Synapsis Creative is mostly a crew of video gamers across generations and consoles. We all recognise the value of video games as the pinnacle of interactive design, but the history and development of gamification in education is a great story worth recounting.

In 1971 three programmers developed a text-based video game called Oregon Trail as a teaching resource for a high-school history class. By 1975 the game was redeveloped and distributed by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium as a means of teaching school children about the realities of 19th century pioneer life. Set in 1847, players would lead a party of settlers from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City engaging in decisions (purchase supplies, hunt food) and random encounters (storms, wagon breakdowns, disease). The popularity of this educational computer game led to a graphical redevelopment of the game in 1985 and has since spawned numerous spinoffs and homages throughout gaming history.

From Motorola bricks to smartphones in a few short decades

As computers became more ubiquitous and embedded in our daily lives (such as mobile phones shifting from the Motorola brick Gordon Gecko had in Wall Street – to becoming more powerful than computers used for the ‘moon landing’ while scaling the hardware down to the size of a playing card) we expect more interactivity from regular experiences.

While IBM had the first phone with email capability and a touchscreen (complete with stylus) in 1992; the Simon Personal Communicator had a monochromatic screen, one-hour battery life, and even included a phone jack so you could plug it into the phone since mobile phone service back then was subpar quality and cost an obscene amount of money – not to mention that the phone itself cost US$1,100 in 1992!?

Steve Jobs unleased the first iPhone in 2007, it couldn’t connect to business email servers and could only recognise one finger at a time – making typing on the touchscreen a slow-paced nightmare. Fast forward to now – smartphones are everywhere (and cheaper than ever), Steve Jobs died quicker than iPhone’s battery, and things have come full circle in terms of interactivity with the gamification of society.

Interactive and engaging learning: eLearning

Interactivity is used as a teaching tool, it’s a key element in how we access information or entertainment (for example mobile apps and Netflix), it’s crucial to other online experiences such as social media, and is further blurring the lines of human experience as things like Virtual and Augmented Reality become more refined and accessible.

Flight simulators have been used in pilot training for decades; VR is being used to safely train mining students about hazardous environments and scenarios; laptops are commonplace in classrooms; people are using apps to learn languages and instruments. All of these resources replicate features and aesthetics from video gaming. Since video games engage more sense than traditional teaching methods while encouraging interactivity, they’ve been finding more and more ways to influence education and training.

Although you may not have the skills or resources to build a video game, you can create eLearning tools and platforms through interactive PDFs and PowerPoint presentations. These training resources are easier to create than you may realise and far more effective than a regular training video presentation – more information next time.

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Want to learn more about how to stretch the creative limits of PowerPoint?

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