What's in a Game?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Let’s face it—games are cool. More importantly, games can be effective vehicles for learning. Indeed, few deny that a fundamental advantage of games is that they engage learners more than many other learning experiences. But game advocates contend that they offer even more valuable benefits than engagement: Games enable players to learn by doing, as well as provide a safe environment for workers to fail specific tasks and try again.

But not so fast...


In his T+D article “Games, Gamification, and the Quest for Learner Engagement,” game champion Karl Kapp reminds us that like any other learning solution, a successful game requires good design.  Kapp writes, “A well-designed game is a system in which players engage in an abstract challenge, defined by rules, interactivity, and feedback that result in a quantifiable outcome often eliciting and emotional response.” As if quality learning design weren’t difficult enough, a learning game has the additional challenges of integrating story, reward, motivation, and more into their material. Bottom line: Good game design is not easy.

With serious games and the buzz around gamification spurring intense interest in game design, I’m curious as to what “in-the-grind practitioners” actually think of them. Are you working to design or use serious games in your organization? If so, what questions do you have? What challenges have you encountered? What advice do you have for your peers considering employing learning games in their companies? You can add your thoughts to the comments below.

Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention the great discussion happening on ASTD's L&D CoP Blog spurred by Ruth Clark’s post, Why Games Don’t Teach. Check it out and add to the discussion.

About the Author
Justin Brusino is the Community of Practice Manager for Learning Technologies at ATD. Connect with him on Twitter @ATDLearnTech.
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