Game Design and Learning Theory

I just read Daniel Cook’s article on Gamasutra, The Chemistry of Game Design. He uses the metaphor of alchemy to describe the way that game designers work: “We are still alchemists of our trade, mixing two parts impure story with one part polluted game play with three parts market voodoo.” He then goes on to codify a model for game design based on units he calls “skill atoms.” Each skill atom describes how an action by the player (press a button) results in a change in the computer simulation that is communicated to the user in the form of feedback (avatar jumps), which gives the player a sense of pleasure in learning a skill (“I can jump!”).

It’s a great article and a great model. What really blows my mind is that, to me, what he is describing is learning theory. The skill atoms describe learning goals, and the steps within are like the rubric in a lesson plan. Cook describes how these skill atoms are chained together to make a skill chain that defines the game. Well, that’s how learning standards for different grade levels are established!

Learning theory, education, and gaming theory are totally interconnected.

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