Zelda breath of the Wild and learning design

I love this game. My wife and I have played it every evening after work for about 5 weeks non-stop now.

By the way, this post is riddled with spoilers about Breath of the Wild.

However, the further down the rabbit hole you go the more it speaks to you as a learning designer and the more it reveals as a clever piece of entertainment and learning scaffolding.

Win their hearts

A clever colleague of my always mentions that a module should be meaningful and you need to win their hearts early. Zelda, breaks you straight into a magical world where you start scraping around but the landscape in the distance tells you there’s going to be adventure to be had once you’ve passed your basics.

Endless scenery – https://www.zelda.com/breath-of-the-wild/

Engage with your student early

To start with, your companion is an mysterious old man who guides you between all the early action so you know where you’re going. Also interestingly he is also a bit un-hinged, you’re never quite sure who’s side he’s on until later… this may just be me but it adds to the early game excitement.

The mysterious old man – https://zelda.gamepedia.com/King_Rhoam

Teach in your own style

The best IDs and teachers are able to be creative and teach using methods and techniques that they find engaging. In Zelda, the whole land is based on an early Japanese era and Shinto like shrines. You can tell that for the designers it was like second nature for them to invent these things and challenges because somewhere in their history they’ve engaged with those ideas first hand.

It’s like in Fable 3, the game is based on a dirty old-English industrial revolution and you can tell again that the designers have been taught this througout their history lessons and it’s imprinted in their culture.

Alignment – Formatives lead to Summatives

All of Zelda’s game play and stories is so well set up as training for the ultimate final assessment, calamity Ganon (or calamity Gammon as he was re-named in our house). The daily grind is scaffolding your learning for making elixers, fighting tips and solving puzzles which… apply in the champion bosses (formatives). The champion bosses require lots of effort put in before upgrading your character and button skills before you could stand a chance of flooring them. This then leads to the final boss, Calamity Ganon (the summative) which we can see is going to involve calling on all our training and upgrades so far.

The formatives are aligned to the summative.

Calamity Ganon Fanart – https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/623185667161763399/?lp=true

All of the Zelda grind is scaffolded learning to achieve when you need it. Not much more to say there ๐Ÿ˜€

Surprising Learning

I talked about this in another blog post, however the Zelda game never ceases to surprise you. The designers team have played with scale of monsters and NPDs, the sound team have pushed the boundaries of music and effects and the level designers have surprised you with challenges.

The world is humungous and each corner brings with it a surprising and new engaging new race. Some are quite close to human, others are a twist on a beast + human. But each one has their own personality and brings with it a new surprise and technique to learn from them.

Let them find their own path

An early design feature of Zelda was to let the player find their own way of doing things, you can cut down logs or knock barrels over to solve puzzles, it doesn’t matter, you can do it. You can skip sections if you want, or you can complete every activity you ever cared to, it’s your own path.

It’s the same in learning design, an adult learner will likely come to your module with their own ways of doing things and is likely to try to approach the problems in their own way or have covered something before. This game allows you to explore many different ways of winning and you can solve them how you want.

Collect Kurok seeds or not, it’s your choice – https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2017/03/09/what-to-do-with-korok-seeds-in-legend-of-zelda-breath-of-the-wild/


Well yeah… obviously!

What a game


By Dan Course

Senior Instructional Designer. Partnerships, people, products, delivery, agile tech and online edu. Naturally curious, innovative and willing to challenge the status quo.

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