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How to Develop Edutainment Software that is Entertaining

Wonder why developers keep rolling out those awful educational games that look like they were designed by amateurs? Educational games, known as ...

How to Develop Edutainment Software that is Entertaining article provided by wikiHow. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

Dull, dated edutainment software
Dull, dated edutainment software

Wonder why developers keep rolling out those awful educational games that look like they were designed by amateurs? Educational games, known as "Edutainment", are typically purchased by school districts, teachers, and parents because of their educational value. However, many edutainment titles suffer greatly when it comes to gameplay and entertainment.

Here's how to develop edutainment titles that actually excel both as an educational tool, and as a form of entertainment.

edit Steps

  1. 1
    Evaluate the existing market. School staff and faculty, and parents are your target consumers, but students are your intended audience. It isn't easy to balance the two inside of one product, but it is certainly not impossible. The target consumers often purchase titles based upon a school's history with a specific title, word of mouth, and their observation of students who use the software. Students will often ask for software based purely on its entertainment factor.
  2. 2
    Define requirements. What subject will the software cover? Is it intended as a teaching aid, or a teaching replacement? How complex is the subject, and how will this affect injecting it into a form of entertainment?

    • Identify grade level. Most grade school academics are relatively easy to include in edutainment titles without detracting from their educational value, where as subjects covered in middle school and high school are much more difficult. Edutainment publishers will often sell software with specific, pre-defined categories of grade levels (ie: 4th to 5th grade).
    • Specify educational goals. For core sciences such as physics or math, what lessons should be taught inside your software? If you define clear educational goals early, you'll be able to focus more on the actual entertainment portion of the software as it accomplishes those goals.
    • Set your standards early in the development cycle. Consult educational professionals for acceptable grade levels and subjects, but be weary of generalizations and stereotypes.
    • Determine level of interactions. Some subjects such as reading, require less interaction, while others require much more. Interaction for an edutainment title that focuses on math is particularly important. For subjects that require less interaction, focus on creating software that creates an increased level of involvement. It is naturally easy to create more entertaining math software because of this interaction. For subjects requiring less, balance the ability to teach with the need to keep students engrossed within the software.
  3. 3
    Watch out for taboos. Be careful when including controversial topics or situations in edutainment titles. What is acceptable for one school may be seen as offensive at another. Keep in mind the geography of your target consumers, and their values. What works in the UK and Europe may not fly too well in the United States, and what works in public schools, may be offensive in private schools.
  4. 4
    Design with entertainment value in mind. With the academics of the software well defined, focus on making an interactive experience that draws students into the game. For example, a title that teaches physics could be modeled so that it would be necessary to solve physics equations in order to design in-game weapons and defenses to use in a tactics-oriented title.

    • Don't insult the player's intelligence. Students will grow tired with any software that isn't challenging enough to keep them guessing.
    • Avoid slow-moving stories and interrupted game play. Students will often use this software during a class or study period, so their time is limited. Shoot for a title that can be entertaining and educational within a 30 minute period of time. Utilize real-time or quick turn-based game play whenever possible, but avoid software that requires button mashing.
    • Keep the software dynamic. One style of entertainment or game play does not suit everyone. Some students may be simply fascinated with simulation games such as Civilization, while others can barely stay focused on something that doesn't require some action. If you're developing a simulation or other turn-base title, add mini-games to break up the monotony of this style.
    • Make the story entertaining. Add a little of all story elements to keep the player guessing. A little suspense, mystery, adventure, and plot twists will turn a dull story into an entertaining and involved experience.
    • Produce appropriate graphics, sound, and music tracks. Each edutainment genre and grade level is haunted by a stereotypical style. This doesn't justify the need to utilize low-quality midi music in grade-school software, nor does it justify extremes such as including rap music. Gauge the appropriate style of media for the title, but stretch the stereotypes to be creative and entertaining.