Serious gaming book launch

Published on Wednesday 8 January 2014 by in News with no comments

seriousbookA new Dutch book entitled ‘Serious gaming Leren door te ervaren’ (learning by experience) has recently been launched by Trophonius publishing at the KPN consultant headquarters in the Netherlands.

In the same week the first National Management and IT symposium (MITs) devoted a complete stream to Serious gaming (see session results) and AXELOS announced its plans to invest in gaming to support best practice training and implementations. It is clear that serious gaming is being taken seriously. Our survey results shows why games are valuable learning interventions.

The book contains articles and cases from Game developers, Game delivery providers and customer organizations having applied serious gaming.

Each of the authors was given a 10 minute pitch to present their contributions to the book. As I listened to the presentations I heard a number of similarities and critical success factors for ensuring gaming is successful. These are a few of my take-aways:

  • Begin by understanding the ‘problem’ to be solved. Focus on the why?  The purpose and motivation.
  • Playing helps understand the ‘why’ (play in context of problem to be solved and goals to be achieved) and then people are better able to apply learning in context.
  • Ensure a good ‘intake’ interview and focus on before (explore problem, agree learning objectives, who plays which role and why)– during (How to test, explore and confront new behavior, new skills? Which reflection topics between game rounds? how to capture learning and improvement actions at the end?)– after activities (how to transfer to the workplace? How to measure behavior change over time? How to measure impact on performance?).
  • A key to success is ‘transfer’ of learning into the working environment to ensure a sustainable behavior change.
  • Games support the concepts of MAP (Mastery, Autonomy, Purpose). Mastery (adding complexity between game rounds and testing skills), Autonomy (teams reflect and agree own improvements) and Purpose (a set of goals to be achieved in the context of what the organization is trying to achieve and the impact on own work).
  • A game is not a stand-alone product, it needs to be embedded in a learning process that focuses on a sustainable change in behavior.
  • Measuring is important, measuring behavior change, measuring mastery and skills, measuring impact of new behavior).
  • Context of game is important, complex enough to realistically challenge people in skills that are relevant, the story or scenario must be compelling to actively engage participants.
  • Played in game rounds to support a learning curve. From Unconsciously incompetent to consciously competent, from simple to complex.

Applying gaming in a serious context is still not mainstream but it is gaining traction, this is partly due to the marketing hype and messages around ‘gamification’, however poor design and poor integration into an overall learning process are damaging the perception in the market and the uptake of serious gaming.  One of the aims of the book was to raise awareness for and understanding of the benefits of games as learning and organizational change instruments.

GamingWorks and Simagine (Two game developers who are both active in the ‘Best practice’ space) added the results of surveys and research they were involved in. GamingWorks added the results of their survey into the effectiveness and benefits of simulations in support of organizational change, and Simagine added the results of their research (with TNO) into the effectiveness of serious games in learning and education.

GamingWorks results: Benefits of using simulations.

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Simagine Results: Effectiveness of serious games in education

A Dutch TNO research entitled ‘Effectiveness of Serious games in Education’ concludes by stating that it has demonstrated the added value of gaming in education,  adding that ‘Typical characteristics of gaming such as ‘flow of engagement’, ‘game playing’, ’scoring’, ‘feedback’, ‘team working’ help ensure more ‘personal effectiveness’, ‘self-sufficiency’, ‘higher motivation’, ‘more active learning’. 

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As can be seen the evidence points to clear added value of gaming as learning and as organizational change instruments. What became clear in the articles and discussions with a number of authors was a lack of maturity in general with HR departments and those responsible for training investments. A lack of maturity in managing and facilitating the transfer from the learning environment into the working environment. This doesn’t just apply to the use of games but training in general. This is one of the reasons why GamingWorks focused on the 8-field model in their article and KPN consulting on the ‘V-Model’ , both based on the ‘achtveldenmodel’  from Kessels and Smit.  GamingWorks and KPN both stressing the need for a well managed learning process.

Perhaps 2014 will be the year in which serious gaming becomes a serious investment consideration for organizations wanting to improve the return on value of their training investments.

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