maandag 23 april 2012

What’s in a game?

As promised in my last post I will talk about the new buzz words: Serious Games!

Isn’t it a contradiction in terms? Can a game by serious? Does it have to be? What’s the objective of a game?

The objective of a Serious Game is to learn something, to achieve the learning objectives fixed before starting developing or creating the game, isn’t it? When my son started learning to count, I played the board game “Snakes and Ladders” with him. We played a game, but in a serious way: the learning objective was learning to count, to induce some automatic impulses in his brain about counting. So, really, we played a Serious Game and my son didn’t even realize that he was learning, but after a while his spontaneous “I can count” made him so proud! A wonderful experience! When my son had to learn his multiplication table, I made a little game in Excel. He played the game and in one week he achieved alone what his teacher didn’t succeed in over a few months. When my son was learning the basic operations of mathematics, we played Monopoly. He learned the basic operations of mathematics but also making choices, making decisions…Nowadays he’s playing a lot of games like PING, Darfur is Dying, the MMORPG World of Warcraft… and seriously, he’s learning a lot by means of these games. I also played several games to learn, for instance a game organized by a financial paper to learn the mechanisms of the Stock Exchange by letting your initial capital grow.

So, gaming to learn, nothing new! What’s innovating is that some companies are specialized in developing customized games for their clients who want to achieve some particular objectives in a corporate environment. And as we all are “homo ludens”, I can imagine that a game can be the best way to train people in some circumstances.

A few weeks ago when I was giving the same introduction as above during a presentation about Serious Games, a woman interrupted me by saying “Sir, we are here to learn something about Serious Games, not about some old-fashioned board games!” Asking for her definition of a Serious Game, she gave me the narrow definition “a Serious Game is a game in which you can improve your communicating and/or management skills to grow your business objectives”, to which I replied by saying “If this limited description defines the term Serious Games, I’ve seen a Serious Game more seldom than a white blackbird! So the buzz words Serious Games do not stand for a social game played with a game board, a die, cards, missions, iPad, iPhone or for Mini Games, Simulation Games, Virtual World Business Games, Tree-structured Exploration Games… ?“ Silence reigned!

Serious Games… I preferred – and still do – the term Edugames: games that allow you to learn without realizing that you’re learning. And that game can be a multiplayer role play, a simulation game, a game in real life with cards, a die, a board game…and also a so-called Serious Game. The issue “What’s the cost of a Serious Game?” is very simple: prices between “for free” and “the sky is the limit”. Normal, isn’t it? The most expensive I found on the Web is 7.000.000 €!

If you implement classical sessions, face-to-face sessions, peer training, training on board by exchanging experiences, e-learning, blended learning, virtual classes, serious games or other formulae, just be sure that your way of training is the most efficient, the most valuable and the best adapted to your learners’ profiles and the Business Objectives.

If you want to discover more about Serious Games, mark the 11th of May in your agenda. The third edition of seriousgames.be will be bigger than ever! See you there!

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