Thursday, June 01, 2006

Games and Learning: To mphaxise


Kurt Squire, he has been doing Video Game Theory in and out, done all aspects, anthropology, sociology, cognitive psychology and some more,

Activity Theory, and that is something that is essential to understanding group and social behaiviour in areas where you have both personal and social goals and intentions, eg, for a gamer we have to take into account the goals and intentions of the gamer himself when he is playing the game, the way he finds solutions, the gameplay, the way he reacts to the UI, the moment-to-moment interactions and also the socio-cultural contexts he is playing the game in, why is he playing it and what does society regard the game and the gamer.


A typical game development cycle today is about 3-5yrs if the game is built from scratch and 1-2yrs for a game with licence base, but the learning industry is looking for very fast outcomes, what is required at this stage is to capture market by establishing platform, standards for sharing content and adaptin game engines to incorporate the accuracy, transparency, customisability and feedback mechanisms that games for learning demand.

A few companies have made a headway but the industry has not reached a critical mass(which is essential) of content, not only games, but mods, courses, storylines and object libraries are needed in excess before we can call this a mature industry that can sustain itself. Invesments are needed to leverage the research that has been undertaken by various social and academic groups(along with some corporates), including MIT Games-To-Tech Project, the SeriousGamesInitiative, Research at GeorgiaTech, The SLOAN foundation (Virtual U) and Microsoft iCampus.

Much can be said about COTS (commercial off-the shelf games) being used in education and games that seem to have an educational purpose, but to list and understand these games and the companies involved in their production, design is a never ending process.

The MIT research focussed on creating games speciafically for learning purposes without sacrifising in the entertainment value of the games and they wanted that technology should match the level of popular games currently in the market. very interesting were the ideas which involved teachning university level mechanics, optics, structural engg., eletromagnetism, medicine, Anthropology.

It is really the design and New Media community that has focussed on serious gaming away from military and aviation, the commercial eLearning companies have until now stayed off or not exxcesively publicized their little efforts, mostly I see most of them very primitive, interactive puzzle systems for specific clients and tasks. Simualtions are something that are very big (and for good reasons) in the eLearning industry, and it is not to harsh to say that almost all learning-game engines should have a good simulation support at the core level.

about the opputunities:

(most of these overlap and come in relation to one another, a company would almost always be involed in more than one of the indivisual areas even for a perticualar product, I am differentiating to provide a clear view of what major tasks exist)

1. Game Design:
Design for educational games is very imp. course structure should be clearly analyzed and only a GAME DESIGNER should be given the task, with atleast one game literate instructional designer to support him, this area has immense opportunities as multiply oppurtunities in game design to ways to present a course material.

2. Game Content

A. Course Content For a game being developed or for a platform that already exist, creating actual content that goes into the game to support learning, some parts of dialogue, story and supporting material. IMP: It may be that games used in education are not so much responsible for learning as the context and env. It is extremely important that the support lectures, instructions and learning outcomes be clearly defined and exist as a single structure which includes the game.

B. Digital Game Content Courses evolve, change, contexts of learning change(esp. in Enterprise env.) To create game content for this is a mojor activity, to package storylines, models, interactions, course content and deliver in a package (hail XML and the engines for learning) to upgrade, change, and evolve the content in a game.

3. Game MODs
very easy to understand. I have some priliminary material on how MODs have better reach, what to take care of,. and what is different if you are working towards games for learning. A great lecture by Tim Holt of Value at SGS GDC2004.

4. Game and Delivery Platforms
Since this is still a nascent field not many specific platfroms exist to distribute games for learning, these could be software or hardware(LeapForg), or enterprice systems, such as LMS supporting game distribution( QBInternational and lecture by Ian Bogost at GDC). Muzzy Lane has released a properitary GameBasedLearning Multiplayer platform and regulary provide expansion packs and also have an SDK for the system. Also it is necessaty to focus on the mobile games sector here and the distributive capabilities of indivisual networks (like R-World) and more importantly BREW.

5. GameDev Tools:
The game industry has recently focused a LOT on not only developing applications that support game developers and artists but also to support non-gamedev's to develop games using a point and click interface, NO CODE, this kind of constructs lend themselves naturally to learning environments, where a student designing game physics is surely to know more physics than playing QuakeIII and appreciating it. Such complex Fill-inThe-Blanks are another method which can significantly aid learning, esp. for higher learning in an env. where students are exposed to computers. Also it is very important to create tools such that the DevCycle that the eLearning industry is used to is met, Games have to be highly modular with AI, Physics and other rules providing an external access, so that the core is not touched while changing such parts of the game, Improved game dev tools, aimed specifically to learning env. and developers will take games-for-learning a long way

6. Packaged Courses (COTS Games)
Companies who have a lot of psycologists, educators and intructional designers on roll, can create and package courses with COTS games and include traditional eLearning presentation and guidelines for teachers and students, to aid normal classroom learning with games, again to stress that environment of games is very imporatant so this area should not be taken lightly.

7. Pervaisve Worlds (MM RPG's)
Create online or corporate pervasive worlds which increase interactions people play roles and are regularly given exersises and games-to-play, these would mainly be team based games to increase temwork and promote collaborative-Learning [TPLD has done extensive research in Team learning]. these could be simple environments like the online crosswords, word games, biz sims and virtual stock markets or complex worlds like EverQuest or RagnaRok.

My major failure has been to pinpoint areas (both physical and contextually, age group or any other classification) where game-based learning would be most applicable and which games to relate to 'what' courses. Any help in this reagrd would be greatly appreciated.

Case for open ended simulations for learning.

it is usually argued that to provide feedback, learning games based on simulations should not be open ended, so as to provide feedback( and thus learning) when the learner takes an incorrect step. This feedback can be provided instantaneously at the time of mistake, or mostly after a certain direction has been travelled of the ideal path.

The case for open ended simulations lies in the fact that to encourage collaborative efforts outside of game environment and with supplementary reading material, there is need for factors to exist which can use extra information to leverage scores of learners. This requires either carefull selection of variables that can be handled by extra information or more easily, an open ended approach where the simulation is free and will respond if you have more control over a greater number of variables in the system.

A study that can be seen as a pointer is Betz(1995) who worked with SimCity 2000 and freshmen engineering students of Materials and methods. ( The use of computer and video games for learning, LSDA 2004, Ultralab m-learning )