1. Have a theme
My first and probably most important tip is to make your game around a theme and stick to that theme throughout all elements of your PowerPoint. Having a theme could take the most simple game and turn it into something even more fun and exciting for your students. When choosing a theme for your game, I highly recommend using things you know and love yourself. Having some background knowledge about your theme will allow you to create a more experiential and creative game for your students. Take, for example, my Super Mario Telepathy Game. The game concept itself is simple, but what makes it fun and interesting for students is how I use the images, sound effects, and animations. When Mario jumps up to hit the box, it sounds and looks like what it would in the actual Super Mario game (or at least the closest I could get to it using PowerPoint), and I know this because I played so many Super Mario games growing up.
Now, some of you may be asking yourself, "What if the things I love and know about most don't interest my students?" Then, my solution would be to use something your students know or is currently popular among them. For example, I just released an Among Us-themed game. I knew very little about Among Us before I started designing my game. However, I knew all my students loved it, so before I started making my game, I did a quick Google search about it, watched a few YouTube videos, and, without playing it myself, that was all I needed to come up with a cool concept for my game.
2. Use fonts discerningly
Once having a theme, one of the first things I do, even before I open PowerPoint, is choose the fonts. If you choose a theme related to something in pop culture, the nice thing is there are most likely fonts already made for your theme. For example, take my Harry Potter review game. Harry Potter has one of the most recognizable fonts in the world. Once I knew I wanted to make a Harry Potter-themed game, the first thing I did was go on Google, find that font, and find any other fonts associated with it. However, if you don't find fonts already made for your theme, try looking into fonts with a similar feeling as your theme. For instance, a cartoonish font would look kind of silly with a Harry Potter-themed game. A Harry Potter theme is more whimsical and magical, so you want to use fonts that reflect that.
I recommend you don’t pick too many fonts for your PowerPoint as it can get a little busy. One to three fonts is probably the range you want to stay in. When I create games, I usually have one font I use for titles and headers and one other font I use for the body text. In my experience, title and header fonts are usually a bit more decorative, so if I were to use them for smaller, wordier body text, it becomes difficult to read. Finally, make sure your text is big enough to read for students who sit further away from the screen. I know it’s sometimes tempting to put all the information you want on one page, but simpler and bigger is better.
3. use images with the same feeling
Great! You selected your theme, you downloaded and installed your fonts, and you have begun creating your amazing PowerPoint game. The next thing I want to touch upon is your use of images. Specifically, for this tip, to use images of the same feeling. Now, what I mean by that is, I’d say there are five different types of images you could use in your PowerPoint. There are probably more, but for simplicity, let's take these five below as an example. The first image has a classic clipart look: black, smooth outline with basic coloring. The second image has a flat, vectorized look: no outline, solid colors, and very minimal if any shading. The third image has a hand-drawn or doodle look, the fourth image has a 3D animated look, and the fifth image is a photo, so it has the most realistic look.
If you take a look at all five images together, you can see that they don’t fit together well or look very cohesive. The same idea applies when making your PowerPoint game. For more visual impact, use images of the same feeling. To see an example of this, check out my Pokémon Telepathy Game. Another advantage of using images of the same feeling is you can start creating pretty cool custom scenes for your game. The backgrounds I use in my Pokémon Telepathy Game are not from the Pokémon show or video games. They’re not even all made by the same artist. However, because they are in the same flat vector style, it looks like they belong in the same world as my Pokémon images.
4. use transparent images
My next tip, which might be obvious to some of you, is using transparent images. It just looks cleaner. Did you know there's a filter for transparent images on Google? It's so helpful when searching for transparent clipart.
However, what if your perfect image doesn’t have a transparent background and you don’t have a great alternative? My last resort would then be to use the "Remove Background" tool in PowerPoint. You can find it under the "Picture Format" tab when you click on an image. I will say though, it doesn’t make the cleanest transparent images, but for the best results, use it on an image that either has a white background or clear, defined outlines.
5. utilize gifs
My last tip relating to images is utilizing the secret power of gifs. Adding gifs is an easy way to elevate your PowerPoint game without having to make any complicated animations yourself. And, they work just like images! All you have to do is copy and paste them into your PowerPoint. Google Images has a search filter for gif images too, or you can type “gif” after your search term to see results for this image type as well. I use gif images throughout my Pokémon Knowledge Quest game if you want to see an example of how they can be utilized.
6. use sound effects
Like gifs, adding sound effects is another simple way to upgrade your PowerPoint game’s playing experience. Though, like everything else, make sure they fit with your theme. Ideally, use sound effects from whatever you’re taking inspiration from if they have them. For example, I use many sound effects from the actual Pokémon TV show and video games in my Pokémon-themed PowerPoint games. However, just like fonts, if you can’t find any already made for your theme, use ones that feel like they fit. For example, my Knockout Game has a very general theme: boxing. The theme is not from any specific TV show, movie, or game, so I used two sound effects that are instantly associated with boxing when you hear them.
Another important note is to use .wav files instead of .mp3 files. By using .wav files, you can embed sounds and music into your game. You can't do this with .mp3 files. You can only import them as a separate element on your slide. Using .wav files also makes it easier for you to apply the same sound effect to different elements. If you downloaded your sound effect as an .mp3, instead taking more time to find a .wav version, use an online audio converter like Audioalter.
7. use transitions discerningly
My final tip is one of the last things I do before I complete my game, add slide transitions. You're probably already doing this in your PowerPoints. Let’s be honest, when you think of PowerPoint presentations, you think of all the cool transitions you can add. However, what I want you to start doing when making these games is critically think about which transitions you're using as well as how and why you're using them.
Just like fonts, you don’t want too many, and you want to make sure they fit with your theme. Don’t just throw any transition you think looks cool on there. Simpler transitions often look better. However, occasionally I do use some of the fancier transitions if I feel they fit well with the game I’m creating. For example, in my Tron Speed Reading Challenge game, I use the vortex transition to transition between different levels. I chose this transition because I felt like it fit into the Tron world. I don’t use this transition on all slides of the game, though. I thought that would feel like a lot. Between regular slides, I have a simple flash transition. Also, quick tip, to take your slide transitions even further, slap a sound effect on there too. Even some of PowerPoint’s included sound effects work very well.