During the past 9 months, I’ve been asked to present a Serious Game session to 15 different audiences. I’ve delivered it at conferences, as a workshop, in keynote form, and more. We start by actually playing a game and then follow it up with practical examples of game elements in various disciplines.
But every time I present this, I’m left wondering how much the audience really got. It’s highly entertaining and I’ve been told it’s very engaging. The idea is to provide example after example of various games in educational settings to “spark” the imagination of teachers. I hope they say, “That school did X…I’m sure I can change it a bit and do Y…” And of course I try to find websites and resources they can plug into.
But as creative as I believe teachers to be (this is the reason I believe many people are teachers…they have the ability to figure out how to present information in an unusual way), for some instructors the concept of gaming is still too “out there” to grasp. It’s not concrete enough for them. They have trouble tying games to learning objectives or outcomes. And so, I’m afraid that games in the classroom fall by the wayside.
So I wanted to start at a basic definition of games that might give us a place to work from. Unfortunately, definitions of games, especially of “serious” games are ambiguous at best. Often the definitions include marketing terms and analogies like “edutainment” that really put off some teachers. After all, the moniker of “serious game” was only created to try and break through the wall many teachers have regarding games intersecting with education. The thought was that the word “serious” would open the door to thought about gaming. (I hope it has done just that…) All of that said, here is my first stab at a working definition:
Serious Game Definition: A competition (against others or self) with defined rules and goal(s) that signify an ending. The purpose of the serious game is not entertainment as the primary, but instead as the secondary objective. The primary objective is to aid in education, training, comprehension, retention, etc.
But it’s also important to talk about why games even matter at all. Why take a chance on serious games in your own classroom? To do so, let’s play a game. I’m going to make several statements that are backed by research. However, if you can prove me wrong, I’ll retract this and give you full credit for your work. Up for it?
- Games raise retention rates. Students actually remember game elements longer than through traditional means.
- Games raise interest (attention). Students actually find learning to be “fun” when they are contextualized as games.
- Games provide much less negative pressure than traditional presentation and assessment do.
- Positive emotion by the learner equals better perceptual maps. Games provide a more satisfying and enjoyable environment which research shows to help cement concepts and information – basically, any positive emotion associated with a learning concept helps solidify the experience and understanding.
- Games provide an easy way to incorporate team work. (If you don’t know how important this concept is, read several of my blogs below)
Serious gaming is serious educational business. Large quantities of information can be passed to people through gaming contexts. Unfortunately, too many teachers are ignoring the power of games in their classrooms…at ALL levels. It’s time to change that, don’t you think? Google your subject matter and the word game to see what pops up. You might be surprised at what’s out there and even more surprised at the results you get.
Do you want to play a game? Need someone to show you how games work and give you (or your teachers / trainers) some practical content ideas? Contact email@example.com for more information!