Games for Learning: Design, Theory, and Facilitation with Certificate Option

Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan, Raja Thiagarajan, and Brian Remer

This full-day preconference session will focus on the elements of games such as narrative, metaphor, mechanics, simulation, and competition that increase participant engagement, enhance the play experience, and result in learning.  In addition, participants will learn facilitation skills, such as the dynamics of group management, timing, leading discussions, and responding to difficult participants in order to create an environment that encourages learning through games.


By the end of the preconference, participants will:

  • Define games, activities, and simulations, and state the advantages and limitations of using them for corporate training and other educational purposes.
  • Experiment with different “frames” for interactive learning such as board games, card games, improv games, online games, interactive lectures, textra games, production simulations, interactive storytelling, cash games, and jolts.
  • Describe how to select the most appropriate frame or activity to address specific learning objectives and participant characteristics.
  • Differentiate among training, “pure” facilitation, and instructional facilitation.
  • Identify the critical dimensions of activity-based training including pace, intensity, competition, and playfulness, and maintain a balance among them in the training environment.
  • Recognize disruptive behavior patterns among participants and identify ways to reduce and eliminate these behaviors by transforming hostile participants into active collaborators.
  • Apply a powerful six-phase debriefing process to the use of online and face-to-face games in order to link learning to real time workplace challenges.

Preconference Materials

Participants in the preconference workshop will have access to the NASAGA website and an additional website with hundreds of training games and thousands of pages of materials on the design of learning activities.

Optional Certificate Requirements

The certificate program provides an opportunity to gain professional credibility in the use of interactive strategies for learning.  Participants who choose to add the certificate option will tailor their conference experience in order to apply concepts learned during the preconference to a work-related game design or facilitation project of their own.

Altering Reality Through Play: Designing Alternate Reality Games for Learning and Training

Anastasia Marie Salter
Alternate Reality Games (or ARGs) are built on the idea of a shared story invading the physical world, and can include scenarios of invading aliens, impending apocalypse, or mysteries waiting to be solved. While some incorporate technology or social media, many ARGs are built by transforming objects and spaces in the learners’ physical environment. Players collaborate and react to those ongoing stories through the mediation of the game designer, and in so doing, build new skills towards the intended  learning objectives.

In this workshop, we’ll experience and build our own “Alternate Reality  Games” for learning and training, designed to fit the needs of conferences,  retreats, workshops, or the classroom.

By the end of the preconference workshop, participants will:

  • Briefly explore different physical and technological solutions for building alternate reality games.
  • Experience and debrief every stage of an alternate reality game.
  • Understand the structures and methodology for using narrative in learning games.
  • Create an alternate reality game design which incorporates educational and training objectives.
  • Design debriefing and facilitating exercises for running their planned alternate reality game.

This workshop is designed for any educator or trainer interested in experimenting with a new gaming form. No previous game design or technical experience is assumed.

Symposium on Playful Learning: Exploring the Nexus Between Informal Education and Game Design

Melissa Peterson, Brad Tanner (Mote Marine), and Samantha Knight

Informal science education and games-based and playful learning design overlap in many ways, especially in focusing on learner engagement and providing learners with choices in how to engage. This session seeks to explore the common ground between informal science educators and designers of games-based and playful learning experiences. In the process, we will brainstorm potential collaborations, and share best-practices and techniques which may bridge the gap between these two disciplines. We will focus on the practical application of games-based learning in informal science environments, as well as the design of these experiences.