Games, Alternate Reality, Sims

While reading one of my colleagues blogs for this class, she brought up the idea of Charter-Schools based on games. A fascinating idea. I was impressed to find that there are, infact, several schools who have tried this approach:

ChicagoQuest –

QWERTY to Learn in NYC –

I’ve always been a gamer, I’ve always been interested in trying to learn from games.  Naturally, not all games are made to teach – not all are built based on standards like Science Pirates, but do have the opportunity to build on critical thinking and reasoning skills, as well as develop reaction time. Some surgeons have been known to play games in order to keep their reflexes sharp.

Even more interesting are the numerous angles Games, Simulations, and the like take on educational concepts and learning styles. Some games can present information in such a manner the player explores the content outside of the game (I have personally known some people with no interest in history, after playing Medal of Honor, went back to see what happened during the Invasion of Normandy during WWII, having “experienced” it they wanted to know more). Games spur the imagination, spur creativity, and also spur the desire to mimic and expand upon what is presented. One only has to look to “fan-art” to see how gamers, particularly young gamers, try to mimic the art style of their favorite game, or recreate the music of the game should it have been particularly moving. How many other ways of teaching address so many different types of students at the same time, and allow them to explore the content on their own?

During my previous degree, I had the opportunity to explore games in more detail, working with Dr. Anthony Betrus at SUNY Potsdam on a replication study he had done years past, seeking to find the factors which motivate and engage individuals with games. Long story short, content didn’t seem to matter, nor did graphics, art, story, or music. Gameplay, and how the player felt about the gameplay, was the most important factor in engaging a person within the game. To be honest, it surprised me on one hand, coming from a history background, stories were always very important. On the other hand, I was not surprised – why play a game if it isn’t fun?

Therein lies the challenge to educational game developers – Entertaining WHILE teaching or allowing content to be explored. Make it too much like school, the students will not want to play. Make it too fun (or part of it too fun…the first thing students do in Orgeon Trail is go hunting…over…and over…and over again…) and the content will not be covered.

The only thing they will learn in the latter example is that you can’t carry 5 bison carcasses to the wagon (without being very crafty, anyway).

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2 Comments on “Games, Alternate Reality, Sims”

  1. Personally, I am really on the fence with regard to the “serious games” movement. Ideologically, I understand it, but if “fun” isn’t the primary aim of a game, then will it be able to reap the benefits of gaming (that you have stated)? I really believe that there are so many unintended educational benefits that can come out of “off the shelf” games. It would be great if as educators we could be funded for a little more time to do this type of research.

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