Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.

Happy New Year!
2003 is here.

Tool Kit
Web-Based Game Shells
Instant online games.

Interactive Lectures
Six More Interactive Lectures
Outline presentations of six interactive lecture formats.





To increase and improve the use of interactive, experiential strategies to improve human performance in an effective, efficient, and enjoyable way.

Editorial Roster

Editor: Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan

Assistant Editor: Raja Thiagarajan

Associate Editor: Les Lauber

Managing Editor: Brenda Mullin

Editorial Advisory Board: Andrew Kimball, David Gouthro, Diane Dormant, Julie England, Kat Koppett, Matt Richter, Steve Sugar, and <type your name here>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2003 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc. However, they may be freely reproduced for educational/training activities. There is no need to obtain special permission for such use as long as you do not reproduce more than 100 copies per year. Please include the following statement on all reproductions:

Reprinted from PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE. Copyright © 2003 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc.

For any other use of the content, please contact us ( for permission.

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All registered subscribers receive PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE free of charge.

However, to prevent us from becoming bankrupt, we have decided to adopt a Busker Protocol. If you like what you read, if you find it useful, and if you'd like us to continue publishing the newsletter, please feel free to chip in with any financial contribution. Our estimated annual cost for this newsletter is $30,000. So we suggest an annual contribution of $30 (which is less than one-third the subscription cost of Thiagi's earlier paper-based newsletter). We would appreciate any amount that you send us, but make sure it is less than $30,000 (since we don't want to make a profit). You can mail your check to Thiagi, 4423 East Trailridge Road, Bloomington, IN 47408 or call us at (812) 332-1478 to charge the amount to a credit card. Or you can charge your credit card online, through Workshops by Thiagi, Inc. Please let us know if you need an invoice for financial record keeping.

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Happy New Year!

Our best wishes to all our readers for a wonderful 2003.

During 2002, one of our major projects involved the design of 10 web-based game shells.

In this first PFP issue for 2003, we present an experiential project report: brief descriptions and a couple of ready-to-play examples of the 10 game shells.

You have 20 different interactive games to play online. Enjoy!

Tool Kit

Trainers and consultants can use a variety of interactive, experiential strategies and techniques to improve human performance. The Tool Kit section in Play for Performance explores a specific interactive tool and presents practical suggestions and field-tested examples.

Web-Based Game Shells

Web-based game shells are training games that are played online. The shells permit the loading of new content (usually in the form of short questions) by the game designer. A software program creates the game, complete with a timer and a score box. The program also displays the game in an animated graphic format that permits interactive play.

Key Features of Web-Based Game Shells

Each game shell has two parts:

  1. An online game that is played by the participant.
  2. An authoring template that is used by the designer to rapidly create the game.

The player sees the online game that is displayed using software such as Java or Flash. Usually, web-based games feature repeated interactions that require the player to review an item (for example, a question) and rapidly perform a suitable action (for example, type a short answer). The computer program provides immediate feedback usually by increasing or decreasing the score. Most web-based games are timed activities with a timer counting down to zero in the background. The program computes the player's score by taking into account both the speed and accuracy of the player's response.

A key feature of web-based games is replayability. During each play of the game, the program randomly selects a smaller set of items from a larger pool and displays these items in a random sequence. As soon as the player finishes a game, she can play the game all over again. Every time she plays the same game, she interacts with different items presented in different sequences.

Another feature of most web-based games is the ability to adjust the difficulty level. For example, in Choices, the player reads a question and selects the best answer from among a set of alternatives. At the easiest level, the player chooses from just two alternatives. At the medium level of difficulty, the player has a choice of three alternatives. At the most difficult level, the player has a choice of four alternatives. The difficulty levels can also be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the time available for choosing the best alternative.

Integrating Web-Based Games in E-Learning Courses

In 2002, we have been using web-based game shells in a rapid technique for designing online learning course. A typical course that uses this approach has two components:

  1. The library
  2. The playground

The library presents the content in a variety of text and graphical formats. Instead of the instructional designer chopping up this content into appropriate chunks optimized for a mythical average learner and disrupting the flow with questions of trivial value, the learners are permitted to read the content in any sized chunks that they prefer.

The playground contains a variety of web-based games that provide review and practice opportunities. These fast-paced games require recall and application of the content to answer a variety of questions.

When learners work through one of these courses, they make personal choices about which component to begin with: the library or the playground? Impulsive learners may start at the playground and try their hand at trial-and-error learning. Even if their score is depressing low, they are gaining valuable instructional insights. The games are administering a pretest to discover the facts, concepts, and skills that the learners need to master. As a result of the play experience, learners are in a state of readiness to go to the library and study the relevant materials. Reflective learners who prefer to be sure of their mastery of the skills and concepts before attempting to apply them begin their learning journey at the library. Later, they go to the playground and earn rewards by immediately applying what they have learned. Learners who are somewhere in the middle of the impulsive-reflective continuum, can shift from reading to playing as the mood strikes them.

Project Report

Working with our talented California colleagues at QB International and Carson Media, we spent the year of 2002 designing, programming, play-testing, improving, and implementing 10 game shells.

These game shells have been successfully used in three e-learning projects the Library-Playground approach. We have also designed and displayed web-based games in two online newsletters, Play for Performance and PerformanceXpress (published by ISPI).

Raja is currently refining authoring templates to enable trainers and subject-matter experts to design, develop, and deliver web-based games in a matter of minutes without any complex programming requirements.

Ten Specific Game Shells

Here are specific descriptions of each of the 10 different web-based game shells. The following list contains the name of each game shell, a brief description of play requirement and sample application of the game shell to review information, concepts, and procedures. You can test out each game by playing one or two samples.

Please contact us if you would like us to develop online games for your training efforts or if you would like to license our authoring system.


This game requires the player to review different items and place them in appropriate categories.

Sample Applications:

Ready to Play: Conflict Management Styles and What Should You Do With … ?


This game requires the player to read a multiple-choice question and select the most appropriate response.

Sample Applications:

Ready to Play: Australian English and Mixed Trivia


This game requires the player to rearrange a chopped-up message to spell out a key learning point.

Sample Applications:

Ready to Play: Oxymoron Jokes and Rhyme Time


This game requires the player to type a short response to a closed question, one letter at a time.

Sample Applications:

Ready to Play: Hitchcock Movies and Oscar-Winning Actresses


This game requires the player to identify pairs of related items.

Sample Application:

Ready to Play: Assassins and Fields of Study


This game requires the player to place different items in the appropriate boxes of a 3 x 3 table.

Sample Applications:

Ready to Play: Nations of the World and Five Languages.html


This game requires the player to type responses to open-ended questions.

Sample Applications:

Ready to Play: Acronymics and Tom Swifties


This game requires the player to rapidly type a short answer to a question.

Sample Applications:

Ready to Play: International Airport Codes and Which Asian Nation?


This game requires the player to arrange a list of items in the correct order.

Sample Applications:

Ready to Play: Change Stages and Feudal England

Tic Tac Toe

This game requires the player to type short answers to a series of closed questions.

Sample Applications:

Ready to Play: Tic Tac Trivia and World Capitals

Interactive Lectures

Six More Interactive Lectures

For the past three months, we have been revisiting interactive lectures that incorporate highly motivating game elements, yet give you complete control of the instructional session.

In each of the previous two issues of PFP, we summarized six interactive lecture formats. (See November 2002 and December 2002.) Here are brief summaries of six more formats.

13. Glossary

Basic idea. This approach is based on the party game that goes by a variety of different names, including Dictionary. In this game, players make up definitions of esoteric words and try to identify the real definition from a dictionary.

Application. This lecture game is especially useful when the instructional content can be organized into a series of equal-sized conceptual topics. It is also useful when participants are at different entry levels.

Sample topics. Types of cultural values. Stages in the grieving process. Alternative advertising strategies. Interventions that improve human performance. Characteristics of the digital generation.

Flow. Present a key term related to your training content and ask teams to come up with a real or imaginary definition. Collect the definitions, insert the “official” definition somewhere in this set, read these definitions, and challenge teams to identify the correct one. Use participants' definitions to identify training needs and present a minilecture on the relevant topic. Repeat the process with several key terms until you have covered the relevant content.

14. Idea Map

Basic idea. While presenter lectures, participants take notes using an idea mapping approach. At logical junctures, the lecture stops to permit teams of participants to consolidate their idea maps.

Application. This lecture game is especially useful when the instructional content involves factual information or concepts.

Sample topics. The changing face of Eastern Europe. The chemistry of household cleaners. Fundamentals of financial planning. The future of mobile computing.

Flow. Teach the idea-mapping technique to participants. Introduce the topic and make a presentation for 10 minutes. Ask participants to take notes in an idea-mapped format. Stop your presentation and organize participants into teams. Ask each team to spend 5 minutes to collaboratively draw an idea map of the topics covered so far. Continue your presentation and repeat the idea-mapping interludes. At the end of the presentation, ask the teams to complete their maps and display them. Comment on the idea maps and correct any misconceptions.

15. Intelligent Interludes

Basic idea. Presenter stops the lecture after each segment and follows up with an exercise that requires the use of a different type of intelligence.

Application. This lecture method is especially useful with a group of participants who have different talents.

Sample topics. Corporate policy on sexual harassment. Focus groups for market analysis. Features and benefits of new products. Ethical aspects of selling prescription drugs. New employee orientation.

Flow. Organize participants into teams. After the first segment of your presentation, ask teams to apply their linguistic intelligence to prepare a written summary. Invite teams to read their summaries and give suitable feedback. After the second segment, ask participants to apply their visual memory and create a graphic summary. Continue with a logical organization, a conversation with a partner, a musical summary, and a reflective essay.

16. Intelligent Interruptions

Basic idea. Presenter stops the lecture at random intervals and selects a participant. This participant asks a question, makes a comment, or challenges a statement as a way of demonstrating that he or she has been intelligently processing the presentation.

Application. This lecture game is especially useful when the instructional content is informational.

Sample topics. Business partnership in Canada. How to watch a soccer game. Retirement planning. The World Wide Web.

Flow. Set a timer for a random period between 5 and 10 minutes. Make the presentation in your usual style. Stop the presentation when the timer goes off. Announce a 30-second preparation time during which participants review their notes. Select a participant at random. Ask participant to demonstrate his or her understanding of the topic by asking five or more questions, coming up with real or imaginary application examples, presenting a personal action plan, or summarizing the key points. The selected participant should spend at least 30 seconds and not more than 1 minute in his or her “interruption.” React to participant's interruption and continue with your presentation. Repeat the procedure as needed.

17. Interactive Story

Basic idea. Presenter narrates a case incident in the form of a story. During pauses at critical junctures, participants figure out what happened, why it happened, or what should happen next.

Application. This lecture game is especially useful when the instructional content requires the analysis of a situation, identification of the basic cause, or selection of the best solution.

Sample topics. Likely impact of different managerial behaviors. Major causes of different performance problems. The next steps to be taken in different sales scenarios. Appropriate diagnoses for different computer problems.

Flow. Create a set of stories that require systematic analysis. Narrate the first story. Supply excess details so that the listeners have to separate critical information from irrelevant data. Stop the story at a critical juncture and specify the task for teams of participants. (For example, ask the teams to identify the causes of a problem.) Halfway through the discussion period, announce that you will answer two questions from each team. Ask each team to report its conclusion and to justify it. Repeat the procedure using more stories. Finally, summarize the main instructional points.

18. Interpreted Lecture

Basic idea. Presenter stops the lecture at 2-minute intervals. A randomly selected participant “translates” what the presenter said in her own words.

Application. This lecture game is especially useful with participants who have a high degree of language fluency.

Sample topics. Motivational theory. Leadership characteristics. Safety procedures. Understanding Islamic cultures. Medical applications of cloning.

Flow. Brief participants about the procedure for translating segments of your presentation into plain language. Advise participants to listen carefully because you may stop your presentation at odd junctures and select an interpreter at random. Begin your presentation and stop after a couple of sentences. Ask a randomly-selected participant to interpret what you said in her own words. Provide suitable feedback. Repeat the procedure, stopping after increasingly lengthier sections of your presentation.