Feb 8, 2013

Using Lessons from Video Games in E-Learning

I'm a child of the 80's. Everyday I am reminded of that by the marketers who want dollars from the 30-something crowd. The fact that I grew up in the 80's puts me in perfect place to see the evolution of video games. Yes, I played Pong back in the day. The Atari 2600 stole hours of my elementary years. I remember text-based games like Zork and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Castle Wolfenstein brought in the era of first person shooter games for me. SimCity allowed me to create my own little worlds where I could tax and make money. Quake and Goldeneye brought my attention back to FPS games and the Call of Duty franchise has kept me there.

While a lot of folks talk about the negatives of computer games, let me talk about some of the positives. Text-based games like Zork taught me the difficulties of human-machine interface. From SimCity I learned some basics about budgeting and interest rates. The Call of Duty franchise has taught me about many of the weapons used in World War II. I discovered this when I visited a museum with my family and could name all the weapons on display because of my experience with them in the game. That actually took me by surprise. But my point here is that games can be a very engaging way to learn.

There are lessons that can be learned on how to use games in learning. I wrote a blog article last year about what the 80's movie WarGames teaches us about learning games. Some of these lessons are:
  • Games can be used to simulate real work situations
  • Games should be tied to learning goals
  • Games should allow learners to fail and discover winning strategies

The playing of games brings out the same human nature we have at work. That is we don't want to take the time to learn something. We just want to start doing the job and learn along the way. Recently I wrote a blog article called Learning Lessons from Black Ops. In that blog post I wrote about techniques this Call of Duty game uses to teach you about the game as you play (i.e. learning on the job). These techniques include leveraging teachable moments and encouraging you to learn from other players.

From my experience, video games and learning have many synergies. One of my goals as a developer is to incorporate game techniques in learning as much as I can. You don't need 3-D graphics to implement the most important lessons!