Replace Words with Actions

7Although some of us are nostalgic for times gone by, we no longer live in the Wild West of text-based games like Oregon Trail. We found that when people play games today, they don’t read text; they want just to “figure it out.” Therefore, you should not rely on words to tell the story. Instead, use motion, interaction, and as Neil Long puts it, “Use mise-en-scene—the art of telling the story through the environment—to add detail to your narrative without being completely explicit.”

In our game, we used a visual map similar to a flowchart to prime the players on what game to expect. We then used a single speech bubble coupled with animated arrows to reinforce the message. Minimizing text means there are fewer problems with text orientation, which was a unique challenge of the large four-sided table.

From reading urban planning manuals to playing SimCity, people enjoy learning in many different ways. Experts like Jim Gee and David Shaffer agree that games enhance learning through role-playing events—real or fantasy—that players can’t experience in their own lives.

We wanted psychiatrists to walk away with two key messages: that two different molecules need to bind a normal functioning receptor to start a neural impulse, and that in schizophrenia this receptor functions improperly. To communicate these ideas, we made the main actions in the game “flicking” the two different types of molecules toward the receptor and “flicking” the gray abnormal receptor off the membrane.

Educational Games: Ten Design Tips for Immersive Learning Experiences

1Games have become the go-to technology for creating engaging and educational experiences. They have popped up online, in schools, in museums, at large corporate events, and at conferences. User experience designers are now facing the challenge of designing optimal gaming experiences in all of these new contexts.

People playing a game around a table surface.

A major pharmaceutical company tasked us with building a video game to teach attendees at an international psychiatry conference about the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. In case the complexity of the topic wasn’t enough, we also had to make the experience fun and engaging in a space filled with interesting exhibits, all competing for attention.

Our solution involved a series of short, interconnected games that took a new spin on both quiz- and action-style games (see Figure 1). Following the game’s success at the conference, we were inspired to share ten tips that we believe can help UX designers build blockbuster biomedical games.