Most students come into technical writing classes with several assumptions, the chief of which is this: technical writing is probably necessary in some fields, but is by definition boring.
Students expect to write emails to fictional stakeholders and to write meaningless reports and business letters (when was the last time you sent a business letter?) They want to learn to write better, but the academy is not the business world, and client-based projects, while attractive for their “real-world” application, rarely work out as planned. How do we encounter real writing, with a real purpose and audience, in a way that students can relate to?
Two words: Board games.
“Writing games,” writes author and game design Ken St. Andre, “is a really bizarre form of technical writing. It’s somewhere on the Venn diagram of writing legal briefs, computer programming and radio plays…and most people think it’s ‘OK, I explained this game to my friends, now I just need to write it down!'”
If only. Technical writing students quickly realize that the gap between what they assumed an audience would understand and what they actually communicated is vast indeed. But since their purpose is clear (design a usable and unique board game), and their audience is known (their classmates), technical writing principles become something they need to know in order to produce a good project.