Games represent a very useful and effective activity for personal growth and development processes. In particular, they constitute the first form of human learning.
Serious games, which exploit the playful aspect of the game to facilitate education objectives, take advantage of the amusement to teach something.
To achieve it, serious games reproduce plausible scenarios in which the protagonist user is involved in a simulation that has educational purposes. Let’s see together how it is possible to train through serious games and what is the relationship between serious games and learning.
THE PLAYER'S ROLE IN THE SERIOUS GAMES
Serious games are online games that often use cartoon techniques and combine game and educational elements. Their purpose is to share an effective and pleasant training experience, which puts the users and their choices at the centre.
The player’s role within a serious game is that of an active player, capable of interacting with the surrounding environment thanks to interactivity, an essential characteristic of educational games. Edugame allows the users to learn from their experiences and to modify their course of action.
There are different types of serious games, from the simplest ones that need only a sheet of paper and a pen, to the more complex ones that use technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality to reproduce situations in which the player can learn by experimenting. In this case, the player has the chance to learn through an interactive virtual simulation, sometimes even very distant from reality.
These are the reasons why serious games are often applied in training:
NEW TECHNOLOGIES, LEARNING AND SERIOUS GAMES
With the advent of new technologies, the simulation of cognitive, psychological, affective and social phenomena become possibile. Since 2000 it was already clear their importance in learning and teaching processes. Just as researchers understand reality by reconstructing it on the computer, children, adults and the elderly can also learn through these simulations. An example is given by an important European project “Food Gaming for Active Ageing” in which VITECO, an expert in the development of serious games, gamification and learning objects, is a partner. The project, through a series of educational games, aims to promote good eating habits and a healthy lifestyle among adults, to improve their quality of life and reduce the risk of chronic diseases and cognitive decline.
As regards the definition of the methodology, Agent Based Modeling was used first: it is a psychological phenomenon represented by simulation games that reproduce the characteristics of the environment in which individuals interact with each other.
Different types of situations open up from the definition of the characteristics of the psychological setting to be simulated digitally. Here are a few:
When designing serious games, it is also necessary to define which agents or avatars have artificial intelligence and which ones to leave to the player’s control.
THE MAIN FEATURES OF SERIOUS GAMES
Serious games are applied in various fields, from military to educational, from marketing to health. They are computerised and interactive cutting-edge applications whose purpose is primarily pedagogical and then playful.
Which is the relationship between video games and learning? Serious games are very similar to video games in terms of creativity and interactivity, as well as the possibility to choose among multiple difficulty levels to enhance the problem solving and learning skills of learners.
These are the main features of serious games:
THE ADVANTAGES OF THE SERIOUS GAMES
Over time, serious games have been developed and perfected, without changing their fundamental advantages compared to traditional training techniques.
As an active learning platform that promotes the learning of players, this tool makes it easier to assimilate knowledge, since it is undoubtedly more effective than traditional listening or reading activities. In this way, we move from learning based on memorization to learning based on the ability to apply what we have learnt in real situations.
Another advantage lies in the learning of complex information in an active and playful environment that makes them less boring and difficult to process, even compared to traditional training techniques.
The serious games also allow participants to experience situations that would be impossible to occur in reality, due to lack of time, or high costs or safety reasons.
By placing the protagonist of the game at the centre of all, serious games increase the effectiveness of training. Players develop different perspectives and test the effects of their choices in situations and environments not available in real life. Learners learn to perform certain actions with increasing levels of difficulty, making an engaging experience.
THE SERIOUS GAMES IN BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT AREAS
Given the possibility of conveying and transferring practical knowledge in a fun and active learning environment, serious games have also spread throughout companies. In these contexts, they represent an important tool for the development and improvement of business capabilities.
The fields of application for corporate training vary according to the educational needs of users. They can have several purposes, including:
It should not be underestimated the ability of serious games to act as problem solving tools in difficult situations. This happens thanks to the “staging” and reproduction of practical cases, which ensure greater safety and awareness in the players.
With educational games, players are guided to solve these problems. Just the fact of performing repetitive reactions during the course of serious games allows players to acquire more mastery of the situation in which they find himself and to develop useful problem-solving skills that can be also applied in daily contexts.
HOW SERIOUS GAMES SUPPORT TRAINING
Through serious games, training becomes a powerful and versatile tool. Especially in an era where the large amount of information leads users to be easily distracted, the training courses created by companies, entities or institutions respond to a main need, namely to make training as effective, fast and engaging as possible.
In this perspective, the trend has spread to enrich training with videos, cartoons, online games and role play games. All these multimedia contents are used by users of all ages to learn and to keep up-to-date in a playful and fun context. Thus, both the Millennials and Generation Z, fond of video games, and the more adults can have fun and learn by playing serious games. After all, learning by playing has always been one of the most deeply rooted mechanisms of people.
Being an interactive type of learning, serious games allow the player to learn by doing and to create his or her own contents.
Thanks to the learning by doing of serious games, the learner will find himself in front of multiple decision scenarios, interactions with the didactic objects encountered during the game and feedback received from others. The learner will be assigned a score based on the correctness of the decision to be made. It is also possible to obtain badges or medals based on the objectives achieved.
DESIGN SERIOUS GAMES
Few learning modes have the same level of interactivity that serious games have. Hence the need to design edugames with extreme attention, in synergy with the customer who commissioned them, in order to involve him/her in every production phase ensuring the objectives achievement of the online training.
The production phases of serious games concern:
VITECO has developed a set of serious games funded by the European Parliament for #MissionEurope, designed in seven languages in order to spread European Parliament activities among young people. As a result of its great success, VITECO has been involved in numerous other edutainment projects. Here are some of the serious games developed (click on the links to play them):