Towards a better games rubric

I’m really taken with this educational games evaluation rubric from Sacramento State, not only because it helped me specify a lot of my thinking about what makes a great game, but because I think it’s well-crafted as an online tool teachers could use to quickly score a video game for potential use in their classrooms. From this rubric, I distilled the following seven personal criteria:

1. Design Quality (an amalgam of the 3 Instructional Design and Delivery criteria): Students consume more and better games than I can dream of, and I want them to be captivated by the quality of the presentation in a way that translates to “the design does not interfere with the player’s desire to progress toward the goal — in either a bad way or good”. Clearly stated directions for gameplay; graphics that don’t cause students to die of mocking laughter but also don’t stun them into silent, still contemplation of each scene; transparent in-game navigation; a compelling reward for game completion.

2. Feedback: students should be able to ascertain whether they have executed an in-game challenge to an acceptable level with immediate, unambiguous feedback. Not knowing whether you’ve done a thing correctly deters player interest and progression.

3. A Hinting System: asking for help should always be an option and never, ever be penalized. It’s a fundamental life skill and I judge hidden object games which dock you points for using the hint button very, very harshly.

4. Collaborative Accessibility (A Social Aspect): in ARIS, as a player, you nearly always have the ability to leave other players or the game designers themselves feedback on the game by submitting a text, audio or video note. You can read and comment on other players’ notes. Sometimes this is a required element to either complete the game or earn an in-game badge. I like that this system encourages student voice and collaboration. I would score this via the Interaction table of the CSUS rubric.

5. Ties to Common Core: As McGonigal repeatedly points out, games have a great deal of potential for real-world applicability, and in a classroom I would want something concrete I could tie this to. So if I’m giving a student a hidden object game, I want to be able to point out that it adequately addresses Vermont Common Core Standard 2.e, appropriate word use. Or that I’ve chosen one particular hidden object game because it makes players search for three bows in one scene: a ribbon, an archery implement and a cello accessory (VT 4.1.g).

6. Enjoyability: because if it’s not fun, students won’t be motivated to do it.

7. Reproducibility: one of the most powerful ideas games can present is the challenge to a player to improve upon the original. Whether it’s a D&D sourcebook, which gives players one map of a forest (of doom) and encourages them to write/speak many paths through it, or Viqua Games Build Your Own Hidden Object platform, a really superlative game inspires you to create. Games built on open-source or reproducible platforms provide a means for students to harness their enthusiasm and creative energy in building better games. Or in gamerspeak, “p0wning” the previous generation.

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