Over the past 20 years, instructional designers in the Learning Games Lab at New Mexico State University have developed a design model for game development that brings researchers, educators, and game developers together throughout the design process. Using this approach, game developers and content experts (a) work collaboratively to ensure educational goals and outcomes are appropriate for the learner and the learning environment, (b) immerse themselves in both content and game design, and (c) test extensively throughout development with members of the target audience. In this chapter, the authors describe the model as it was used in development of several math games during a four-year development cycle for the Math Snacks project. They discuss the implications of this approach for the creation of other educational games or suites of games and share recommendations for expansion of the model to other developers.
Educational games are fundamentally different from games created to “entertain.” While most game developers want educational games to be entertaining to attract and retain the target audience, these games are meant to create lasting behavior or knowledge change that will outlive the gaming experience. Yet, there is an explicit concern that efforts to promote effective design models for creating educational video games are lacking (Bjork & Holopainen, 2005; Shafer et al., 2005). As Salen and Zimmerman (2006) mentioned, game designers or design teams have unique processes to elaborate video games; however, little is offered in the literature regarding instructional design models for creating video games with educational purposes (Watson, 2007), or what literature calls serious games (Kankaanranta & Neittaanmaki, 2009), epistemic games (Shafer et al., 2005), or instructional games (Hirumi et al., 2010a). This may be because the design of these types of games is a complex process (Gunter et al., 2008; Hirumi et al., 2010b; Murphy et al., 2011). While game designers or design teams offer distinctive approaches to video game development, the relevance of an iterative design process in video game creation is undeniable (Adams & Rollings, 2007; Bates, 2004; Salen & Zimmerman, 2004, 2006).