Best Gaming Practices from Around the World (CIC Snapshot)

At AEP’s 2011 Content in Context conference David Glover, CEO of Learning Media (NZ); Kaila Colbin, Chief Marketing Officer of MiniMonos (New Zealand); Willem-Jan Renger, Vice Chair Faculty of Art, Media & Technology for Utrecht School of the Arts (Netherlands); Scott Traylor, Chief Kid and CEO for 360KID (USA) looked at best practices for educational games and how innovations in gaming can enhance learning. Below are perspectives from two of the speakers.

Willen-Jan Renger talked about making the transition from making “serious games” to creating “applied games.”

  • He wants to create meaningful applications of games and technology with his staff of researchers.
  • Looking at stats of how people use games, like World of Warcraft, we can wonder if this is the destruction of the world or if there is something to learn from that use of the gaming medium.
  • There is a perception that games are fun, but education is serious. Overall, most statements about games in Netherlands are negative.
  • However, the naysayers aren’t looking at the potential of how principles from gaming can be applied to learning.
  • What happens often now is designers take something boring, disguise it as a game, add scoring and badges, and call it a serious game. That is “chocolate-covered broccoli.” The broccoli is the result of this current, typical development model. The design team and the subject matter experts don’t share the same view and don’t work communicate well. There is a tug of war to between creating a good game and putting in educational information.
  • His team is working on creating a methodology to initiate an early dialogue so that the needs of the designer and the education expert are in balance. They must collaborate from the beginning.
  • With educational gaming we are in the Middle Ages with monks writing code; we need to get to the stage for the printing press. We need funding and tools to figure out how to create effective and engaging games.

Kaila Colbin discusses her company’s five best practices for developing games and virtual worlds. (MiniMonos is a virtual world that helps children learn about and celebrate the environment.)

  • Fun first: The developers use subtle messages to help teach children lessons rather than forcing learning on them. For example, in MiniMonos a child may have a messy treehouse, or she can play a game to recycle the trash. There is no pressure to recycle, but when she does she receives a reward and enjoys the process of learning why and how to recycle.
  • Multi-channel: For the user what happens in the virtual world affects the real world. For example, they have partnered with the World Wildlife Fund. You can buy a virtual tiger suit and pretend to be a tiger, and then a dollar goes to the tiger fund. Kids have fun, and their actions influence the outside world.
  • Social proof: They have a community where the kids can share with each other what they have done and the real world projects they have completed. The kids inspire each other to try create and try new activities through positive reinforcement.
  • Kid-led: The developers learn from the community how kids take action on suggested projects and initiatives and adjust to fit kids’ preferences. The company releases new features every two weeks to keep them continually engaged.
  • Complexity: The designers always work on examining if the technology is complex or complicated. They are putting kids in a co-created, dynamic environment, and the kids might take them in unknown directions. While the kids’ interaction with the virtual environment is complex, the technology behind must be able to make the technology respond quickly.

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