A guest blog piece from Scott Hewitt of Real Projects, a true exponent of Game Based learning.

Are you using Game Based Learning in your elearning projects? Have you thought about how you could use it in your organisation? Are you an instructional designer who is looking for something new for your next course design?

I regularly met people who think that you can only use game based learning in game based learning projects! There are many ways that you can use game design and game theory in elearning projects. You can use elements of game design in your projects without it becoming a Game Based Learning project. I’m going to share with you some of ways that I use Game Based Learning and Game Theory in my elearning projects and how you could use it.

Get Some Inspiration!

Play some computer games! If you have a smart phone or mobile device like an iPad it is easier then ever to download games from an App store, you can download many games for free.

Download a range of games – not just games that you think that you would like! Pick from a range of genres and spend some time playing the games trying to pick out what you like and don’t like. After a while start thinking about things like interface design, music, colours, screen layout, content layout, game progression and in game feedback.

After you have you played the games for a while to start to think about the game in more detail. Here are some questions that I ask:

How did the game provide user feedback?

Was it easy to progress at the start of the game?

Was the interface intuitive?

Did the game allow me to fail and learn?

Did the gameplay allow me to explore and learn more?

What happened when I failed?

What happens when I quit?

What happens when I restart?

Am I allowed to navigate freely?

Are there are a set of challenges for me to achieve?

Look at how game designers are using music to develop mood throughout a game – could you apply this to your elearning course?

I have an interest in navigation and menu systems, I look at how game designers are using menu systems to allow users to navigate through the game and also through the game options. How do you currently navigate in your elearning courses? Can you apply elements of game design to improve your elearning course? Do they use a hub system? Are they linear?

Production Techniques

Have you heard of M.V.P. (Minimum_viable_product) and fast prototyping? Small game development teams are using these techniques and utilising marketplaces like the app store to test and measure their products.

How do you test your courses during the development phase? Do you just wait until you’ve developed the entire course before getting feedback?  Look at how mobile development teams are using prototyping apps like Proto. Could you apply these production techniques to your elearning team? Would this improve the quality of your courses? Could you get feedback from your client and learners faster?

Apply Game Theory To Your Instructional Design

There are lots of elements of game design and game theory that you could add to your instructional design tool kit!  Game Designers are interested in design areas like:

Content immersion


Knowledge acquisition


How quickly do you allow learners move through your courses? Do you ‘lock’ elements of content? What do you do if learners don’t pass a test? Do you allow learners the ability to fail and learn? When you play a game do you notice that you can try things repeatedly? What did you do in the game if you got stuck – was there a hint?

Not Sure About Game Based Learning – Use A Mini Game?

If you are not sure about Game Based Learning then think about the use of a mini game. You can develop this as a standalone resource or integrate within a course. It is a great way of testing whether game based learning would work within your organisation. I suggest that you try two or three games so that you’ve got a few resources to measure. You might want to do some A/B testing, If you are new to A/B testing check out the ultimate guide to A/B testing


Game Based Learning can be used in many ways from mini games to elearning projects. If you are an instructional designer you can add game theory to your instructional design mix to bring a new freshness to your courses! If you are a project manager you can look at new production techniques like Minimum Viable Product and Fast Prototyping. If you are a graphic designer you can look and get inspiration from the new interface and menu designs being used.

Take some time to look at computer games to see what game designers are creating; it is a great way to get inspiration for your own projects. You can easily apply game theory to your elearning projects.

Do you use game theory in your elearning projects? Do you think that you could apply elements of game design in your instructional design? What elements from game design do you think would work in your courses?

About the author: Scott Hewitt is the founder of Real Projects, an elearning company that helps companies create innovative elearning solutions. Scott’s favourite computer game is Bubble Bobble – released in 1986 – a classic.