A Game Plan

By Sugar, Stephen E. | Training & Development Journal, July 1990 | Go to article overview

A Game Plan


Sugar, Stephen E., Training & Development Journal


A Game Plan

There's a "little world" that only a board game can bring, the world inside the case study. Board games are being used in training programs and as conference wrap-up exercises.

A game is an excellent way to summarize conference meetings and workshops, and to provide an appropriate mix of company and conference information. It is also simply a fun way to close a conference. But, a board game at a conference for engineers?

The first step in providing a board game for a recent week-long career development conference for Public Health Service engineers was to convince the conference committee that it was a good idea. That required meeting with the committee to allay any misgivings about the suitability of the game for the subject and the audience.

The first hurdle was deciding whether a game should be played at all at an engineers' conference. Engineers were seen as too serious for fun and games. The committee gave the go-ahead, however, after the members participated in a model demonstration, in which they actually played a board game and had fun doing it.

Once the game was sanctioned, the following finer points had to be negotiated: getting up-channel approval, getting staff release time to develop the game, creating a budget, and preparing or finding the necessary materials. A 12-week window was opened to research, resource, and implement a board game appropriate for a conference of engineers.

The initial task in developing any game is to create a plan to design, test, and produce it.

A game plan

A basic plan for developing a board game includes producing the frame; creating the content, which consists mainly of preparing the game cards; preparing and printing the rules of play; designing and printing the game board; and purchasing game pieces.

Producing the frame. First, an existing board game called "Management 2000" was immediately renamed "Engineer Bingo." The same game format had also been used successfully for medical training ("Medical Bingo") and for a hospital public relations program ("Hospital Bingo"). The board frame works well at conferences because board games are conducive to team play. A frame doesn't have to be a board, however. Another example of a very simple frame is the crossword puzzle. The format is usually similar, but the content changes from puzzle to puzzle. In board games, a basic board configuration can serve as the frame for a variety of content.

In addition to the game surface, a frame includes the game pieces--dice, chips, and tokens, for example--and the rules.

Creating the content. The content is the heart of the game, and it provides the element of reality the game brings to its audience. The nature and quality of the questions and information on the game cards produce an environment hospitable to learning and add to the simulation of reality. Well-written cards enhance every aspect of learning, including the game's quotient of fun.

Data on which the content--questions and information--is based should be collected from the proper resources. For example, research for "Engineering Bingo" concentrated on conference speakers. Once collected, the data are converted into concise, readable questions.

Writing questions for board games differs greatly from writing other training materials. …

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A Game Plan
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