Applying Instructional Design Framework to Game Design

Applying Instructional Design Framework to Game Design:
A Scholarly Critique to “Preparing Instructional Designers for Game-Based Learning: Part 2”  (Hirumi,

Scholarly Critique #5

I selected this study because it addresses game-based learning from instructional design point of view. Many studies and research papers discuss game-based learning as part of schools curriculum, in terms of policy changes and shifts in trends. Others emphases on the relationship between game-based learning and cognition of learners or the impact of game-based learning on the learner’s success. My interest in this particular article was prompted by curiosity to further explore the connection between instructional design frameworks and practices and the implementation of such into game-based learning environment.

Learning is conceptualized from the lenses of current instructional design (ID) practices and the limitations of ID to the demands and scope of learning in different modes. The authors criticize the narrow scope of ID in terms of application to complex, non-traditional experiential modes in learning environments such as video games, augmented and virtual worlds, etc. Instead, it is suggested that the focus of ID should be transition to Designing Instructional Experiences (throughout the article the concept is also presented as Designing Instructional Environments). This transition according to the authors is only possible if instructional designers acquire literacy in domains such as audio and video production, 3D graphics developments, programming, pattern analysis, etc. Such literacies are described as necessary in achieving balance between the current ID gaps and the new instructional experiences. However, there are several flaws in this claim. These flaws derive from the limited perspective on the field of instructional design and second, the role of instructional designers. As I agree that technical literacy is of essence to any professional, it is impossible to agree that every ID should be a trained graphic designer, a programmer, etc. The argument of the authors that the current ID practices do not align with the demands of the technologically complex environment is also questionable. I do agree that instructional designers need to take the consideration of the delivery mode into account . This, however, doesn’t mean that the environment should be a leading factor in design. Solid instructional design should not be tool dependent. Whether ID strategy is developed for a virtual simulation or augmented reality, the principle of ID should apply to both. Thus, factors should be audience analysis, outcomes, assessments, etc. in terms of design along with application of learning theories.

Further on, an argument is developed about the need of for he IDs to closely work with and collaborate with developers of games, creators of virtual environments and so. In the lights of this argument, the necessity for increased relevance of literacies is valid. Instead of Ids developing instructional products and handing them of for implementation, the development process should be a collaborative activity where IDs continue to work with game developers, and so on.

The most interesting argument of the article is that Gagne’s events of instruction, a widely used framework by IDs, is useless when it comes to game design. I could not disagree more. Gagne’s events of instructions or conditions for learning in the particular context can be summarized as: priming the learner, present information, provide guidance, practice the information, receive feedback, take assessment, transfer the learning into real life. Here is how each of the events occur in game design: First, the game player is usually primed about the game prior to begin. This is accomplished by short, visual, very exciting game trailer. It serves the purpose to grab the attention, informs about the game and invokes recall of prior similar game playing experiences. Each game design process starts with storyboard and includes a storyline or some sort of narrative reinforced during the play of the game. This narrative is the Information event. Guidance is met with instructions. Prior to beginning the game, players are exposed to instructions on how the game is played, and what are the objectives of the game. The Practice event is built in throughout the entire game. No game just ends after the first try without allowing the player to ever play again. Feedback event is the most complexly embedded mechanism in game design. Each video game has feedback loops of enforcing positive and negative feedback. Example: The Guardian Legend provides access to a special extra gameplay mode where the player is awarded power-ups. The conditions for assessment and evaluation are presented in every design of action/adventure, first-person shooter game where the player is assessed and evaluated using variety of strategies and techniques. These can be precision levels on shooting at targets, and different performance indicators. Lastly, the transfer condition for learning is also embedded into game designs. Accuracies for designing 3D environments considering historical, architectural or terrain facts and elements play major role into the design of a game with the intention of transferability. An example is the current ongoing design and development of Battalion 1944 video game. The game designers specifically targeted the accuracies in designing the weapons used during the WWII, the characteristics of the terrain and so on in order to achieve transferability of certain skills and knowledge.


Hirumi, A. et. al. 2010. Preparing Instructional Designers for Game-Based Learning: Part 2. TechTrends 54(4)