The design and use of simulation computer games in education

НазваниеThe design and use of simulation computer games in education
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Figure 1. The Serious Game Instructional Systems Design Model

Serious Games Success Stories

Jamie: Given what’s occurring now, we need to look at the success stories in serious games and consider how to capitalize on innovative designs, approaches, and processes. So what are the real success stories in the Serious Games area where a good balance between instructional design and game design have been achieved?

Jerry: The first thing that comes to mind is the game Food Force put out by the United Nations. It has been successful in terms of numbers of downloads and numbers of people who have participated in the experience. They have been able to have fun and understand the unique challenges of that organization and how they do their business. There are also companies who have had success like Breakaway Games with A Force More Powerful, which has been critically acclaimed.

Sonny: I think two of the most successful serious games has been the Adaptive Thinking and Leadership (ATL) project Virtual Heroes built using America’s Army and HopeLab’s Re-Mission Game. ATL built in assessment tools, promotes communication in a multiplayer environment, the instructor has powerful tools to manipulate the scenario, it’s designed to fit within a class time limit and it has a wonderful debriefing (after action review) capability. Reflection is key in these environments. Re-Mission, a game designed for teenagers with cancer, did a good job balancing the science and medicine of cancer treatment with patient fun and engagement. They also evaluated outcomes of the game to definitively document positive impact on behaviors and attitudes, which is something the serious game field needs more of in order to not only improve design but to gain increased acceptance in the marketplace.

Jerry: While anyone can get a video recorder, not everyone can be a Steven Spielberg. Those people who want to make industrial training films or documentaries or other kinds of genres can decide what they are good at or team with people who can help them. But interactive technology is a medium that’s fairly new. We’ve had only 20 years in terms of electronic games, and there are many opportunities. Those who will be successful are the ones who will push the boundaries, push the limits, and do things not ever done before. That’s why Will Wright is so successful. The things like the Sims or Spore, while not necessarily the most sophisticated technically, provides an immersive experience that people enjoy, learn with, and build communities. This is where we need to come together.

Next Generation Serious Games: What’s Next?

Sonny: So what’s next on the horizon for serious games?

Jerry: I think the interactive game industry is stagnant—specifically I mean the interactive entertainment industry—it’s $35 billion a year globally and $7.5 billion a year in the U.S. I’ve talked to several prominent game developers, and there is an acknowledgement and awareness that there is a stagnant nature out there where people are locked into specific genres like action, adventure, MMOGs, role-playing, and first person shooter. Once again, the people who can think outside the box, create something original, and provide an experience that people will enjoy – and who have the sheer persistence to find funding and partnerships to make it happen—those are the people who will be successful. Someone was recently likening the game industry to the television industry where there are certain publishers who spend all the money and they are only comfortable with certain formulas and genres. So people will get bored, and if people get bored, they will move onto other things.

Jamie: Do you think this is similar to the Indie films explosion where directors have left the Hollywood formulas and controlling aspects of formulas to create uniquely different movies…?

Jerry: Yes. As a parent and serious game developer, the thing I am most excited about is using games to teach STEM education. By STEM, I mean science, technology, engineering, math…and even applied and liberal arts. How do you reach that wired generation who are digital natives? We need to take advantage of that. Also, the interdisciplinary needs and workforce development can be supported by game technology. When you can inspire and educate people, that’s really powerful.

A newly emerging area of interest for learning is complex systems. Thinking reflectively about complex systems is a crucial skill for the modern world where workplaces, communities, government, global institutions, and the environment are all complex systems (Gee, 2003). Complex systems such as communications, economics, and ecologies are important not only because they impact real life but because they need to be understood by an informed citizenship in order to be part of a participatory democracy. Because of the growing importance and interrelatedness of global systems, Sabelli (2006) recommends that we reorganize the school curriculum around these complex scientific issues instead of traditional disciplines. Computer-based modeling and experimentation play a critical role in examining complex systems. For example, the ability to manipulate and visualize data facilitates examining complex systems issues. Because of this, Sabelli recommends using computers as part of the educational approach. Video games, in particular, present useful and imaginative ways to examine complex systems and their interacting relationships in an engaging and interactive experience (NMC, 2005). In their report titled Federation of American Scientists (2006) recently called video games the next great discovery, as they offer a way to captivate students so much that they will spend hours learning on their own time.

Sonny: Jerry, I’ve heard you use the term first person explorer. This is an interesting term in light of talking about new genres. Can you explain what a first person explorer is, and how does it differ from what’s been out there before? Can you also explain how we can take existing genres and create something new, especially that are more in line with using serious games in education?

Jerry: The concept of first person exploration was, I believe, first coined at Virtual Heroes. It came out of some pretty lengthy discussions we had about how to make a non-violent game for an organization like NASA or someone interested in space exploration where part of the fun of the game was scientific authenticity that was based on coolness points and not on blowing something up. In a first person explorer, the challenge is man vs. nature or man vs. machine, not man vs. man. For those of us who have been around for a while, we go back to Wolfenstein and Doom and early Quake. We’ve come to the conclusion that the dumbest way to interact with an environment is to give someone a big gun and crosshairs so they can just blast the environment. While we get a certain amount of satisfaction out of interacting with an environment this way, this is very much a knuckle-dragging, preliminary kind of experience. There are so many other levels of creativity and collaboration that we have not explored. My message is to let’s stop talking about it, and let’s make something. Or let’s create a team, or be part of a team that will make something that is worthwhile. Let’s inspire people in the healthcare profession, let’s make in-service people more proficient in their mission-critical job skills, or let’s inspire people to want to go into STEM-related career fields. That’s very exciting.

Jamie: A lot of these games are aimed at children, tweens or older. How do you get them to want to play these first person exploration games? I’ve examined three teenagers playing Ghost Recon over a week’s time. I had a lot of different games they could choose from, but both they and different groups of their friends chose Ghost Recon and Star Wars. These games have quite a bit of violence. They spent several five to ten hour stretches playing those games with just a few five-minute breaks. I recorded a transcript of some of their game play sessions, and I was amazed in the analysis of this at how much of their conversation was focused on serious problem solving, collaborating as a team, and doing strategic and critical thinking. I want to see students just as engaged in a math-science game for five hours as they were in this Ghost Recon game. How do we get them to want to do the first person exploration game?

Jerry: Along the lines of the metaphor of a space exploration game, we need to find what will be fun beyond where most young people are just used to blasting each other, let’s make it man versus nature or technology. We’ve thought of challenges based on real science parameters where you use your head and understand how the science works, whether its physics, astrophysics or geology. The fun can be team efficiency or comparative team performance. You have a mission that is a timed event, and you can time yourself like an obstacle course based on other people as you navigate your way through a complex, interactive environment where there are challenges along the way. This is similar to the challenges found in games like Survivor. This would be rolled into a platform for scientific collaboration, research, and rapid prototyping using advanced games technology. First person exploration is not limited to space exploration, but it also could be used to explore the ancient Pyramids of Giza or the rainforest. Right now, the Discovery Store has a lot of DVDs and videos, but there is not much interactive where you can interact with animals or plant life in the environment. Perhaps people have not been encouraged to do that because the publishers do not think it’s not commercially viable. We do think it’s viable, and we think there is a world of opportunity there. As a field, we need to figure out the secret sauce to create those products so we can get some real innovation in learning.
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