The Guide to Computer Simulations and Games
By Katrin Becker and J.R.Parker
Published by Wiley
This book is a ‘no programming required’ introduction to simulation. Most intro simulation books are written for people in CS. Our book offers technical details on what simulations are and how they are built that are written for someone who is not (and may not want to become) a programmer, but who still needs or wants to know about the inner workings of a simulation. The focus will be on educational simulations (and games). Both authors have many years of ‘hard-core’ technical expertise in simulations but there is a real need for a book on simulations that is accessible for people outside of computer science. Writing a book like this requires people with a deep technical understanding of simulations but also with the educational expertise to know what educators need to know. We have that.
When we design a learning or development solution that is to be delivered using print matter or even a website, the interaction between the learner and the material is fairly obvious. The behaviour of the learning application is clear: the learner navigates through various pages, watches videos or listens to podcasts, often answering various questions along the way. This is not true for computer simulations and games. Simulations and Games are an excellent medium for learning, but they usually ‘sit’ on top of so much programming that it is nearly impossible to understand what’s happening behind the scenes without actually being a programmer yourself. This book will demystify what’s going on for the rest of us.
The field of modeling and simulation is a diverse one. Virtually every discipline uses simulation and modeling to answer questions in research and development, and more and more are also using them for training and education. As Bernard Zeigler said in 1976, even though mathematics is pervasive, people from different disciplines don’t do calculations differently; what is different is what and when they calculate as well as why. Zeigler goes on to say that the same is true of simulation and modeling: “it has its own concepts of model description, simplification, validation, simulation, and exploration, which are not specific to any particular discipline.” (Zeigler, 1976, p.vii) This book will explain those.
There is a reason why race car drivers often start out as (professional or amateur) mechanics: In order to get the best performance out of your vehicle, you need to really understand it, and in order to do that, you need to know how it works. This is also true of ‘technology’. Just because you use some application or piece of software does not mean you know it. There are FAR far too many people out there designing computer-based educational applications who know very little about how the computer actually works. If you would like to know more about how the technology you use works, then this book is for you.
You do not need to have a degree in IT or CS to understand this book (collectively, the authors have five of them), but if you want to design or use simulations and games for training and education, then you DO need to know more about these applications than you probably do now.
This book is for anyone involved in the design, development, or use of simulations and games as part of a learning solution. It is for professional trainers, educators, development teams, and decision and policy makers. It assumes a basic computer literacy, but does not assume you know how to program. It assumes basic mathematical proficiency at the high school level.