Serious Games components

Essential Question:  What are the common components of serious games?

Have I ever mentioned how much I love James Paul Gee?  Let me just say it again– I love this man’s outlook!  Perhaps I’m extremely biased, because I grew up with videogames and his research actually validates my many hours spent adventuring in virtual universes.  My younger brother is studying to be a doctor, and when he was looking at a surgical rotation, they actually asked how much “Halo” he played, because these types of games actually increase hand/eye coordination and special relations.  My mother was much relieved to know that we kids didn’t waste our lives or rot out our brains!

On the contrary.  Videogames actually helped us in our various careers.  Now I’m not justifying that the games we played could be considered “serious,” (we played some real stinkers), but some did have redeeming value.  The ones that had a positive affect on us fell in line with many of the components Gee discussed.

*Fun.  The games were fun!  Engaging!  We played for hours on end… if Mom would let us, that is.

*Challenging. Easy games are boring!  Gee even made the point that human beings like to learn, whether we’re aware of it or not.  Makes sense.  Why do we have tourist attractions?  A challenging, yet doable game appeals to the players sense of competition.  And it’s not necessarily against anyone but yourself.  This challenge also presents a valuable lesson in losing.  Instead of wallowing in the failure of a task, gamers get back up on try again.  They may try the same scenario 10 times in a sitting, but get to revel in that victory when it eventually comes.

Critical thinking.  In the earlier stages of gaming, the player needed to read in order to know what to do next– and they needed to read carefully.  Modern games are going more to hiring voice actors and increasing their cinematography.  However, subtitles are still available to activate, and often the best idea, as misunderstanding your direction can cost you unnecessary time or loss of important items.  Most games also incorporate puzzles, math, and other variations of problem solving.

Independent learning.  I NEVER needed an adult to tell me how to play a videogame!  Most of the time, my parents didn’t get it.  And whenever my brothers and I came across a level or a dungeon we couldn’t pass, we’d look it up in a gaming magazine or a strategy guide.  Elementary kids doing independent research!  Because we WANTED to!  Also, the benefit to this research was that we got immediate reward for our efforts when we finally got passed where we were stuck.

If I could get that all in a classroom… I’d be the best teacher ever!  It is my hope to actually get there.  However, there is still a bit of a stigma with games for education, especially videogames.  We’re getting further away from at, as the kids who grew up gaming are now parents.  But there is a need to present this learning tool responsibly.  Violence sells.  And there are repercussions from that.  But that doesn’t mean that we give up!  Game on!

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2 responses to “Serious Games components

  1. Tiffany,
    forgive me for playing the Devil’s advocate here, (since I asked Leslie a question that was 180 degrees different from the one I’m about to ask you…I just like asking questions and engaging in conversation…it’s one way I learn and make meaning) do good game designers always focus on independent learning? Are there well-designed games out there that require team or group learning and collaboration? Is one design better than the other (multi-player vs. single-player games)? Are there games that foster independent learning while functioning in a situation of team collaboration? As a gamer, I have a feeling you’re going to have some great insight and an interesting response! I can’t wait. 🙂

    • Interesting question! I will endeavor to do my best!
      “Do good game designers always focus on independent learning?” I cannot speak for the designers themselves. But in my personal opinion, the best games make you work for something and you get a great sense of accomplishment when you figure something out for yourself. Some of the more recent games have been “dumbed down” a bit, and gamers are concerned for future games becoming too easy.
      “Are there well-designed games out there that require team or group learning and collaboration?” Ever hear of World of Warcraft? HUGE collaborative game, and not one you really wanted to play alone. I’ve never been much for online gaming, but the communities that come out of such games are pretty impressive. Scary, because of their addictiveness, but impressive. Also, in just home gaming, my brothers and I would always play together. It may have just been a single player game, but we all enjoyed the journey together; sometimes switching off; or looking up solutions to difficult sections. Multi-player, of course fostered a better opportunity to encourage collaboration and independent learning, but those games can be difficult to create a “good” design.

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