Educational games are typically developed by a team composed of programmers, artists, game designers, technical directors, subject matter experts (SME), and instructional designers (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Educational game development team (Click for Larger Image)
Subject Matter Experts (SME) are responsible for providing the instructional content for the game. It is their primary responsibility to identify the learning objectives for the game, supply metrics for assessment, and to help to identify instructional strategies for game.
Instructional Designers are are responsible for taking the content identified by the SME and coming up with a strategy to place it in the game in a way that maximizes its instructional effectiveness. In most scenarios the SME is an expert within in their field but not an expert in educational theory.
Game Designers are primarily responsible for defining the puzzles, rules, and rewards that will be entertaining and challenging to the player and then providing the production team with a roadmap that is specific enough for them to create a game that lives up to the game envisioned by the designers. To some extent, we can say that game designers serve a role similar to that of a writer or director in a film. Their vision drives the rest of the production process. All of the assets created by the art team and the activities programmed by the software engineers are driven by the decisions made by the game designers at the pre-production stages.
Programmers write the code to create the game. They typically have a background in Computer Science and work in highly specialized fields. It is common to have different programmers in charge of artificial intelligence (AI), rendering, networking, I/O, and game play code. Teams that that have a single programmer taking care of all of these areas tend to produce inferior games.
Artists produce the game assets for the game. They create the models, textures, 2D elements, etc. The art production process is extremely labor intensive and also specialized. It not uncommon to find the roles of modelers, animators, envelopers, texture artists, motion capture specialists, and user interface artists filled by different people.
Technical Directors and technical artists have a programming background and also know the art production pipeline. Because they have some knowledge of what both the programmers and the artist do, they have the ability to write custom tools for the artists that expedite the production process. They also serve as technical liaisons between the artists and programmers.
From a global pespective, the game designers, SME, and instructional designer do most of the pre-production for the team. It is their vision of the game-play and instructional aspects of the game that drive the production process. The game is actually implemented by the production team, which is composed of artists, programmers, and technical directors. The effectiveness of the game is tested at the post-production stage by both game-testers and educational specialists (SME & ID). The game-testers focus on assessing the fun aspects of the game; the SME and instructional designer focus on the educational portions of the game. Figure 2 gives an overview of this process.