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Video Games in eLearning

In a previous post, Brian talked about board games in training and why Chutes and Ladders is better than Jeopardy. Lately, my focus has been on eLearning, and occasionally I struggle to make the asynchronous training interactive and interesting. When this happens during my design process of an instructor-led training (ILT), I have often asked myself “Could this be a game?”.  While I find the design process of an eLearning to be very different than ILT design, I did sit back recently and asked myself a similar question about an eLearning module. This time, however, I asked myself “Could this be a video game?”

Simplified Video Games in eLearning

The idea of adding video games in eLearning is not as intimidating or expensive as it sounds. I am not suggesting you attempt to recreate Halo 2 in Storyline. Video games in eLearning should be simple little interactions that feel like you are in a game world. Select two or three game elements that these short interactions need to make it feel like a game. It is really about the style and feel of the game and not that your training functions exactly like the original game.

Simple games are the easiest to recreate. I find the original 8- or 16-bit games to work pretty well in training. I have also used a few modern games that have a simple format and are easy to recreate the look and feel. Let’s take a look a few ideas for eLearning video games.

Game Inspiration
Learning ObjectiveDesign ElementsApplication for training
Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros - Video Games in eLearning

Discover and correct…Increase of power when encountering positive elements.


Decrease of power when encountering negative elements.

Super Mario Brothers is a great learning from failure game. Within seconds of playing you learn mushrooms and coins are good and falling off cliffs and Koopa Troopas are bad.

In training, allow participants to discover elements that increase or decrease energy in some way. Allow lots of (if not infinite) room for failure with unlimited lives or an equivalent. The true strength of this format is the learning that happens when a mistake is made.

Angry Birds

Angry Birds - Video Games in eLearning


Describe the features that…Aim and launch objectsThe foundation of Angry Birds is to slingshot an angry bird at a group of pigs to destroy their structure.  Each color of bird has different launch properties.

If you are explaining features of a product or technology, swap the pigs out for whatever problem the features address, and swap the birds out for the features.

Minecraft or Zelda


Complete a task…Badging that builds to a completionIn Minecraft and Zelda, you collect things that you later use to complete something. In a training where completing two or more tasks is an objective, design inventories similar to Zelda or Minecraft.  Once the inventory reaches a certain threshold, the mission is complete.
Role Playing Games (RPG)

Battle for Wesnoth  World Map - Storytelling

Analyze…StorytellingI’ll admit that I haven’t played a lot of RPG games, but I have seen them in action. RPGs are basically a form of interactive storytelling.  In RPGs, players spend a lot of time exploring the land and asking questions of the locals.

In eLearning, allow participants time to explore an area, click on characters who give them information, and lead them to conclude the story on their own.


Have you incorporated video games in eLearning? Are you thinking of adding video games to training? I want to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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