Designing Games Online: A List of Platforms to Explore

By Elizabeth Nelson

When the pandemic hit, libraries had to rethink their approach to just about everything, including how we offer hands-on learning and instruction. My colleague and I, both academic librarians, created Argument Architect, a game that bridges the gap between librarians’ and students’ understanding of research and rhetoric. We spent a lot of time and effort creating it, but it couldn’t be played safely in person. Did anyone else suddenly find themselves at a loss when COVID-19 made physical games unsafe to play? 

We scrambled to create a digital version that could be played in our Zoom classes – and in the process, we came up with this list of the digital game-building platforms! Thinking about creating your own virtual game? Not sure where to start? Continue reading to explore the virtual platforms we tried and gamify your own instruction for the digital realm.

Tabletopia

  • Offers a free version with a nice suite of features.
  • Focused on designing digital board games.
  • No coding needed.  
  • Provides game boards, dice, tiles, cards, meeples, and blocks you can customize.
  • Designers can upload their own images and paste them on cards and tiles easily.
  • Sets up “camera views” so that players have the same vantage points they would sitting around a real table.

💥Sample Library-Themed Games

Table Top Simulator

  • More powerful than Tabletopia but charges a fee ($20).
  • Focused on designing digital board games.
  • Affiliated with Steam Workshop.
  • For hard core gamers.
  • Includes virtual reality options.

Flowlab

  • Offers a free version, no downloads required.
  • Design a game with a visual logic builder instead of complex programming.
  • Excellent for students designing games.  Features a teacher dashboard.

💥Sample Library-Themed Games

ClassTools

  • One of our favorites–create a free, easy-to-play educational video game in a few minutes!
  • Integrate your content (such as quiz questions) into an array of classic formats, including PacMan, Shoot Em Up, Space Invaders,Wheel of Fortune.
  • Host the games on your libguide, library social media, or web site.

💥Sample Library-Themed Games

Scratch

  • Created by MIT to support educational efforts.
  • Aimed at helping ages 8-16 make games but anyone can use it.
  • Requires some basic coding but offers tutorials.

💥Sample Library-Themed Games

H5P

  • Find templates for educational game elements, including image pairing, quizzes, fill in the blank, drag the words, find the image hotspots, memory games, guess the answer.
  • Design games on H5P and embed them in Canvas or Blackboard for a fee.
  • Design games on H5P and embed them on WordPress or Drupal for free.
  • Requires some knowledge of coding.

Kahoot!

  • Most of the games, known as “kahoots”, are multiple choice quizzes.
  • Free version offers basic multiple choice questions for a class-sized group; premium version offers more question types, polling, puzzles, access to image library, and immersive game experience for several class-sized groups.
  • Popular resource that many students have used before.
  • Offers immediate reports and assessments on student performance.
  • A search for “information literacy” brings up over 20,000 Kahoot games for levels from K-16.
  • Offers an Academy and a Summit to promote sharing of games among instructors.  

Google Applications

  • Many educators design games on Google Docs, Slides, Jamboard, Drawings.
  • Most of Google’s applications are free.
  • Games are easy to distribute to students through share links.
  • Utilize Google’s tools to create board games, including tile-based and constructivist games, with a variety of manipulatives and backgrounds.
  • Intuitive and familiar for creators and students.
  • No limits on number of simultaneous players.
  • Hundreds of examples and videos from other educators are available online.

💥Argument Architect Online Draft

Padlet

  • Versatile, interactive whiteboard with a variety of backgrounds available.
  • Intuitive for students and accessible via a variety of devices.
  • Free and paid versions available.
  • Easy for educators to produce games from existing files.
  • Insert YouTube videos, links, and files.

💥Scholarly articles on Padlet and information literacy activities

Have suggestions of other platforms to add to the list? Feel free to comment directly on the Google Doc version of the list or email the author with suggestions. And if you’re interested in learning more about Argument Architect, or want free access to the files to adapt it for your own use, can reach out to the developers below.


Elizabeth Nelson is a Reference and Instruction Librarian at Penn State Lehigh Valley where she designs escape rooms and gamified instruction for her students. Elizabeth is a member of GameRT’s Membership & Promotion Committee and is an avid gamer herself. She has an extensive board game collection at home and watches all kinds of gaming streams on Twitch. She can be reached at ezn80@psu.edu. This post was produced in collaboration with Brett Spencer, who is a Reference Librarian at Penn State Berks and can be reached at dbs21@psu.edu

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