Games as Learning
Games can engage and provoke in ways that film, text and other one-way mediums simply can't... Read on to find out more, or check out the games we've made for other people or why not book us to give a talk on the subject.
Studies show that serious games can significantly increase learning. Whether they're used formally in the classroom, in the workplace for internal training, for communicating campaign messages, or generally to provoke public thought and action, games are a key to unlocking further understanding.
Games are a uniquely powerful and thought-provoking communication tool due to their interactive nature. A well-designed game requires input from the players and their decisions change the nature of the game itself. Learning outcomes can be dramatic and immediate and even the most abstract of games serve as an excellent in-road to deeper discussion.
Many games - serious and otherwise - start with the mechanics and then paste a theme on top once they're done. The entire industry pretty much works like this: a deisgner takes an idea to a publisher with a game about pirates hunting hidden treasure; the publisher likes the underlying mechanic but wants a game that will complete their latest zombie trilogy; pirates become zombies, treasure becomes people and the problem is solved. This isn't how we view or design games.
"Games place both learning and teaching in the hands of the players"We start with the theme and work back to the mechanic. So we might look at the "War on Terror" and note how the funding and support of undesirables creates more instability. So we allow players the same option: fund terrorist and insurgent groups for a short-term gain, but create long-term instability and more conflict. Even when it seems to make no sense, some players will choose this option because it's achieving other goals; however the consistent thing is that the game is giving them important feedback that relates directly to their choices and which reflects upon the real world. Once the player establishes a link between their decisions in the game and the events playing out on the global stage, a deep and long-lasting understanding is reached.
The Process of Designing a 'serious game'
- Research: Lots of reading, talking, discussing... getting a solid grasp of the subject
- Indentify: Teasing out the game elements: who or what are the main protagonists; their motivations, key drivers, conflicts, constraints etc.
- Translate: Simply and distil real-world drivers & relations into game mechanics
- Test: Do players have choice? Is it meaningful? Does their choices change the game? What emergent behaviour is there? Does the narrative of the game fit the larger real-world model?
- More tests: Sometimes you only need to tweak a variable, other times the entire relationship between game elements (like resources and producers) needs completely rewiring. Either way, testing frequently at all stages is vital.
- Presentation:: The fun bit - turning scraps of paper and scribbled instructions into an appealing and attractive game. Oh and test again.
On a superficial level, games attract, excite, engage and provoke. On a deeper and critical level, games are a refreshing change to traditional authority and power relationships between those that have knowledge and those that don't (eg. Teacher-student relationships). Games place both learning and teaching in the hands of the players; a good game gives players the tools and space to apply what they know and inuit, using the game as a feedback mechinism, to test and refine their beliefs.
Have TerrorBull Games design a game for you
If you want to communicate in a different way, or you have a message you really want to really sink in, or you just want your guests to have fun at your next event, then we can probably help - check out the games we've made for other people or drop us an email, we'd love to hear from you.
Oh, and we love a challenge.
Pretend to care & we'll pretend to listen:
You may well wonder where's our Tax Avoidance Game? Where's our Brexit Game? Where's our Refugee Game? Well, in truth, we got a little distracted. First with children's books, then with strange game festivals in Paris and most recently with trying to design a single-player game with no components. All true ...