Theories of Games and Interaction for Design (3: 3 Queries)

Approximate Reading Time: 2 minutes

These are public postings of my writings for the first course of the Graduate Certificate Program in Serious Game Design and Research at Michigan State University.

Each week, we are also required to post three questions for the rest of the class. These are mine.

Please note: these posts are not intended as any kind of commentary on or assessment of the course I’m taking, or its instructor, OR of Michigan State University or the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, or the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media. They are solely my thoughts and reactions that stem from the readings.

Feel free to comment, disagree, or what have you.

Week 3

These are the readings for the week:

  • Ch. 6, Prensky, M. (2001). Digital game-based learning. New York: Mcgraw-Hill.
    • 6: Digital Game-Based Learning: Why and How it Works
  • Ch. 4, 5, Gee, J. P. (2007). Good video games + good learning: Collected essays on video games, learning and literacy. New York: Peter Lang
    • 4: Good Video Games, The Human Mind, and Good Learning
    • 5: Learning about Learning from a Videogame (Rise of Nations)

These are the Games:

My Questions

1. Is Learning Really Work, or is it Education that is Work?

Gee says, “When we think of games, we think of fun. When we think of learning we think of work”. (P. 43, 2007, Good Video Games + Good Learning)

Is that really true? Somewhere along the line kids begin to associate what they do in school with “work”, where “work” is seen to be unpleasant. I have yet to meet a single 6-year-old who feels that way, so what happened? Is it really learning that we dislike, or is it formal education? At some point many kids begin to associate negative feelings with schoolish subjects, yet most happily spend hours in a game and have no problem talking about what they learn there.

OK. So the leading question is probably somewhat rhetorical, but here’s one that isn’t:

What qualities does a low-budget educational game need to have in order to avoid being lumped in with all the other “education” they are required to do?

2. What are three key dimensions to look at when measuring the effectiveness of a serious game?

There’s an interesting discussion going on right now on the IGDA LEG SIG (International Game Developer’s Association, Learning and Education Special Interest Group) about what’s important in assessing the effectiveness of a serious game. Some are arguing for psychometric measures; some say all that matters is the user; others are arguing for pre- and post- tests; and yet others say we should be analysing the game itself even before we have users. What do you think is important?

3. How do we operationalize Gee’s “Principles”?

In this week’s readings, Gee talks about the things that “good” games do and how this relates to “good” learning. While I don’t disagree with much of what he says, I am still left wondering how to turn this into something I can use to make “good” serious games. It’s all well and good to say good games are good because they use good design, but suppose we are part of a design and development team that is tasked with creating an educational game to encourage kids to stay in school. How do we take advantage of Gee’s ideas?

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