinates me about game design: it has been going on “undercover” in many different disciplines — math, psychology, education, interaction design — and each field has its own insights to contribute, if only we can track them down. In this case I have been frustrated, but the quest continues.