I have to admit that this class, and the whole concept of serious gaming, is becoming more interesting as I immerse in the research and games themselves. I can totally see how a good serious game would be a great learning experience for my students. Of course, this week’s assignment has really made me think about what kind of game I would be willing to let my students play in place of instruction in the classroom. What does that game look like?
As I researched different criteria for serious games, I realized that there are so many different ideas for the ideal components of a serious game. At first, I thought it would be best to keep the list short, but I soon realized that it was going to be difficult. Here are my thoughts…
“Challenging and learning makes good games motivating and entertaining.”
-The game should be challenging, yet the tasks achievable. Its tasks should also involve some problem solving skills that requires some higher order thinking. This seems like the most agreed upon component. My four-year old son is a true example of this. There are times when he downloads a game on my iPad and immediately disregards it because he does not understand how to play. However, he refuses to just play one of his younger sister’s games – they are boring! I also think that the difficulty should be hierarchical, meaning it should get harder as the student progresses through the game.
-A serious game is supposed to be a learning experience as well as an entertaining one. As an educator, this component cannot be overlooked. All activities that are to be used in the classroom should tie to the content objectives. Every opportunity should be a learning one.
Dr. Jim Gee says a good game encourages a gamer to be “persistent past failure.”
-There should be a goal, a task that has meaning; and the student should be able to relate the goal to his/her life experiences. The point of an educational serious game is to enable the student to learn the content in a fun environment, but use these same skills to solve some real-world problem. The questions most asked by my students: why do we need to know this, and when are we going to use this in our lives? A good serious game should be able to answer these questions. There should also be some emotional attachment to the goal so that the learning is meaningful.
-A good serious game should also encourage students to take risks. We want our children to be willing to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. It should not be different in the gaming world. In fact, the gaming world makes this easier for the student because they know that the consequences are not permanent. This also means that the game should give the students some feedback. Students should know what kind of affect their choice is going to make on the world and those around them, without giving them the sense of complete failure.
-Finally, I think the game should involve some sort of teamwork or student collaboration. I know there are many great games out there that are single-player. But, I think a good serious game should involve some sort of interaction between students. Students should be able to work with others to solve problems or accomplish a task. This is a real-world skill that should be honed whenever possible, and what better place to do that but within a fun gaming experience.
In conclusion, the authors of a study on the evaluation of serious games (http://www.eurodl.org/?article=546) state that a good game should be “engaging, self-reinforcing” to “motivate and educate players.” They also said it should be “awareness raising, concept constructing, and develop a positive attitude toward sustainable issues.”