Friday, 11 December 2009

Game based learning

Game based learning is a hybrid area of development taking the best of games technology and trying to shoehorn it into some serious educational contexts.  This area of R&D is growing in popularity. See my previous posts on what Sony (PSP) are doing in this arena.

I attended a webinar the other day that was co-orgnaised by the

I took some notes from the webinar & would like to share them with you plus some related videos that will feed into this blog post neatly.

Scott Hewitt from :,  gave a first half presentation encompassing some very interesting topics and some current projects and platforms.

  • revising to combat revision stress - Flash based learning game. It included easter eggs + combination scorings. planning revision breaks was paramount - they scored higher if they did this.

    Scott then talked about another tool Open simulator : currently in alpha version - create own virtual environments - d/load onto own server - Open Source - similar to SL. Can build your own "worlds", and make it private - UK Army are experimenting with it.  BCU have built Shareville as a 3D immersive world as a learning resource:

    • Unity : multiple platform development tool - very advanced, but need some experience to use it. A widespread community.

    • Thinking worlds (Caspian) : a rapid development engine, SCORM output, scoring and links to LMS to record scoring, shallow learning curve - advantageous to elearning devleopment teams (and as a teaching + learning tools) . Using with Students - pushing the boundaries:

    • Blackberry, iphone,  ipod touch are all being used for innovate games design, in schools. Flash support for iphone comming soon, which will help release more applications, quicker and easier.

    • Can you develop a game in a day? Yes they did with 35 games design students, see the project @ URL: , see 1/2 way down page for brief they gave to students to deign the games. They used thinking worlds for this. Split into roles and went through the whole process, including narrative, rewards, learning outcomes, flowchart, storyboards, testing and pilot, etc. All groups (about 6 in each group) did at least 1 game each in 1/2 day. nb/. dentisry looking at the wii controller to teach techniques.

    See also this useful video on hacking the wii:

    Second half of the session was run by Steve Harris - Northumbria Uni. His talk was equally interesting, but focussed on the underpinning principles of effective games design he teaches. High level concepts about game design and how education can benefit from these high level principles. Some notes I made:

    • Pace of learning - using games for differentiated learning design.

    • Recouperation is good for this- command and conquer, ie. intense period of action, then relaxation to reflect. Don't throw a constant barrage of info' at learners. Give time to reflect.
    • Motivation - fallout 3 game: sense of freedom (like ps2 game) - sense of discovery (not critical to quest) like easter eggs! Player feels as if they are in more control of the narrative - like GTA. ie. medical sim game - delivering medicines - add other medicines. They can discover to use in other situations.

    • Conflicts : places player in a situation where they have differing situations - like mad dash racing. Developing tactics and strategies to cope with rules of games. Helps to develop thninking, by allowing them to develop specifc skills i.e. time management.

    • Condorcet Paradox in gaming : remove dominant strategies: few number of paramenters create larger number of possibilities. Don't allow the learner to always win. Desgin in simple strategies.

    • Reward systems - fundamental in games: Operant conditioning - the more you use a technique or method, the better you become. It has to be balanced with other strategies to make you follow game rules. And Xbox 360 gamer acheivements online tag, to show others your skills. Simple to bolt on to a platform.

    • Apply thorough testing: ie. Halo 3 heat maps : bungie has these heat maps on their web site - in relation to specific weapon use - live payer date captured to allow you to learn from others. Intelligent use of gamer data.

    • Player assistance: i.e. player 2 can take temporary control to help player 1. Works with young and special needs games design.

    • Look at existing board games for ideas for effective learning/game design.

    I posed the question "are games designers utilising existing educational pedagogies to make their games educational?"  The answer was a no!  Which I thought was very strange indeed.  It seemed like a one way street, i.e. educators are looking for games based applications/platforms/technolgoes/graphics to make learning objects or content more engaging, but why are'nt games designers looking at the many (thousands of years) of teaching and learning experiences to make their games better? Or are they?  Let me know.

    Links and related books:

    • Understanding Video Games. Nielsen, Smith &  Tosca. (2008) . Routledge. ISBN: 0415977215. Gee, P. (2007) What Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and
    • Game Design Workshop: designing, Prototyping and Playtesting Games Literacy. Palgrave. ISBN: 1403984530. Fullerton, Swain &  Hoffman. (2004) . ISBN: 1578202221

    • + The cube   I love bees + NiN ARG (Wired article)

    • UK army gave personel DS Lites for eLearning: Developed by Epic (Stuart Chadwick) - won an award this year

    Finally have a look into the future at Project Natal


    Scott Hewitt said...

    Thanks for including such a detailed report in your blog. I really enjoyed the session and the questions session was great.

    We are planning some new additions to the stressmeless game at the moment!

    Scott Hewitt
    Real Projects

    Charles said...

    Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

    Scorm E Learning