I've just been working on a presentation for a client about what serious games are and how they work. It's been really fun.
One thing that I think confuses people, or perhaps overwhelms them, are the large number of ways in which games appear to support learning. For example, James Paul Gee lists no less than 36 learning principles. Donald Clark lists ten reasons for games in learning.
And, of course, these lists are all really useful. The trouble is, I rarely remember the whole lot when I'm talking to people about games. And when I do, after listing about five, my audience's eyes tend to start glazing over ("This all sounds too good to be true!").
So a couple of years ago I produced a very simple little model. It suggests that serious games are great for learning because:
- They provide motivation
- They offer varying degrees of simulation
- They tie experiences together through narration
I reckon you can gather together most characterstics of games under these three banners.
But of course, games are extraordinarily varied. There are many categorisations/ taxonomies of game types, and the degree to which each type employs the three characteristics in my model varies hugely.
For example, taking some of Clark Aldrich's categorisation of genres:
Here's what the balance of characteristics in a "frame game" - fun puzzles, card games etc. - might look like:
Here's a branching story:
And here's what Aldrich calls "practiceware" (generally heavyweight, high-fidelity simulation, often in 3D):
I know this is an over-simplification. But since I've been using it, I seem to be talking to fewer glazed-eyed audiences.
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Just briefly, by way of explanation, I'm putting The Difference Engine logo on some of my postings because I'm promoting a new network that I've set up. It's for learning professionals who want to design and produce creative learning experiences that actually work. If that sounds attractive, have a look.