At its most powerful, education harnesses our natural curiosity as human beings to understand the universe and everything in it. This week on the blog, we’re exploring what it means to actually reach into knowledge – and why developers are at the forefront of how the next generation is learning about the world they live in.

Yesterday, we saw how Gamedesk brought a suite of cutting-edge kinesthetic learning games to life, including two Leap Motion games that introduce students to plate tectonics and continental drift. Here are some essential insights that we gleaned from their recent white paper that every educational game developer should know.

Hard Problems Need Creative Solutions

What are the toughest things for students to understand? Gamedesk decided to focus on geology because geological events take place on a massive scale and over long periods of time. Find a subject where the core concepts can be difficult to grasp – that’s where you’ll make the biggest difference.

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Narrative Structure

Storytelling is one of humanity’s oldest pastimes, and stories play a major role in how we understand the world. Your game experience should make it easy to weave facts together into a story.

Explicit Goals and Rules

Every game needs a framework of goals and rules so that players know what’s possible, and have an intuitive sense of how to continue. Make sure they can get into the flow with the right goals, obstacles, and expectations.

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Consistent Indications of Progress

Points, badges, victorious sound effects – make sure your users feel that they’re breaking new ground in your game with an achievement system.

Intuitive Ramping Structures

The best games make learning how to play the game part of the game itself. Start with the most basic motion interactions (like grabbing a puzzle piece) and work your way up to more complex combinations (like grabbing, twisting, and releasing to move the piece into place).

Elegant Scaffolding Systems

Don’t throw your players in the conceptual deep end. Start with fundamental concepts and build on learned content. Players should feel like their newly acquired knowledge is helping them progress through more difficult stages. Gamedesk’s GeoMoto starts with basic knowledge about tectonic plates before moving into different types of faults.

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Include Followup Questions

How can you tell if your game increased your players’ knowledge of the world? Whether you’re including a lesson plan or just want to quiz players at different stages, questions can lead to a sense of achievement while locking in the lessons.

Test, Iterate, Test

At every stage of development, it’s important to rapidly test and iterate on every component of your game. Start with small, personal, one-on-one tests and then build your way up to see how your game will perform in the wild.

Want to see these ideas in action – complete with lesson plans and resources for educators? Download Pangean and Geomoto free from Gamedesk’s website and read their white paper.

Alex is the head writer and blog editor at Leap Motion, where he stands as the final bulwark against bad grammar. Want to share your Leap Motion project? Email acolgan@leapmotion.com or PM leapmotion_alex on Reddit.

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