With demand for remote and digital solutions growing in connection with recent events, many companies and schools are wondering how to make a game for kids that they will be able to enjoy on digital devices. It is not easy to make educational games for kids, but certainly doable with the right strategy.
If the game in question is meant to be experienced on a digital device (e.g. a computer or smartphone), you come face-to-face with the challenges of software development. If you are hoping to release a digital game, there are 2 ways to do it: 1) the easy way – order custom-made software; and 2) the hard way – build it yourself. We will examine the two different approaches and what each entails.
Getting Started with Educational Game Development
Before you set off on your journey of development and design, there are several things you should know and consider.
Choosing a platform
One of the first things to consider – how will users be able to access your software? Will it be a downloadable program on the computer, or an app running on a mobile device? Perhaps you will opt for the application to run on a website, or to be accessed with virtual or augmented reality. All of the platforms available have their own strengths and drawbacks.
For instance, a web program should be the most convenient for users, but will usually require the use of a large screen found on PCs or laptops, limiting the range of suitable devices. Desktop software is also a popular choice, but users may not want to go through a long download and install process typically associated with it. In regards to mobile software, though it should be convenient for users, you will be limited in the amount of content that you can fit in the app or content delivery will be highly dependent on a working internet connection.
Naturally, you always have the option to develop for multiple platforms at once or start with one and expand, but must keep in mind that this will require additional resources and time.
Choosing between custom and solo development
Depending on your decision about whether to build your application yourself or hire game developers to handle it, you can have drastically different timeframes and results. One of the biggest considerations here is whether you (or workers at your business) know coding and have experience with digital design and game development for kids. If you do, it should be feasible to develop an application just the way you want it, though the task might distract you from your main line of business and require new hires.
In contrast, if you have no experience with this kind of development and coding or lack the resources into building a complex and visionary program, you have 2 key options: 1) order a custom build from a capable company; or 2) build the application with a DIY (do-it-yourself) app maker.
Drawbacks of DIY
Unfortunately, the simplified DIY approach has several drawbacks that custom and experienced solo development lack. For example, DIY app makers tend to offer a limited number of design choices, so the user interface and menus tend to have minimal differences from one complete app to another.
Another common criticism of this approach is the limited number of features that you can implement. You only get the interaction & animation options that come with the app with no possibility to create your own. Finally, some app makers have a less-than-stellar reputation when it comes to data privacy, so users worry about confidential app data being intercepted and used beyond their app’s intended purposes.
What about custom design?
| Custom design is a clear winner of the two approaches, as it offers full freedom in creating the designs and features you want, as well as full control over who gets access to your project data. Certainly, this approach is not perfect or very inexpensive, but it is the most popular one available today. Nevertheless, we understand that not all businesses have the ability to invest in custom design or dedicate their time to it, so we will look over how the process takes place from both angles.
Top Educational Game Mechanics
One other key consideration for anyone looking to design a child game should be how the application works – does the user sit back and make choices every once in a while, actively respond to challenges, or work in a team to overcome obstacles? This is all determined by the mechanics you end up using in the program.
- Increasing difficulty
- Archive of knowledge
This mechanic is perfect for the consolidation of knowledge and also serves as a great way for children to cooperate. In a typical quiz format, the application will pose a question to the players, asking them to give an answer or choose from several options. The correct answer is then revealed right after the question or a round of questions, and the score is tallied. If there are any gaps in knowledge, kids can fill them through the corrections or by going through the quiz again.
Adding a timer to the tasks posed to children adds more stakes and excitement to the overall experience, so kids are more motivated to dig in the recesses of their minds and find the inklings they need to complete the tasks. Even if they fail to answer within the given timeframe, they will just be even more motivated to avoid the same fate the next time that they play.
You can implement all kinds of rewards into your application to make the experience as fulfilling as possible for the players. For example, succeeding in a task or level can unlock some hidden content or net the player some points. Sometimes, a leaderboard is added so that players can compare their results to others and get the satisfaction of outperforming their peers. In case you choose to implement a points system, it is recommended to also add virtual items and customizations that the points can be spent on.
Adding varying levels of difficulty is conducive to learning for several reasons. Firstly, they make it easier for children that are struggling to get information in an easier and more accessible form. Secondly, this mechanic does not discourage people from trying the platform – the levels can easily be adjusted, or presented in an easy-to-difficult progression.
As users progress through the different stages and levels of your application, it will be great if you could preserve the knowledge that they picked up. For example, you can implement an archive mechanic that will allow them to refer to accumulated knowledge as they tackle newer and more complex tasks. Alternatively, instead of outright presenting the information, you can add different tasks that will jog people’s memory and return to past lessons.
We also made a large research about mechanics used in hyper-casual games. Follow the link to compare them with the mechanics in educational games and know the difference.
Top Skills to Develop in Educational Games
Apart from imparting knowledge, learning games can also teach children essential skills and values that will serve them well later in life. Examples of such skills include:
- Critical thinking
- Risk management
Apps are a great medium for teaching strategy and critical thinking. In the early years of life, when the mind is still growing and developing, kids need to face mental challenges that force them to develop a strategy, and the kids are most open to such challenges when they are presented in a fun way.
It is not uncommon for learning applications to have some organizational elements. For example, when the player has to group several types of items together or collect resources and plan how they will be utilized. Adding such elements into your project can help develop essential organizing & planning skills that will come in handy later in life.
This one is quite straightforward, but apps that implement elements of collaboration can go a long way towards forming social bonds between children and teaching them the value of teamwork.
Life is all about making choices, so various scenarios throughout gameplay can teach about risk-taking and facing the consequences of the choices. Video game development for kids can integrate this type of content and leave a lasting impact on a person’s risk management skills.
Applications can serve as a convenient and unobtrusive medium for conveying important humanitarian messages. As an example, we can bring up the game “Don’t Mess With Texas”, which teaches about the harm of littering and how a community can be cleaned up. Players are so engrossed in the story that they hardly notice the deeper meaning being presented to them.
While empathy is present in most of us even from a very young age, this is a value that should be strengthened and developed over time so that children know how to treat the people around them with understanding, dignity, and respect.
Top Practices to Consider in Development
We have gathered some additional tips that might be helpful in making your project gain traction and appeal to kids.
Add elements of role-playing. In a story-driven game, it is great to feel some level of control over the events that transpire. Adding RPG elements will add to the replay value of your program and make users more motivated to try different approaches in it.
Leave room for creativity. If you let your app serve as a creative outlet for kids, you will be amazed at what they can accomplish. For example, you can add a feature that will let them design their own character/vehicle/object or build something, and they will show you the depths of their imagination.
Encourage different types of problem-solving. Another way to give an outlet to creativity is to give users the option to solve problems in different ways. For example, if their character is walking on the road and encounters a fallen tree, they can go around it, jump over, or cut up the tree and take timber with them.
Put the focus on fun. Though many kids certainly enjoy learning, they like having fun even more. Thus, if your app is predominantly focused on a fun experience with a bit of knowledge sprinkled in, it should be a success.
Minimize and transform boring details. When you need to deliver boring information to a young audience, the best way to do it is by transforming it and making it more dynamic. For example, statistics can be changed into graphs, obscure facts can be visualized in videos, and different characteristics can be changed into icons.
Top Software Used in Educational Game Design
|Solo (DIY) Designs||Custom (Professional) Design|
|1. TinyTap||1. Unity|
|TinyTap is an online platform for creating and playing educational games. It features over 150 thousand titles and has a simple interface for creators to use. The development process can take place both through the website and through the mobile version of the service, with releases also available to web and mobile users. At the start of development, users choose from different styles and layouts, before proceeding to add the bulk of their content. This content is distributed on slides, which can feature interactive elements like animations, answer boxes, typing prompts, and puzzles.||Unity is an engine used to develop various kinds of software. It has attained legendary status in the gaming community and is one of the go-to solutions of the modern developer. Using Unity, you can build software for over 25 platforms, including the standard options (web, mobile, desktop) and more exotic choices like VR headsets, consoles, and Smart TVs. The engine uses the C# coding language and supports most conceivable features you would want to add to a 2D/3D educational game.|
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|2. Kahoot||2. Unreal Engine|
|Kahoot is another major learning platform with a global presence. It features over 60 million unique projects, and is widely used by educators, entertainers, and even corporate workers. It all starts when someone creates a Kahoot (the title that people will be playing) which can be in the format of a quiz, discussion, or survey, which can be customized with selected text, images, music, and a point system for players. App development for kids can take place online or offline via desktop or mobile devices, though players will need access to the internet and a secret PIN code to enjoy the Kahoots you build.||Unreal Engine (sometimes shortened to UE) is another development engine with legendary status. The engine runs on C++ and is a very popular choice when it comes to developing console and PC titles. The current version of UE (4) already supports various advanced features and top-notch graphics, but the newest version (5) set to be released in 2021 will deliver even greater levels of realism. UE provides developers with a multitude of customization features (provided that they know C++) and a simpler visual scripting service called Blueprints for those who have not yet mastered the complex language.|
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|3. PurposeGames||3. Construct 3|
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|4. Scratch||4. Gamemaker|
|Scratch is a service created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and meant to make programming easy. Coincidentally, it is also one of the prime kids game development tools. The service features its own simple programming language and an abundance of supported gametypes, including 2D/3D sports, racing, RPG, adventure, and strategy. In contrast to other DIY apps, scratch gives a great degree of freedom in the design process, so users can do a lot with the software. Unfortunately, it still lacks advanced options like HD graphics and online matchmaking. The software is available in both online and offline versions, and free for anyone to use.||As the name suggests, this program is used to develop a variety of games. The software is downloadable for Windows and MacOS, and suitable for developing for Web, PC, Mobile, and several consoles. Among the many peculiarities of this software, it is worth mentioning the visual scripting system (through drag-and-drop mechanics), which makes it easy for new and inexperienced developers to implement the features they want in their project. It also appeals to experts due to the ability to code directly in an IDE (integrated development environment) and convert visual scripting into C# code within the IDE.|
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The software featured above is just a small collection of some of the best-known programs available for beginners and experts today. Besides the aforementioned software, you are free to choose any other suitable programs that will suit your business and development needs.
About Educational Game Development Services
If you go the route of asking a development company to build your application for you, you will certainly have many options to choose from. With hundreds of game studios open around the world, it can be difficult to make a choice, but you just need to look at the company’s experience and track record.
Game-Ace is a studio with over a decade of experience with various game projects, including educational games for kids. For example, we are the makers of the “Don’t Mess With Texas” game previously mentioned in the article as well as numerous other projects for kids and adults. We have one of the largest Unity development teams in Europe, which allows us to deliver projects quickly and with a high level of quality.
It is a pleasure and honor for us to create learning experiences for the younger generations, so if you have a project like this, we would love to hear all about it. Just contact us today and we can begin discussing our cooperation.