To Game is to Learn
A reflection on the concept of education games and educational games
Due to my teaching background this is an area that I am very interested and passionate about, games are a unique and engaging medium that can reach a variety of people and share a range of concepts and feelings. We can learn a variety of sociocultural and academic things from games but this doesn’t make them education games.
What is an education game?
An education game is one designed with the intention of educating the player(s), its intention is that the player(s) emerge from playing the game either having learnt or discovered something new, reinforced their previous skills and knowledge, aided in the retention of learning or improved their skill or knowledge by building upon it through their participation in the game. Education games are designed, developed and used primarily to educate through playful learning environments.
What is an educational game?
An educational game is in truth any game that isn’t an education game, it does not aim to teach or inform it is designed with the intention of producing a playable experience. But, these games also teach us things, from the physical dexterity, hand eye coordination and reaction to physical, visual and auditory stimulus to the mental problem solving, forward planning and social skills.
What about gamification?
It would be impossible to consider education and games and not include a section on gamification.
Gamification is a method of persuasive design which utilisation of game design mechanics, principles or visual aesthetics in the aim of creating game like experiences to enhance systems, services or activities. The employment of gamification aims to motivate and engage users. This method is not just applied to education games but has been used by organisations in non-game activities and experiences. Gamification sometimes employs visual elements surround gestalt methods of design to present visually pleasing and familiar operating system.
Does Gamivism relate to this?
Yes, as a movement it revolves around the concept of enlightenment through engagement, it is aiming to bring to light a problem and educate people either through informing or dispelling myths. Despite this most games that fall into the category of gamivism could be argued to be educational games as appose to education games as though they aim to teach the player they are developed in the form of a playable experience which teaches as appose to as educational experiences with gaming elements. Now of course this could be argued on a game by game basis but this is a reflective generalisation.
Education games or educational games?
I would not say that one is better than the other, they both have their place and provide a valuable addition to the gaming world.
If we take a moment to consider the ethics there is still and element of lack of control with the adoption of either type, but this can be for the player(s) or for the developer(s). The lack of control which can be experienced by player(s) which must reach a predefined answers or destination in a way a dictation of the correct course without room for imagination or creativity but on the other hand in games that allow for creativity and individuality there is a lack of control experienced by developers who cannot control how players will utilise these tools for personal or political purposes.
Both educational and education games allow for developmental freedom and the incorporation of a variety of learning styles. They provide safe environments to try, fail and try again indefinitely until success is attained.