Evaluating Educational Games: A Magic Bullet

Presentation Type: 1/2 or full day workshop
Group Size: up to 25
Audience: Educators, Designers, Administrators
Presenter(s): Katrin Becker


The Magic Bullet is a simple and effective model that can be used to help in the design of games for educational purposes, as well as in evaluating existing games for their learning potential. Further, this model can help educators formulate strategies for using an existing game within a learning context.

One aspect that sets the medium of the videogame apart from other media is its highly interactive nature – people learn in games by doing things, and this experiential quality lies at the core of game design. Games provide an experience – and games designed for learning can do no less. Thus, any epistemology of games must begin with the experience. The author conducted an extensive informal analysis of several games which sought to answer the question, “How does a commercially and critically successful modern video game support the learning that players must accomplish in order to succeed in the game?” It is known that not all learning in a game is necessary to win and also that sometimes learning occurs that was never intended by the designers. In the course of this analysis, four broad learning categories became apparent and all learning in and around games can be classified as (non-exclusive) members of at least one of these sets. Several visualizations of the relationships of these five sets were developed, and the final image ended up being somewhat bullet-shaped. Thus, it earned the moniker “Magic Bullet”.


Participants will come away from this tutorial with:

  • A simple to apply tool for examining videogames and their learning potential.
  • An appreciation for how the balance of learning in a game can affect its potential.

Participants will have an opportunity to:

  • Apply the model to evaluate one or more short-form games.