This is the time of the year when Nobel prizes are announced. Curious about the nominations of this year, I visited their official website recently and got distracted by an interesting simulated game that was rather engaging. It is called The Blood Typing Game. The game-based simulation teaches about how blood types can be determined in a playful way. In fact, this game was the 2012 winner of the Best Game Category by Swedish Learning Awards.
From the same site I also played the Laser Challenge Game. Well, at the end of the game, I got quite a few points but I skipped a lot of the theory to just collect points. In the end, I didn’t really learn much about what LASER was all about. It did provide a lot of entertainment and tested my speed on the keys of my keyboard, but I was not successful in improving my knowledge about LASERS. Of course, I could have if I had wanted to but I was more curious to get on to the higher levels of the game.
This got me thinking about the difference between the first game and the second one that I played.
In the Blood Typing Game, although I made mistakes in an attempt to finish and go to the next level, by the end of the game, I did manage to understand a lot about blood grouping and how it works.
However, in the second Laser Challenge game, I didn’t bother to really read the text about Laser but just clicked on continue to get ahead, thereby missing the opportunity to learn.
Given the outcome of the two games, I’d like to classify the first game as a simulation, while the second one as just a game. Most often the terms – Simulations and Games – are used interchangeably, but there is subtle difference between the two. Here is what I think distinguishes the two.
|Create a fun experience for the learner.||Explain about a process, mechanism or plainly how things work.|
|Outcome can be uncertain. Chance or luck plays a role based on players’ dexterity using keyboard, buttons or mouse.||Requires a combination of strategy and skills to play the game. Outcome dependent on the decisions.|
|Can have elements of fantasy and artistic exaggeration weaved into a story.||Portrays realistic image of a situation, software or systems. Tasks or steps are realistic and sequential.|
|Emphasis is on playing and winning points or badges.||Emphasis is on reflecting, exploring and succeeding through trial and error.|
So, in the context of eLearning where can we use simulations and where can we use games? Simulations might work best either during formative assessments or even during the process of learning, while games can be used for summative assessments.
Ideally, there should be a way to take the best of both the domains to create a vibrant engaging interface for learners to develop useful skills or knowledge. MIT Sloan Management’s Learning Edge has come up with a series of free resources that include simulation games that seem to successfully integrate games and simulations. Did you get a chance to play one of these simulation games? Try them out and share your experiences here.