6 Things Video Games Can Teach You About Writing Engaging Learning Scenarios
Inspiration for writing e-learning scenarios can come from a variety of sources such as books, movies, and TV shows, but at the end of the day video games may provide the deepest well of ideas. While not every game has fully developed characters or a gripping plot, the ones that do can be a great source of innovation for e-learning scenarios. From the way you interact with the experience to the approaches used to write interesting and immersive stories, there’s so much shared DNA between games and learning scenarios. And it makes sense because they both have a similar goal: to find interesting ways to challenge their audience and help them improve their skills.
Here are a few of the most helpful scenario-writing insights from the world of video games transferred into instructional design research.
1. An engrossing plot is better than high-end graphics
When you think about creating exciting scenarios, you might worry about not having the skills or resources to make cutting-edge visuals. Will it fall flat if the characters and setting don’t look photorealistic? Do you need to have a huge budget to make top-notch, custom graphics? Thankfully, video games have a answer: a resounding no! When it comes to scenario-based games, it’s been proven repeatedly that the story you tell often matters more to players than your graphics. Now, this isn’t to say your scenario’s aesthetics are meaningless – it’s more that if you have a limited amount of time and resources, it’s best to focus on crafting the story and keep the look and feel simple.
2. It’s less fun when the right decision is obvious
A common mistake in many learning scenarios is that it’s incredibly easy to guess what the best conversation or decision option is. Maybe it’s longer than the other choices, or the wording is strangely formal. Or perhaps the weaker options are so terrible that anyone would know they were a bad idea. When it doesn’t take much thinking to identify the correct choice, it quickly becomes boring. Instead, it’s better to give your audience challenging yet realistic decisions to ponder. Things that make them think hard about what the best option could be. difficulty gives those choices weight, drawing players into the story to evaluate their options and see what happens as a result. By using this approach in your scenarios, you can take full advantage of a significant strength of this format: making people think deeply about challenging situations.
3. Make sure your learners have enough information to succeed
On the other side of the pendulum, you don’t want to make a scenario frustratingly difficult either. There are training scenarios where learners aren’t given enough information to make informed decisions. For instance, sometimes they’re expected to act on content or character details that haven’t been shared with them. And when the only way to get the right answer is a lucky guess, learners tend to feel annoyed or tune out. This also happens quite frequently in video games – you stumble around every inch of the game environment trying to figure out what it is exactly you need to do in order to progress. These issues often result from learning professionals or game developers not realising that what’s obvious for them as creators isn’t nearly as apparent to a player entering this world for the first time. Therefore you’ll want to keep track of what information you’ve shared with learners (and when) as you plan out your scenario. Another good way to catch these issues is to have people who didn’t create the scenario test it out, as they can point out where things might still be unclear.
4. Think about the subtle ways you can give learners feedback
Most people are familiar with the basic methods older games used to communicate how well (or badly) you were doing: points and lives. And while these approaches are still used in many games today, story-based games often use more subtle and realistic signals instead. And think about it, what feels more woven into a scenario: an on-screen notification that you just gained 100 points or the character you’re talking to smiling at what you just said? One of the best video game genres to see this kind of story-based feedback is one you might not immediately spring to mind: dating simulations. Since the gameplay revolves around interpersonal communication, they’re a wealth of ideas for subtly signalling progress. Some games in the genre have characters use body language to signal how they feel about your conversation choices, and you’re given different dialogue options depending on whether you’re connecting with a character or irritating them. Subtle feedback like this is more like real-life situations, making for a more realistic experience for your learners.
5. Make dialogue sound conversational
One thing that can quickly take conversations in a scenario from useful to unintentionally hilarious is awkward wording. When it’s noticeably different from how people actually talk, it can easily pull people out of a story. And when those speech patterns are also stilted and formal—a common issue in training scenarios—that further removes the experience from the real world. Video games have fantastic examples of just how bad this can get. Many older games are infamous for clunky writing, whether due to bad translations or too little thought put into the dialogue. But over the years, improvements in game writing (and voice acting) have shown how getting these things right can elevate the experience. So what’s the best way to avoid clunky 90s video game dialogue in your scenarios? Read your script out loud as you’re drafting it. If it sounds weird as you say it, that’s a good sign that it could use reworking.
6. Don’t make it more fun to make bad decisions than good decisions
It can be amusing as you’re writing to make the less desirable choices funny or over the top. Maybe your worst dialogue options are the snarky things people always wish they could say to rude customers. Or perhaps you hide Easter eggs in the experience that unlock silly bonus endings. Now, these choices aren’t in and of themselves wrong. But if you end up making it more enjoyable to do all the wrong things rather than use your scenario for practice, you can’t be surprised if your learners choose amusement over work. Fun is a crucial part of what makes game-like experiences like scenarios so engaging. Just make sure that most of the fun serves to reinforce the project’s learning goals.
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Adapted by Rob Ewart
Original Article – 6 Things Video Games Can Teach You About Writing Engaging Scenarios