The design and use of simulation computer games in education

НазваниеThe design and use of simulation computer games in education
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Who Drives the Process?

Sonny: We’ve been to a lot of conferences, and everyone has been talking at a surface level about how to balance game design and instructional design. But what does it mean at an operational level? How do you make these trade-offs? What is it that you actually do? I think these are the kinds of questions we need to answer.

Jamie: There is a real need for fresh air in the space in regard to this question. I’m tired of the generalizations I hear about the different types of designers being pitted against one another as if there is no common goal. Let’s talk about creating ways to work together.

Jerry: There is definitely room for disruptive thinking. With regard to Serious Games, the real magic occurs when you can take best practices and thoughtful ideas and create composite teams that have instructional designers, writers, game designers, academics, subject matter experts, and creative people who can bring it all together. What people need to focus on is how to become part of a team (even a virtual team) so that they can change how people think or how to change the human condition. Those who are interested in Serious Games, those who are committed to shipping a product that really helps people – those people will be successful by participating in multi-dimensional teams. That’s the whole package.

There have been repeated calls at conferences and in the literature for the involvement of instructional designers in the design and development of serious games (Fletcher & Tobias, 2006; O’Neil, Wainess, and Baker, 2005). However Prensky (2001) notes that the opposite may be true and this his experience and the experience of other game designers has been the addition of an instructional designer often results in stale, boring, educational games, and he points towards the criticisms of the instructional design process within the field itself (Gordon & Zemke, 2000). However, we would like to point out that few instructional game designers are trained in game design, just as few game designers have training in instructional design. Rather than attaching personality types to specific fields, we recommend that two fields come together to develop common processes and methodologies that can result in more effective game design. This is critical for serious games that require demonstrated learning objectives to be met.

New types of instructional designers and game designers are needed—ones who understand learning and gaming focused on complex problem solving, decision-making skills, development of expertise, and situational aspects of learning and cognition. The strengths of instructional designers are that they have the ability to conceptualize and design the learning environment in which the game is being used, to translate game goals into instructional goals, and to help develop models that link the critical aspects of the art and science of instructional design. For example, a serious game designed to facilitate development of decision making skills within a domain will need to rely heavily on game designers to translate the scenarios, environmental cues, and other contextual factors that support authenticity and relevancy for learners. Thus, an instructional and game designer could learn much from each other about how to systematically design a learning environment that is situated in real-life types of events that the learner would encounter.

In turn, new types of game design strategies are needed that expand into understanding how to interpret the learning goals and evaluative markers of educational games into serious game play and fun. The strengths of game designers are that they are experts at creating game play design and interactivity that are fun, visually appealing, and that engage learners for hours on end.

Instead of disparaging an entire profession, perhaps a better approach is to break down what each discipline brings to the design table and compare that to the needs of a serious game design project. In numerous private conversations and conference group discussions, we have heard people on both sides staunchly take the stand that the instructional designer or game designer must control the process and decisions. In one meeting, a team of serious game designers said they bring in the instructional designers, let them talk about what they want and then once they are gone go about developing the real design the way they think it should be. They clearly were placing low value on the instructional designers that had historically worked with. We have also spoken with instructional designers at large corporations who want a game developed and who have funds to hire game companies, but they have reservations about game designers being able to design a game where more serious learning objectives can be met with rigor.

While our focus is on the tensions between instructional designers and game designers, the role of subject matter experts is also problematic. In many cases, they have neither instructional design or game design experience and therefore can pose a problem for all aspects of the design. In reporting on the making of Re-Mission, Dave Warhol and Tim Ryan (2006) discussed the difficulties of working with cancer experts to balance fun game play with accurate science. We have also found this in our own work as subject matter experts often lack expertise in learning and gaming, so they may have either an ideal outcome or a real lack of trust with the outcome, and this can greatly impact the successful design of a game.

Design Studio of the Future

Taking this in account the design studio or design team of the future will need to adapt tools and techniques that help composite teams work effectively together. Over the past few decades, spiral design approaches and user-centered design models have been implemented that enable designers to engage in iterative design . From an instructional design perspective, this requires using innovative development processes such as rapid prototyping (Tripp & Bichelemeyer, 1990) and participatory design (Schuler & Namioka, 1993) to meet the needs of supporting learners in achieving complex performance goals. These approaches are being adapted from both instructional design and software design fields so they should feel familiar to most designers. As we adapt these for serious game design, we need an integrated process that supports both instructional and game design in the design of fun, engaging, and effective games for training. To address this need, Kirkley, Tomblin & Kirkley (2005) developed the Serious Game Instructional Systems Design (SG-ISD) model (Figure 1). This model blends together elements from the ADDIE, Waterfall, iterative design, rapid prototyping and other models to provide a high-level composite process in which designers of all types, as well as experts and production staff, work together in a collaborative and iterative manner. This model was integrated into a prototype serious game authoring tool design developed by the Information In Place Inc. team (Kirkley, Kirkley, Myers, Tomblin, Borland, Pendleton, Borders & Singer (under review).

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