Using existing games to provoke learning

In a previous post I have described how games can be used to enhance learning in three ways; as a simulation of real situations, as a carrier of thematic information, or as competitive skill practice.

One of the ideal scenarios in using existing games for educational purposes is the appropriation or adaptation of excellently designed and mass produced games. These make your life as a trainer or educator much simpler, as you don’t have to become a professional game designer in adddition to your existing work.

This week I have been playing Brass: Birmingham to consider whether the theme of the game or the skill practice required to perform well in the game are in any way matched to the learning needs of business management students. My conclusions so far? The theme gives some historical context appropriate to learning about entrepreneurship in the industrial revolution, but the game is too long and complex for simple adoption in a learning context.

So what’s the problem with complex games? In short, time.

A number of university courses and professional development programs now use simulations and serious games as a way to deliver engaging content. So lengthy amounts of classroom time can be effectively devoted to game-playing. However, research on the effectiveness of simulations has suggested that they need to be quite close in experience to real-world possible events. So crisis simulations held in a board room, stock market simulations that students engage with via a trading platform and so on help prepare students for the possible ‘reality’ the simulation mimics. They do not demand a leap of imagination to apply. By contrast, abstracted resource management games such as Brass:Birmingham, do.