What are Serious Games?
Serious games was first coined by Clark C. Abt an engineer and a pioneer of computer simulations. In his book “Serious Games” he describes sports games, role playing games and computer games as mediums for education. Serious games are a games designed with an educational purpose. They aren’t intended solely for amusement or entertainment. Serious Games use game based learning techniques to teach skills.
According to Daniel Thalmann, “the idea of playing a game dates to the ancient past and is considered an integral part of all societies. For instance, Dice appears to be among the earliest games used by humans, the oldest known example is a 3000 year old game set in south Iran. Some of these games already served a “serious” purpose; for example, Mancala (a game designed around 1400 BC) was used as an accounting tool for trading animals and food. However, most games were based on the concept that the game contains and reveals knowledge that is otherwise hidden from the player”.
Serious Games in the workforce…
Serious games are perfect for the workforce. They provide a simulated environment where the learner has the opportunity to practice, fail, and improve while enjoying the experience. It provides a safe space where the learner can fail fast, fail often with no risk to what they are actually working in.
Fail fast, fail often is a agile concept, used in software development and applied to agile projects in general. Information Age explains, “the point about ‘fail fast’ is that if a failure is going to take place you want to reduce the time lag in a) detecting the failure, and b) relaying the detection back to the responsible developer”.
I’ve extended this to also make the point that failing leads to learning. Failure can be a good thing as long as you learn the lesson. The opportunity for a team to evaluate how it’s doing, or why they’re failing and to quickly adapt and learn from this, is at the core of scrum.
Benefits of Serious Games…
Traditional training is largely a question of memory. Trainees are taught a relatively narrow selection of thought processes, techniques and procedures and are then tested on their ability to recall them. After time, we may retain this information, but even then, our knowledge is purely theoretical and limited to the scenarios that we have been prepared for. With traditional training, it simply isn’t possible to cover every possible outcome or scenario. However, with game-based learning, more emphasis is placed on understanding the underlying reasons why and how things happen, which makes trainees better equipped to react and adapt to new or unexpected situations.
Take for example the video game Merchants (part of the Gamelearn platform), which trains employees how to negotiate and how to resolve conflicts. Serious games and game based learning is no longer limited to child play. Companies see the value in moving to a more dynamic and effective training environment.
Game-based learning is much more engaging than traditional training methods. Watching PowerPoint presentations and videos and reading manuals and case studies is dull. However, game-based learning requires full participation from the get-go, meaning that trainees are using their brains and learning from the moment that they log-in.
Serious games and game-based learning are two of the best solutions to this problem. Due to the higher engagement of serious games, course completion rates are much higher. Video games are interactive and users have to make decisions from the start.
Game dynamics encourages action. This action amongst learners increases the likelihood of completing the course. Carl Kapp describes it best in his book, ” The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook“. He writes, “the more the learner interacts with other learners, the content, and the instructor, the more likely it is that learning will actually occur.”
Akeakami Quest the survival game designed to teach teamwork necessary for agile to succeed. It places the learners together in an environment where they are forced to interact to complete each puzzle.
One of the advantages of serious games is that by increasing the engagement and the motivation of the students, they also increase their memorization and retention of what they have learnt. Add to this real and direct practice and the result is that the students learn better and more deeply. Several scientific studies have proven that learning by doing makes a more effective and long-lasting impact on students’ brains.
Traditional training needs to be scheduled in at convenient time and location for both the trainer and trainees. To be cost effective this may mean taking large numbers of employees away from their tasks at a time, leaving your organization under-staffed. Agile serious games for learning and Game-based learning can be carried out anytime and anywhere in your business premises, making it far easier to get your employees the training that they need at a time that is convenient for your organization.
Agile serious games are more affordable per learner and keep delivering each time the learner jumps in. Because serious games can be kept to small increments of time, the learners workday is minimally impacted.
Traditional training sessions happen at a set pace, and trainees either keep up or they don’t. Those that don’t will find they don’t get the information they need from the session, effectively wasting the time and money of the organization. In contrast, the pace in agile game for learning or game-based learning can be tailored to suit each individual trainee. It is possible for them to re-enact the same stage of a game multiple times until they complete it successfully, so businesses can ensure that all trainees reach the same level of competency.
Reinforcement of skills
If your trainees are listening to a trainer, then he or she needs bags of personality to capture their attention. Ultimately, the amount of information that is retained during a training session is incredibly limited.
Serious games don’t only teach in the classroom. While most onsite training courses and virtual training ends training after the material is covered, game based learning continues to teach. Each time a learner jumps in skills are reinforced. For example, our game based learning for teamwork is designed to teach the agile mindset necessary for teams to work together no matter where they are located. Every time a team jumps in to learn these skills are reinforced by the rules of the game.
The results of the reinforcement of these skills are visible in the teams work and overall performance. Teams are more cohesive, collaborative, accountable, coordinated, and enjoy being together.
When an employee leaves a traditional training session, there is no way of knowing how much they have understood or how successful the session has been until they put the theory into practice. In cases where the traditional training has been less than successful, this could lead to an entire group of employees being unable to fulfill the tasks assigned to them. However, in many game-based learning programs it is impossible to progress through the training without reaching the desired level of competency. Therefore, there is immediate feedback in response to trainee mistakes and employers can again be certain that everyone that has completed the training is primed to work effectively and deliver great results.
One of the main causes of failed Agile transformations is corporate culture. When politics drives corporate decisions it impacts every level of the organization. This can have detrimental affects on a company’s market standing. Agile games for learning can be used to make a subtle change in corporate culture, to help in slowly transitioning and instilling the agile mindset necessary to succeed in today’s world.
Real world impact
At Games for Sustainability, they believe games give players direct experience of the challenges in solving a difficult social-ecological problem. In the post written by Sarah Nobis “Three-good-reasons-play-games”, she describes “the approach offers opportunities to practice sustainable thinking and acting and to become aware of the inter-dependencies between economic, social and ecological issues. Eventually, games about corporate social responsibility and sustainable development, such as Green&Great or Ökolopoly, may influence policy makers’ thoughts and actions concerning people and environment, which will be beneficial for all in the long term”.
Another example of this is Food Force, developed by the United Nations World Food Program to promote social awareness and fight against hunger. The players put themselves in the shoes of a UN rookie, who has to handle a crisis involving famine and civil war on an island in the Pacific. The player’s goal is to distribute food among the populace and to help the country to become self-sufficient in the medium to long term.
Many organizations are recognizing that serious games or game based learning offers a comprehensive and engaging yet cost-effective and convenient solution to their training needs. Here at Agile Literacy we have developed Gelling, our very own game-based learning platform that enables organizations to bring all the qualities of Agile to life in their software development teams. Contact us for a free consultation.