GAME Model: Goals

29 December 2011 3,744 views 3 Comments

Goals ActivitiesMechanicsEnvironment


This step of the GAME design process focuses on the instructional design aspect of educational game design. The first stage of any instructional design analysis should be to identify the learning goals for the project and to write up a list of specific instructional objectives. There are 4 steps to this process, represented by the acronym DATA:

  • Determine instructional needs – why do we need to create this game? What should players be able to do that currently are not?
  • Analyze learners – who will the players be and where will they be playing? Do they have any special learning considerations or characteristics?
  • Task analysis – what should players be able to do when they’ve mastered the game?
  • Assessment analysis – how will we know that players have acquired the necessary skill?

Determine instructional needs: Kiili’s (2005b) research found that successful educational game design should include clear goals for the player and provide unambiguous feedback. Writing a list of specific instructional objectives makes it easier for the game designer to provide clues to the player regarding game goals and sub-goals.

Analyze learners: An advantage of games is that gameplay is adaptable to player performance – challenges tend to increase as players progress through the game (Rogers, 2010). This adaptability is also key to creating – and maintaining – the feeling of “flow” that is central to the gaming experience by matching challenges to player skills (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991). Kiili (2005a) explains that the likelihood of achieving flow is based on the interplay between the player and game activities. Learner analysis is therefore a crucial component of educational game design so the designer knows what specific skills and skill levels for which to design gameplay.

Task analysis: Task analysis is the process of converting learning goals into a form that can guide the design process (Smith & Ragan, 2005). For each specific goal (and sub-goal) identified when determining instructional needs, the designer describes the physical and/or mental steps a player goes through in order to complete that goal. This results in a list of very specific actions that need to be incorporated into final gameplay.

Assessment analysis: Once it’s been determined what skills players are required to master, the game designer should decide how it will be determined that the player has acquired the necessary skills. What actions would show mastery in this specific case? A good game teaches the player how to play the game as they go along, without reading manuals or resorting to help files, and should provide enough help along the way to get players through then they get stuck (Prensky, 2007). When a game is designed well, mastering the game will equal mastering the skills involved in playing the game.

Next step: Designing Activities


Kiili, K. (2005a). Digital game-based learning: towards an experiential gaming model. The Internet and Higher Education, 8, 13–24.

Kiili, K. (2005b). On Educational Game Design: Building Blocks of Flow Experience. Doctoral dissertation, Retrieved December 25, 2011, from

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper Perennial.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Game-Based Learning. McGraw-Hill.

Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (2004). Instructional Design (3rd ed.). Wiley.

Van Eck, R. (2006). Digital Game-Based Learning: It’s not just the digital natives who are restless. Educause, March/April.

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  • David Gibson said:

    At this level, I see a possibility to map to How People Learn: Learners, Community, Assessment and Knowledge.

  • Lisi (author) said:

    David – that’s an excellent suggestion! The current draft of this framework doesn’t incorporate the community aspect of gaming, it’s an important component though.

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