Posts tagged Video game

Making a Better World Through Games


Gamer on the verge of an epic win

In February 2010, Jane McGonigal gave a TED Talk on how gaming is not only a prominent feature of modern society, but an absolutely essential one. She cites statistics that demonstrate people become engaged in games more than any other activity, and follows up with an argument that has been echoed by educators interested in gaming for awhile: Since deep, immersed engagement is present in game playing, why not use games for learning?
McGonigal identifies four common aspects of gamers that can be called the “habits of heroes,” or traits successful real-life problem-solvers possess:

  1. Urgent optimism: Gamers believe in instantaneous action to solve problems. It is not always necessary that a deadline must be looming in the background, or that a time-sensitive result must be attained. Gamers tend to believe in prompt action to solve the game world problems.
  2. Social fabric: Gamers trust the community. Strong social bonds are formed particularly through multi-user game playing, raiding, questing, and adventuring. This cohesion forms relationships of dependence and reliability that are essential to group work.
  3. Blissful productivity: Gamers are happier to work hard at solving the problems in a game. And in conjunction with the large groups of people available in the game, a diversity of skills can be pooled together to tackle the problems.
  4. Epic meaning. Gamers desire to become involved in a common cause. The gamers believe in what they are doing, and are motivated to see an engaging game through to the end.

The elusive question is how do we make the real world like the game? Or more to the point of game design, how can we create games that instill in students an engagement and motivation in a cause that can be transferred to the real world?
First, students must be able to relate to the content. A part of what makes a good game interesting is that the matter is interesting to the player. If a gamer can believe in the cause, albeit a virtual cause, they are more likely to stay engaged and willing to see the game through to the end.
Although the content is relevant to the real world, it must not portray real-world quests in an unsolvable manner. For example, The River City Project is a 19th-century multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) in which students research and attempt to solve the problems of a society. Rather than tackle global-scale problems such as world hunger, the issues are localized and solvable.
Collaboration is key, and students should be encouraged to weave their part of the social fabric. In the aforementioned MUVE, students work together in teams. If games use a problem-based learning approach, problems that can be more easily solved in groups should be designed.
Watch the video below, and see what you think about her ideas.

Engaging Learners Through Video Game Principles


In a TED Talk from 2010, Tom Chatfield describes seven aspects that lend to the creation of effective, engaging games. They can particularly be applied to how we learn in general. The video is shown below, and he starts describing the seven aspects around the 8:30 mark.

These ideas apply directly to how learning-oriented games can be designed, and to a large degree apply to the physical classroom environment as well. Chatfield’s list is as follows:
1. Experience bars measuring progress
Instead of assigning grades, some teachers have turned to an experience point system. This is a familiar aspect of games, and measures a student’s steady progression through tasks (or “quests”). This system can apply to traditional classroom learning as well, and a teacher could accomplish this by putting experience bars up on a board, or manage it with online student profiles. Experience points are great at measuring progress over time in a nuanced, quantified manner, perhaps moreso than a flat list of assignments on a student’s progress report can do.
2. Multiple long and short-term aims
Students should be allowed to participate and choose different types of quests. Different quests can lead to larger goals, but students should be allowed to guide their progress, and take ownership of what they choose to accomplish. With enough “subquests,” students feel as though they are continually progressing, and have a clear end in sight.
3. Reward for effort
This goes back to standard behaviorist principles. If desired behavior is rewarded, the behavior will be reinforced and more likely to be repeated. We shouldn’t punish students when they fail, but instead recognize their achievements as they learn. Games teach us that we should turn “failure” into “success not yet realized.”
4. Rapid, frequent, clear feedback
One of the advantages of games is that they allow players to link consequences to actions. Even in cases where a game’s storyline is progressive and linear, a clear cause-and-effect chain is implied. For open-ended games, the player can alter the state of the world through their own choices. It is essential to learning that students are given prompt feedback following activities, so they know if their attempt was successful, or what could have caused unintended outcomes.
5. An element of uncertainty
People should not always expect everything, and the consequences or outcomes should not always be expected. This adds to excitement and encourages people to keep coming back. When applied to education, it keeps students entertained and willing to keep engaging in the learning process.
6. Windows of enhanced attention
Find moments in a learner’s play where they will be most receptive to learning, and identify areas where learners will gain confidence as they play. This can relate to how Kiili (2005) describes flow theory, or the ideal state at which a participant is absorbed in the learning material, the optimal experience in which full attention is placed on the activity, and nothing else seems to matter. If we can create these types of experiences in our games, students will be more receptive to what is being taught.
7. Other people
Students will invariably possess different competency levels in any game they play, and as they learn, their skills will evolve at varying speeds. Hunicke (2005) discusses this at length as a mechanism for creating an effective gaming environment without disrupting player experience. A balance must be formed between the game’s ease and difficulty. In other words, the game must be “gamed” in such a way that learners are not bored or frustrated with the ease or difficulty.
Hunicke, R. (2005). The case for dynamic difficulty adjustment in games. Proceedings of the 2005 ACM SIGCHI International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology, 429-433.
Kiili, K. (2005). Digital game-based learning: Towards an experiential gaming model. The Internet and Higher Education, 8(1), 13-24.

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