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What Mario Kart can teach learning designers

Or: What doesn't change in learning?

As I was playing Mario Kart on our old N64 with my 2- and 4-year olds, I wondered: why are they so excited by this? I mean, they LOVE watching this game, even though it was designed for a completely different generation, and they've been exposed to much more "modern" games and TV.

When you think about it, though, great games - even video games - persist. As an example, people still play Starcraft worldwide, including in competitive tournaments (for the last whopping 18 years!). It's no wonder so many study game design and "replayability". (If you're looking for a few informative resources, head over to Yukai Chou's site. Sure, there are lots more blogs on gamification - this is a framework on motivation I've found useful.)

I couldn't help but think of Rework by the folks at 37 Signals, which includes an essay titled Focus on What Doesn't Change. They phrase it this way: "People aren't going to wake up in ten years and say 'Man, I wish software was harder to use.' They won't say 'I wish this application was slower.'"

Think about it. Besides the look and feel of your training modules, what will still encourage performance improvement in a decade? I can't think of anyone who took a training and said "I wish it were longer" or "I wish it were less relevant and more generalized".

As a designer, it's fun to get caught up in innovation and style, but at the end of the day, your learners and business benefit from good instruction. So, what do you think? What doesn't change in learning design? Let me know!

- Michael

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