Providing a one-stop seamless game experience

With the increasing rise of “Digital Natives”, who grew up playing digital interactive games, and are naturally prepared, ready, to “consume” learning experience fully self-contained into one game rather than embedding it into a workshop structure, the main challenge for designers of serious games in B&M may be the provision of a one-stop learning experience which includes/blends the briefing phase into seamless gameplay. Domain experts supported by game designers should intervene also before the actual game takes place.

 

B&M serious games often address quite complex issues and the different subject matters that characterize this application field and require very specialized and high quality expertise that can be hardly implemented in SG design as is only. Therefore, in the vast majority of the cases, SGs in B&M are inherent parts of a formal educational program that is deployed by making extensive use of facilitated workshops. This is almost a mandatory requirement the more the game is targeting executive education.

Facilitated workshops fit well in the experiential learning model (Kolb, 1984)[1] that proved to be effective also to make high the level of learners’ engagement provided that proper conditions are set (Gagné, 1985[2]; Rogers and Freiberg, 1993[3]). There are three main ways of setting up facilitation in the framework of a SG deployment:

1) fully Face-to-Face (F2F) workshop

2) fully online workshop

3) a blended solution (e.g. web session for the briefing, F2F or web for the run session, F2F for the debriefing).

A possible impact on game design can be given by a redefinition of the core gameplay itself. Rather than having one specific introductory part dedicated to the incorporated briefing clearly separated from the gaming session (this way there should not be any actual and logical difference with respect to the original structure of the workshop), the briefing, which oversees the introduction to the topic and related challenges, could be embedded in and distributed into the game. Theoretically speaking, this could be pushed to the limit of coupling micro-units of briefing with related game dynamics in a sort of sequence of basic units of learning experiences. The challenge is to prevent the actual risk of stopping or interrupting the game flow and, consequently, of interrupting learner’s attention and likely degrading the level of engagement and / or immersion in the game.

 

Another mechanism is to make the facilitator part of the game by fully virtualizing its role, that is, by modeling it via Artificial Intelligence. Of course, the intelligent agents governing the virtual facilitator will not only model the behaviour but should also be sophisticated enough to be able to spot issues, interesting points into the players activities and in the gaming session development and to pick up the right information to provide timely and targeting the right set of players.

WhatADay (http://www.wizer-simulations.com/#!what-a-day/cejc)

One example is the WhataDay leadership simulation, which can be played in multiple ways, from face to face to mixed (face to face and online) approach to completely online. The latter represents a seamless experience, which can be deployed without the presence of any facilitator, in which the player is able to access the game online, play the game and have intermittent debriefings by a video facilitator.

The downside of this approach is that it precludes team dynamics and team learning, which is another rich source of learning. Indeed, there are examples in Higher Education contexts of use where online deployment could be complicated and not as effective as in the case of F2F workshops. For instance, in SGs used for trainees’ assessment. If among the learning objectives set before the game run there is a 360° assessment that includes behavioural dynamics and analysis of body language and attitude, a F2F workshop is therefore necessary.

[1] Kolb, D. A. (1984). “Experiential Learning”, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice Hall, pp. 20-38, retrieved at http://academic.regis.edu/ed205/Kolb.pdf on 30 September 2012.

[2] Gagné, R. (1985). “The Conditions of Learning”. (4th ed.) New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

[3] Rogers, C. and Freiberg, H. J. (1993) “Freedom to Learn” (3rd ed.), New York: Merrill.

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