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ATD Blog

OnLine Gaming As A Learning Tool


Wed Oct 12 2005


Fist, I want to reveal my bias in this area. I believe the gaming world is way ahead of the corporate world in all aspects of collaboration, social, behavioral, technical, etc. So I am looking to see what is transferable from the gaming environment to the corporate environment in terms of collaboration and learning. In addition, I am an old gamer, and in my 30's spent a number of years playing D&D (Dungeons & Dragons).

A few months ago I saw a presentation by Byron Reeves of Stanford who is doing some really interesting research using an FMRI ( like a CAT scan) to look at areas of brain activation when game players are faced with certain tasks and situations. He found that:


- People were more excited when they got to pick their own avatars rather then getting assigned one

- People were more excited in a rich media environment

- The story for the game had a big effect on excitement

What he found from his research that can be applied to work situations is:

- Don't underestimate the value of fun!


- Reinforcement in multiple time domains is important

- Many of the game social and management skills learned are transferable to work situations

Byron's group has applied a game called The "three Ring Pirate's Gamne" components to a call center application with great success.

My Experince in Applying Gaming Principles

I am wondering if some of the results of this type of research apply to learning. In my own experience I have found that to teach about collaboration and collaboration technologies, talking about it (lecture) was not adequate, and that I had to create the BTG (business transformation game), which was a hands-on, scenario-based, role-playing game that helped people learn about collaboration technologies as well as their behavioral interactions by actually using a variety of technologies in a scenario we created. I have done this for a number of clients and have found that the level of learning from those that play the BTG is much higher then those that just recieve a lecture.


More About Games

Today there are 60 million active gamers in the U.S. today. Although most of them are males 14-34, that population has been rapidly shifting both towards women and older populations.

There are real benefits that gamers can get from playing games. For instance, increasing their ability to deal with spatial rotation, or people with Asberger's syndrome getting better in social interactions.

From my point of view an even larger and more tangible benefit comes from the fact that these online games provide a variety of people the chance to try on and work in roles that they might not normally get until many years later in their career. In a game your group or team can deal with lots of different challenges and those on that team get experience in dealing with a situation that they probably would not experience. However, if this unlikley situation does come up in the real world , then they are more prepared to deal with it. Much like a simulation, some of these games may really be some type of immunization against the future!

There are all types of learners; auditory, visual, kinesthetic, etc. I believe games engage all types of learners and provide them with not only new information but a "practice area" to try on new roles and behaviors before they have to use them in a critical situation in real life!

What do you think?

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