The decision to write this lengthily post in here is based on:
- After being asked to define games, and in spite that I consider myself a game researcher into educational technologies, I wasn’t able to give a proper definition of them on the fly 🙁 Auch…. That put me to think about this again. But you know to understand games, as play as the gameplay is a very complex task in itself. (btw, it is not an excuse, just that at least for me it requires time to process)
- Several of my colleges are getting interested to get involve in games in some way in their own research. Then, I seek that this post might be useful, perhaps for someone, to clarify if what you are referring is a game, or it is an activity with play-elements. It might exist a small difference between these two and this might bring a debate. But in any case I believe that will enrich us as researchers.
Then let me start with games facts (long), then learning material (briefly) and some conclusions (very briefly)
No_random_fact_1: I do not posses a personal definition about games.
I will not give a personal definition of games, I am not ready for it. However, I will exteriorized to which definition I subscribe myself in No_random_fact_4.
Games and the game-play overall are not new, and they are VERY old. In addition they are strongly culturally interwoven. And if I put the “cultural” word in here, anyone of us can understand that it implies complexity. Then, for a clear comprehension of games, play and the game-play along time, I suggest to understand the culture that surrounds them. Actually it is said: civilization was not built upon games, however games existed before civilization.
Then best way to start for creating a common ground about games and the game-play I suggest to read history. The books of Humo Ludens from Johan Huizinga and the one of Man, Play and Games from Roger Callois are examples of valuable historical analysis and without a doubt foundations for anyone that one to work in the research using games.
No_random_fact_3: Unclear definition of games from Educational Researchers
This is a tuff one as constant debate exist in Educational research forums abut games and the curriculum. Actually this is one reason why I do not subscribe to formal learning at all.
It is a fact that games are powerful educational methodologies if they are used appropriately (Allessi and Trollip , Sandfor et al, Reeves, etc.) . However creating successful games in educational settings it is not easy.
Now, I haven’t seen yet any Educational Scientist who defines games. What I have seen so far is their opinions about:
- the classification of different genres of games according to the educational perspective
- the elements that educational scientists consider a games should have:
- Introduction (goals, rules, directions, constrains, penalties, choices, etc.)
- Body of game (scenario, level of reality, cast, skill versus chance, types of action, etc)
- Conclusion of game (recognition, providing information, final message, etc)
But what is actually a game for them? and/or a definition about games – still waiting to read an answer.
Now as the new trend of serious games (created by game researchers) increases in popularity, it gives the impression (at least to me) that educationalist just want to join this movement, according to their way of thought. In other words it is possible to breath (implicitly) between the debates that serious games might resolve all their actual challenges (e.g. motivation, engagement, etc.).
But WAIT education is more powerful than just a game !!! The paper of Ravenscroft and McLister had given me the best food of though in this direction (within education and games). One of their conclusions is:
“It has become clear that the value of, motivation for, and pleasure experienced with (digital) educational games will not just come from the interaction itself – but how the game interaction is integrated and interwoven with the broad education process and related technologies. So we should not just be asking ‘What makes a good educational game?’, but also ‘Why would we want to play it?’ and ‘What long-term value do we get from it?”
I just can say, EXCELLENT reflection!! The game, if it is for learning, can be observed neither created in isolation (just focusing in the games and the learning objectives) but it should be interwoven with the educational process. And from my own opinion, it should go even further or beyond those limitations, going back to the No_random_fact_2, games are embedded in culture.
To summarize this no_random_fact_3, my opinion towards pure educationalist and games at the moment is:
- Researchers in education have a school of though with clear objectives of their existing purpose. That offers possibilities and challenges as any school of though (one way to see is a way to do not see something else, as Conni has always mentioned to me).
- Until now I haven’t seen a definition of games coming from Educational Scientist, does someone have one?
No_random_fact_4: Game Researchers
They have put attention in games, play and the gameplay, its meaning, their implications (individual, collectively), etc. from former times to the actual digital gaming. Definitions are several, but I subscribe myself to the one given by Salen and Zimmerman:
“A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome.”
As one of my ex-professor in OO programming used to told us: “Simple is beautiful”. However, within that simplicity it is also the tip of an iceberg.
I will copy a small summary of each part of the definition directly from Salen and Zimmerman:
It refers to a game system. There are many ways to frame a game as a system: a mathematical system, a social system, a representational system, etc. There are four elements that all systems share:
– Objects are the parts, elements, or variables with the system.
– Atrributes are the qualities or properties of the system and its objects
– Internal relationships are the relationships among the objects
– Environment is the context that surround the system.
The way these elements are identified in any individual game depends on the way it is frames as a system. The four elements would be different, for example, if a games were framed as a formal, mathematical system, and experiential system of play, or as a cultural system.
These three framings or a games as system, formal, experimental and cultural, are embedded in each other. A game as a formal system is always embedded within a experiential system and a games as a cultural system contains formal and experiential systems.
Although all the three levels (formal, experiential, and cultural) exist simultaneously, ti can be useful to focus on just one of them when making an analysis of solving a design problem. It is crucial when designing a game to understand how these three levels interact and interrelate to each other.
Systems can be open or closed. An open system has an exchange of some kind with its environment. A closed system is isolated from its environment. Whether or not you consider a game as closed or open depends on the way you frame it.
A game is something that one or more participants actively play. Players interact with the system of a game in order to experience the play of the game
Games maintain a boundary from so-called “real life” in both time and space. Although games obviously occur within the real world, artificiality is one of the their defining features
All games embody a contest of powers. The contest can take many forms, from cooperation to competition, from solo conflict with a game system to multiplayer social conflict. Conflict is central to games.
We concur with the authors that rules are a crucial part of games. Rules provide the structure our of which play emerges, by delimiting what the player can and can not do.
A quantifiable outcome is what usually distinguishes a game from less formal play activities.
Actually I do not know what a learning material is. I try to search for it, but, I mainly got hits about diverse didactic materials.
If someone can tell me what a learning material is, be my guest ;). So far, I see it as objects (from lego to books, or from sound to videos) that can be used for education.
Meanwhile I will use a non elaborate way of understand this. I assume that a learning material is any type of didactic objects (digital and non digital) that educators can use to support the teaching-learning activities.
CONCLUSION (so far)
- Games (as systems) are marvelous learning methodologies that support specific activities and learning outcomes. However for its existence it is important to interwoven the elements that surround the system with the game.
- Learning materials by itself are not games.
- No all learning activities are games, however they can have game-elements.
- To create games within the mark of formal learning is VERY challenging, as games integrate learning across a number of subject areas, in addition to cover some educational requisites.
- Games are not the solution for all !!! – Even if I am a crusade about games, I admit this point. My dad always tells me: everything has its moment and its own time.
In another moment I might clarify the distinction between games, play and gameplay. Even the adjective “playful” deserves special attention.
I would add that games are also art. Like multimedia, painting or cooking. One should know what to combine in order to get specific outcome. To put all the media together without thinking it is just overwhelming, the same with games!. (or mixing all colours at once, we will only get black, then learn to use the colour to paint master pieces)
Any comments or suggestions even complains are welcome. As this is actually very messy to clarify in my head. Life long learning, I admit 😛
Mmmmm…. maybe I should write a paper about this at some point 😉