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The Current State of Educational Game Development

In this article, game designer Sande Chen reaches out to educational game developers to help her understand the issues hindering further adoption of game-based learning. Please take my survey!

[This article originally appeared on Game Design Aspect of the Month under the topic of Game-Based Learning.]
 
10 years ago, David Michael and I wrote a book called Serious Games: Games That Educate, Train, and Inform.   We were very excited to learn about these interesting projects that ranged from subversive art games to Unreal mods to conquer phobias.  Our article, "Proof of Learning: Assessment in Serious Games," has been cited in numerous papers and books.  We have even had the introductory chapter of the book translated in Chinese and published in one of China's local game development magazines.

This summer, I have been undertaking a research project to understand the current state of educational game development.  I want to discover if the issues we reported in our book are still plaguing developers and if any new challenges have arisen.  I do know that the Department of Education has recently released its Ed Tech Developer's Guide and that half of its SBIR portfolio now consists of educational games.  Educational technology investments have been skyrocketing and according to Ambient Insights, revenues generated by consumers of game-based learning products were around 328 million in 2014.

But, as edSurge notes in this recent article, "Education Technology Deals Reach $1.6 Billion in First Half of 2015," numbers can be misleading. That's because educational technology could also mean backend administrative software or a photo sharing app.  They're not necessarily games.  Moreover, money spent by schools that you'd think is being spent on innovative educational games may actually be going to interactive blackboards.  Even the numbers for game-based learning may be more reflective of language learning programs and brain trainers like Luminosity than educational games for the classroom.

To be sure, all of this is complicated, but you can help me understand what's going on by circulating my survey to educational game developers.  My hope is that the research will bring about policy recommendations, specifically to non-profit organizations, schools and government agencies.  I am also conducting one-on-one interviews, so if you're an educational game developer who'd like to be interviewed, please let me know.

Here's the survey link:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/D2FBCKV

August 14 update: I've closed the survey for now but am still seeking intervews with educational game developers.

August 18 update:  I am in the process of moving the survey to another provider.

Sept 3 update: Survey active!  If you are an educational game developer and haven't yet responded to the previous survey on Qualtrics, please do so at the SurveyMonkey one.


Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.

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