Games are at the verge of evolving into a serious method of teaching pretty soon. Why? Because they are fun, they involve intense and passionate involvement, they give us structure through their rules, they are interactive and can be adapted to a learner’s teaching style and pace, they can take various routes to learn the same concept thus catering to a much larger audience profile. Is that not all? No there is more, they spark creativity, interaction and a challenge, and they also give us emotions. All of this can fit into a game and are needed if a game is developed keeping in mind a basic rule: “Would I like or love to play this game?” I use this rule of thumb while creating a game, if the answer to this question is ‘like’ I know that it is time to relook the strategy, the graphics, etc. If the answer is ‘love’, I take a second opinion 🙂
The educationists have been trying their hands on teaching and learning through ‘hands-on’ methodologies. Really great work, I too have for some time worked on such theories with some renowned educationists. And I completely agree with them that having a hands-on experience makes learning most easy and fun. I have sat with children who have been put through some of these teaching materials, gathering scientific data, and no quantitative number can suffice for the joy that you see in the child’s eye when they understand the ‘Why?’ or the ‘How?’.
But a ‘hands-on’ approach may not always work. For example, how do you make a learner realize the demand and supply curve when all they have an idea about it is that it’s synonymous to food and hunger? Do you put them in the market with an assured sum and let them pick the details? No! Here is where a game can help. Learning from experience can only go that much. And for processes that are costly, where actual process life cycle is long, or where situations have a threat to life or property, or are dangerous or risky, games can be of great help. I played a game recently on the web about the situation in Somalia, which very distinctly played with my emotions. I could feel their pain and I was sitting no-where in Somalia at that time. But was this just an isolated reaction or a general reaction to people suffering? Either way there was learning happening.
I believe gaming as a learning strategy has not taken on off in a big way because it has not been researched properly. There is lot of feedback, both positive and negative, that can be found on the Internet, but not much of it is substantiated by any scientific process, so we cannot be sure. I however, found a research done at two universities in Canada and the US that show very positive and conclusive results. My work for one of our clients, where we had to create a similar game that uses student perception to market behavior as its concept helped me understand this research. I could relate much easily to the research work and its findings as I had sensed the feelings of utter confusion and then the dawn of realization too. I could see the results tallied with my initial reaction to our game and how I react to it now.
Now, I am not condemning books but games are more than capable of doing what the books have been doing since man scribbled on sand, and games can do much more than what the books have ever achieved.
Here is something interesting that you may want to read on the same topic – Everything Bad is Good for You – Steven Johnson
(P. Kasturi Rangan is Assistant Project Manager at G-Cube)