In one of my conversations with a reputed customer, we had an interesting discussion around a theme for our project. Essentially a gaming project as conceived initially, both teams got together to thrash out the underlying model – the processes, variables and algorithms that would constitute this project. As the teams got a better understanding of the project (and they separated out learning objectives from what they call gaming or simulation objectives), they began to present their case as to why it should be a simulation augmented by a fantasy experience rather than the other way around.
Their basic arguments were around the following factors:
- Level of real-life immersion required – the team felt that real-life decision making in this case was a little too complex to be fantasized in an abstract manner
- Complexity of algorithms and interactions between system variables – many different indicators exist for each state of the game and these were not only inter-related but also derived by decision making sets that the learner would have to make
- Learner motivation triggers – the team felt that fantasy could be placed to augment learner motivation (!) rather than as the basis for the central theme
- Extent of lateral transfer between a fantasy situation and real life skills – the team believed that lateral transfer of skills between a fantasy situation (such as fighting aliens) and the actual business skills that were to be practiced and concepts reinforced, was a bit of a stretch. In fact, the fantasy could serve to well distract the learner from achieving learning objectives.
It was an interesting debate and the team finally decided on a unifying theme with a blend of fantasy-game and real-life-simulation which seems to be ideal (at least at this point).
According to Dumlekar (2004) in the context of “Management simulations”: “ A simulation is a replica of reality. As a training program, it enables adult participants to learn through interactive experiences. Simulations contain elements of experiential learning and adult learning […] Simulations would therefore be useful to learn about complex situations (where data is incomplete, unreliable or unavailable), where the problems are unfamiliar, and where the cost of errors in making decisions is likely to be high. Therefore, simulations offer many benefits. They accelerate and compress time to offer a foresight of a hazy future. They are experimental, experiential, and rigorous. They promote creativity amongst the participants, who develop a shared view of their learning and behaviors. Above all, making decisions have no real-life cost implications.”
Simulation and gaming – EduTech Wiki (emphasis added)
Marc Prensky in Digital Game based Learning (McGraw-Hill 2001) attempts to map games and simulations to various learning types. This is an interesting classification and needs some serious thought. For example, he suggests that theories and systems types of learning are better handled through simulation based environments while a host of other learning types such as skills, procedures and communication can be handled well by game based learning. His chart is reproduced below.
As I write this, I am beset by another rambling thought. How do games and simulations, as we traditionally think of them, change or are impacted by the new 2.0/3.0/4.0 paradigms? For example, can we orchestrate role-playing for learning within a social community in an effective collaborative manner (what would be required to do that), or, can we harness the power of each community member’s PC to run a complex market simulation or collaborative team simulation? I think this merits some serious thought as well.