Posted tagged ‘game’

5 games every e-learning professional should play

3 April 2017

You can narrow down someone’s age by whether they include spaces in their file names. If they do, they’re under 40.

That is a sweeping declaration, and quite possibly true.

Here’s another one… Gamers are a sub-culture dominated by young men.

This declaration, however, is stone-cold wrong. In fact, 63% of American households are home to someone who plays video games regularly (hardly a sub-culture). Gamers are split 59% male / 41% female (approaching half / half) while 44% of them are over the age of 35 (not the pimply teenagers one might expect). [REF]

In other words, the playing of video games has normalised. As time marches on, not gaming is becoming abnormal.

Woman and man seated on a couch playing a video game.

So what does this trend mean for e-learning professionals? I don’t quite suggest that we start going to bed at 3 a.m.

What I do suggest is that we open our eyes to the immense power of games. As a profession, we need to investigate what is attracting and engaging so many of our colleagues, and consider how we can harness these forces for learning and development purposes.

And the best way to begin this journey of discovery is by playing games. Here are 5 that I contend have something worthwhile to teach us…

1. Lifesaver

Lifesaver immediately impressed me when I first played it.

The interactive film depicts real people in the real world, which maximises the authenticity of the learning environment, while the decision points at each stage gate prompt metacognition – which is geek speak for realising that you’re not quite as clever as you thought you were.

The branched scenario format empowers you to choose your own adventure. You experience the warm glow of wise decisions and the consequences of poor ones, and – importantly – you are prompted to revise your poor decisions so that the learning journey continues.

Some of the multiple-choice questions are unavoidably obvious; for example, do you “Check for danger and then help” or do you “Run to them now!”… Duh. However, the countdown timer at each decision point ramps up the urgency of your response, simulating the pressure cooker situation in which most people I suspect would not check for danger before rushing over to help.

Supplemented by extra content and links to further information, Lifesaver is my go-to example when recommending a game-based learning approach to instructional design.

2. PeaceMaker

Despite this game winning several prestigious awards, I hadn’t heard of PeaceMaker until Stacey Edmonds sang its praises.

This game simulates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which you choose to be the Israeli Prime Minister or the Palestinian President, charged with making peace in the troubled region.

While similar to Lifesaver with its branched scenario format, its non-linear pathway reflects the complexity of the situation. Surprisingly quickly, your hipsteresque smugness evaporates as you realise that whatever you decide to do, your decisions will enrage someone.

I found this game impossible to “win”. Insert aha moment here.

3. Diner Dash

This little gem is a sentimental favourite of mine.

The premise of Diner Dash is beguilingly simple. You play the role of a waitress in a busy restaurant, and your job is to serve the customers as they arrive. Of course, simplicity devolves into chaos as the customers pile in and you find yourself desperately trying to serve them all.

Like the two games already mentioned, this one is meant to be a single player experience. However, as I explain in Game-based learning on a shoestring, I recommend it be deployed as a team-building activity.

4. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

As its name suggests, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a multi-player hoot. I thank Helen Blunden and David Kelly for drawing it to my attention.

In the virtual reality version of the game, the player wearing the headset is immersed in a room with a bomb. The other player(s) must relay the instructions in their bomb defusal manual to their friend so that he/she can defuse said bomb. The trouble is, the manual appears to have been written by a Bond villain.

It’s the type of thing at which engineers would annoyingly excel, while the rest of us infuriatingly fail. And yet it’s both fun and addictive.

As a corporate e-learning geek, I’m also impressed by the game’s rendition of the room. It underscores for me the potential of using virtual reality to simulate the office environment – which is typically dismissed as an unsuitable subject for this medium.

5. Battlefield 1

I could have listed any of the latest games released for Xbox or PlayStation, but as a history buff I’m drawn to Battlefield 1.

It’s brilliant. The graphics, the sounds, the historical context, the immersive realism, are nothing short of astonishing. We’ve come a long way since Activision’s Tennis.

Activision's Tennis video game on a vintage TV featuring two blocky players on court.

My point here is that the advancement of gaming technology is relentless. While we’ll never have the budget of Microsoft or Sony to build anything as sophisticated as Battlefield 1, it’s important we keep in touch with what’s going on in this space.

Not only can we be inspired by the big end of town and even pick up a few design tips, we need to familiarise ourselves with the world in which our target audience is living.

What other games do you recommend we play… and why?

Pokémon whoa!

9 August 2016

When I was a teenager I was addicted to video games. Not stay-awake-for-three-days-and-die-of-starvation kind of addicted, but I would spend every conceivable moment playing.

While I enjoyed car games and classic shoot’em ups, my favourites were the more strategic kinds of games in which you could explore, think, and discover. There was always somewhere else to reach, something fascinating to find, another stratagem to try.

I ended up imposing a ban on myself in order to focus on my studies, and I did not lift a video gaming finger for years afterwards.

Then along came Ingress.

Ingress screenshot

Ingress is a mobile game developed by Niantic (an offshoot of Google). You choose to join one of two factions that are fighting for world supremacy by capturing virtual portals – which are represented by public landmarks in the real world such as statues and fountains.

Ingress is oft described as an augmented reality game, but I disagree. It’s an alternate reality game. And it’s addictive. There’s something about covering a swathe of land in deep green (or blue, if you’re one of them) which elicits that sweet dopamine of achievement.

The plot isn’t real, of course, but that doesn’t matter. The emotion is.

Eventually I had to give up Ingress because I could feel my dubious history with video games flooding back, and I was chewing through my data like a hot knife through butter.

Zubat over Sydney Harbour

It is in this light that I look on with amusement at Niantic’s latest offering: Pokémon Go.

I was vaguely aware of this game since I maintain a general interest in augmented reality. Then one day it exploded. Suddenly everyone was playing it!

I hadn’t planned to play Pokémon Go myself, but given its sheer popularity I felt it would be remiss of me as an e-learning professional to forgo an informed opinion. So I gave it a go.

Frankly, it isn’t my cup of tea. Indeed I find the game a bit childish and pointless. When you catch one Pokémon, you catch another, and then another… ad infinitum. So what?

Still, I can see why others enjoy it. All the key game mechanics are there: it’s intuitive to play; your first Pokémon is easy to catch; you level up quickly; and the Pokédex is an interesting element that taps into the collector’s mentality.

You can also earn ownership of a gym (reminiscent of becoming a mayor in Foursquare) and you can incubate and hatch eggs (reminiscent of the parenting responsibilities for Tamagotchi).

Pokémon Go players congregating undercover by the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House.

Predictably, Pokémon Go has provoked a torrent of criticism from non-players, and I say some of it is warranted. From public nuisances to privacy concerns, the game has also fuelled discourtesy, disrespect, and self harm.

Personally I don’t think that you are stupid just because you play Pokémon Go. However, I do think the game is a vehicle for stupid people to express their stupidity.

I also think the decision to assign churches as gyms was ill advised, though I realise there is a technical reason for this and thankfully some churches are using their lemons to make lemonade.

Pokemon Go screenshot

On the plus side, Pokémon Go gets people walking – that’s unusual for a video game, even a mobile one – and it has single-handedly introduced millions of people around the world to the concept of AR.

And if we needed it, it’s yet another reminder to L&D folks that people love games.

The future of entertainment

28 June 2016

In the space of a couple of weeks, I have previewed the future of entertainment twice.

Promo for VR Noir

The first instance was at AFTRS in Sydney, where I attended a presentation of VR Noir: A Day Before The Night.

Billed as an “interactive crime thriller”, this immersive virtual reality experience might best be described as a combination of a film and a game. Set in the style of the gumshoe genre we know so well, you play the part of a private detective who must decide whether or not to take on a client’s case. Your actions drive the story forward, and your decisions along the way impact the final outcome.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and commend AFTRS on the quality of their work, I was also fascinated by the unique technical challenges they encountered. One of the most pressing ones was point of view: in a 360° environment, there is simultaneously no POV and all POVs. (Maybe their next VR film will be about Schrödinger’s cat?)

Another challenge was the stitching: the actors had to remain within the narrow confines of the frame, lest be sliced in two.

However the medium also afforded opportunities. One of them was the audio: by plotting the source of a sound at particular coordinates, its realism increased by orders of magnitude as I moved my head, or stepped closer or further away, while the stereophonics adjusted accordingly.

If and when multiple users can interact in the same VR film at the same time – that is to say, when the experience becomes social – the opportunities to replicate real-life situations will increase exponentially.

Indeed, my second preview of the future of entertainment was social.

The virtual reality experience offered by Zero Latency in Melbourne might best be described as laser tag on steroids. Armed with a headset, earphones, mic, and a plastic gun, your mission is to seek and destroy the hordes of zombies that have taken over the city.

Up to 6 players can traverse the 400m2 physical floor space as a platoon. Of course, the virtual world is much larger than that – as the website states, “We reuse the space with some nifty tricks we have developed.”

Saying that Zero Latency is loads of fun feels like I’m committing an injustice. Suffice to say the shoot’em-up genre has been elevated to a whole new level. I think my adrenalin is still pumping!

VR headset

Beyond the novelty factor, I was deeply engaged by both the interactive film and the ambulatory game. Having now experienced both, I am left in no doubt that virtual reality is the future of entertainment.

And if that’s true, then it’s also the future of lots of other things, such as learning.

Game-based learning on a shoestring

23 February 2015

Game-based learning doesn’t have to break the bank. That was the key point of my presentation at The Learning Assembly in Melbourne last week.

Sure, you can spend an obscene amount of money on gaming technology if you want to, but you don’t have to.

Take Diner Dash for instance. In this free online game, you play the role of a waitress in a busy restaurant. As the customers arrive you need to seat them, take their order, submit the order to the chef, serve their food, transact their payment, clean their table, and take the dirty dishes back to the kitchen.

Leave any of your customers unattended for too long and they’ll walk out in a huff, costing you a star. When you lose all your stars, your shift is over.

It’s all very straight-forward… until the customers start pouring in and you find yourself racing to do everything at the same time. Straight-forward rapidly becomes complex!

Diner Dash screenshot

While Diner Dash is just a simple little game, it can afford an engaging learning experience.

For example, suppose you incorporate the game into a team-building workshop. You could split the participants into teams of 3 or 4 members, place each team in front of a computer with Diner Dash pre-loaded, and instruct them to score as many points as possible within a given time period.

Of course the game isn’t meant to be played in this way. Controlling the waitress by committee is awkward and inefficient. The participants will panic; they’ll snap at one another; someone will commandeer the mouse and go it alone; someone else will butt in; and they’ll all start to talk over the top of each other.

But that’s by design. Because when the game is over, you introduce Tuckman’s model of team development and suddenly the penny drops.

What Diner Dash has done is provide the participants with a recent experience of team building. Sure, the premise of the game was fictitious, but the dynamics among the players were real. So when it comes time to reflect upon the theoretical principles of the model, they don’t need to imagine some vague hypothetical scenario because they’ve personally experienced a highly charged scenario that very morning. It’s fresh in their minds.

Hands around laptop

Other themes that could emerge via a game like Diner Dash include time management, priority management, customer service, problem solving, decision making, strategic thinking, adaptability and learning agility.

Another is collaboration. If you were to put a leaderboard at the front of the room, I could almost guarantee that each team would default to competition mode and battle it out for supremacy. But wasn’t the objective of the activity to score as many points as possible? So why wouldn’t you collaborate with your colleagues around you to do that – especially those who had played the game before! This observation never fails to enlighten.

So, getting back to my original proposition: game-based learning doesn’t have to break the bank. With resources such as Diner Dash available for free, you can do it on a shoestring.

The A to Z of learning

5 April 2011

It all started with a tweet by Anne Bartlett-Bragg (@AnneBB) observing an instance of the term s-learning representing social learning.

Amused by our industry’s obsession with single letter prefixes, I replied facetiously that I preferred the term slearning – simply because it sounds so awful.

Then Anne suggested we play an alphabet learning game, and she proposed the first neologism: a-learning is awful learning? action learning? adaptive learning?

Well that was a red rag to this nerdy bull, so I replied with b-learning is book learning. In the blink of an eye we roped in Penny Wheeler (@pennyjw) and Claire Brooks (@clairebrooks) as we embarked on a
26-letter journey of frivolity.


All fun aside though, assigning 26 letters to learning is a lot harder than you might think.

Sure, you can make up anything (eg zebra learning), but if you adhere to the spirit of the game and confine your answers to terms that are pedagogically meaningful, the level of difficulty rises.

More than just a game, the exercise prompted me to critically reflect on the broad range of instructional approaches that are adopted in the digital age.

Businesswoman on laptop

So what did we come up with?

• a-learning is awful learning, action learning, adaptive learning
• b-learning is book learning
• c-learning is Confucian learning
• d-learning is distributed learning
• e-learning is enhanced learning
• f-learning is free learning
• g-learning is great learning, generative learning, granular learning
• h-learning is hidden learning, holistic learning
• i-learning is incidental learning, integrative learning
• j-learning is just-in-time learning
• k-learning is kinaesthetic learning
• l-learning is learning to learn
• m-learning is meta learning
• n-learning is new learning
• o-learning is objective learning, organisational learning
• p-learning is learning from other people
• q-learning is quantum learning, quick learning, quality learning
• r-learning is research oriented learning
• s-learning is social learning, socially networked learning
• t-learning is transformative learning
• u-learning is universal learning
• v-learning is video game learning, voracious learning
• w-learning is we learning
• x-learning is xenogamous learning
• y-learning is Gen Y targeted learning
• z-learning is Zen learning

No doubt you noticed that we tended to avoid the obvious (eg electronic learning, mobile learning).

In fact, I think we ended up with quite a thought-provoking list.

Wanna play?

Twitter birdAnyone can play the A to Z Learning Game.

Simply follow the #azlearninggame trend on Twitter and chip in the next answer.

Just remember to use the hashtag, and try to pick something unique.

If it’s abstract or obscure, justify it within the 140 character limit.

Go on, have a go!