Game Development: A Designer Perspective

As a second semester, part-time student enrolled in the Master of Science in Instructional Technology program at Bloomsburg University, I recently completed a course named “Gamification”, taught by Dr. Karl Kapp. Structured in a weekly online environment, our class was granted access to use the highly engaging cloud-based eLearning platform mLevel to enhance our course learning. After receiving an email permitting administrator level access to create games, view tutorials and much more, full reign was granted to explore the program. Special guest Jordan Fladell, mLevel CEO, joined our class one evening, offering insight and answering student’s questions. He made himself available for post-lecture support as we discovered the power of mLevel on our own.

Dr. Kapp assigned our class the task of developing learning activities using mLevel, with the opportunity to share the projects and experiences with classmates during a lecture several weeks later. As with any open-ended class assignment, the hardest part is determining the topic and the content. In my professional role, working for a NJ State Assemblyman, I am required to complete annual online Legislative Code of Ethics training modules. The training entails 45 minutes of monotone audio, followed by multiple-choice questions. The challenge to develop engaging activities from static content was a natural choice for me. As a student relatively new to eLearning, with no experience building a game, I was concerned about what I was going to be able to produce. As I immersed myself in the tutorials and information available, I quickly cast aside my fear and was pleasantly surprised at what I was able to accomplish.

Administrator access to mLevel allowed me to select from several game choices, or “missions”, integrating questions into the activity. Directions were easy to follow to get started. I had the option of writing a pool of questions or generate excel spreadsheet-type input that would automatically create questions from the information. Due to the content in the ethics code, writing my own questions made most sense. This, I found, was the most difficult part. Dr. Kapp often said that writing good questions is not an easy task, and I certainly proved him right as I labored over the legal subject matter I had to use. Once I had generated a large number of game questions, I moved on to integrating them into the missions I chose.

The first one I selected is “Shape Escape”. This interactive collecting game entailed navigating inside an orb, collecting dots and answering questions to earn points, while trying to avoid being destroyed by enemy shapes. All before the minute-and-a-half time on the clock reaches zero. I input the required number of game questions necessary to generate the activity into the designated area. Initially, I had some trouble figuring out exactly how that space worked, but through some trial and error, I found success and the game was ready to be played. The fast action necessary to avoid the enemies in order to gain access to the question dots was a challenge, but I was able to gain mastery and earn my stars. The second eLearning activity I created was “Fast Lane”, a race and escape game I used to quiz the user on NJ State trivia. I gathered fun facts and information I found conducive to selecting this mission. The game question setup was somewhat similar to Shape Escape. I was a master at inputting questions into the designated space by this time, so I quickly entered the information and my second mission was complete.

I was amazed at what I was able to create in a short period of time using the tools and support available. The ability for the learner to score points, level up, achieve leaderboard presence and earn mLevel status made the games exciting. Additionally, the mLevel platform offered the learner the chance for “replay-ability” to gain mastery of the content. I recognized these game elements from what we had been studying in the Gamification course. The added analytics feature of mLevel provides invaluable information for the developer and I was able to easily determine which questions were the most difficult for the learner. Had this been a real world project, I would then be able to review and adjust, if necessary.

I am grateful to Jordan Fladell for the generous opportunity to use mLevel, and to Dr. Kapp for facilitating the collaboration to enrich and reinforce the Gamification course. Applying many of the game dynamics and elements learned during the semester to the less than exciting ethics code training quickly became an enjoyable learning experience.

Want to learn more about the interactive activities you can build using mLevel?