Friday, 11 October 2013

A Games Based Learning Manifesto: 10 Thoughts for Discussion

The following manifesto is some thoughts that have cropped up over the course of this blog and some new ones. We would welcome your thoughts, and together maybe we can create some guiding principles that might help move the technology forward.

1. Use the “G” word sparingly. 
In education you might be able to get away with games based learning, but in the commercial sector it is usually better to stick with terms like learning simulations. “Serious Games” gathered some traction but is somewhat of an oxymoron.

2. Don’t believe the hype (or more accurately understand that clients might believe the hype)
“The minute they see me, fear me
I’m the epitome - a public enemy”
Don’t believe the Hype, Public Enemy.

Games bring with them a lot of baggage. Titles such as Grand Theft Auto are controversial, but games in general are seen as trivial and time wasters. Sell to the believers (innovators and early adopters) and provide them with the ammunition to succeed in their mission of gaining buy-in in their organisation.

3. Don’t sell the sizzle, sell the WHY.
While selling benefits rather than features might be perfectly sensible for products that have become commoditised, that is not the case with innovations. As Simon Sinek says we should “start with why” - . What inspired us to develop games based learning? Sell that why. Tell that story. Inspire others and create a movement.

4. Learning design trumps game gimmicks
If (for example) 3D graphics and a first person perspective help the learning, then use them; if they don’t, then don’t use them. Not only do they add to the cost of development, they are aesthetically tied to entertainment games and make games based learning look trivial and so on.

5. Real enough, not really boring
Whilst the simulation “models” a situation, it is not a model in the strictest sense. A learning simulation needs to be real enough to allow learners to quickly explore a situation without getting too bogged down in detail.

6. Don’t crowbar games into the solution
Just because we can develop games doesn’t mean that they are the correct solution to a particular problem - apropos games.

7. Games = game changers
Games can reach the parts of learning other methods can’t. We need to look for intractable learning problems. Complex issues that are hard to explain with traditional learning methods fit the bill, as does the need to engage large numbers of people. Death by PowerPoint won’t work in these situations.

8. Gamification and serious games / simulations are not the same thing
As Andrzej Marczewski points out, gamification shares some aspects with games such as scores, leader boards, badges (rewards). But, serious games / simulations incorporate game play. And serious games / simulations differ from entertainment games, which are only played for fun. This fact has design and marketing implications and is more than a simple semantic issue ‘about names’.

9. Glammed up quizzes aren’t really games
They are tests in disguise. Games take many forms but they have traits such as problem solving, narrative approach, situational reference (simulations), challenges, jeopardy, interactivity, engagement etc. While a quiz might be engaging if there is a potential to win a million, they are not going to expand learning much.

10. Fads can become mainstream
"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." -- Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

The law of Diffusion of Innovation (Everett Rogers) shows how innovations are taken up by innovators, then early adopters, then come the early majority, the late majority pile in and finally the laggards turn up. Games based learning is still in the early adopter phase and we should be marketing to these types of customers. But to go mainstream, as Geoffrey A Moore states, we will need to cross the chasm, by building momentum and creating a bandwagon effect that the pragmatists will take notice of.


Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey A. Moore (1991, revised 1999)
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek (2011)
What’s the difference between Gamification and Serious Games? Andrzej Marczewski
Game Mechanics in Gamification, Andrzej Marczewski


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