The flat-world theory, which today seems ridiculous, was a long held belief for thousands of years. Others persist and continue today despite having been thoroughly discredited. Take the following example: we continue to refer to the Napoleon complex in reference to an inferiority complex driven by his perceived height handicap, when Napoleon was in fact above average height for his time at 5ft 6.5in. The point is that we hold beliefs, and sometimes misconceptions can limit our potential to see things differently or try new things. Today, I intend to bust the myth that serious games are only for entertaining digital natives during their leisurely activities.
The reticence to use serious games in training stems from a lack of understanding of its potential in education, something Jesse Schell refers to as illuderacy. Some perceive games only as something that is fun without understanding its potential as a valuable instructional strategy. In my previous entries, I discussed the power of serious games, and emphasized its applicability to all types of knowledge and learners. For those that aren’t yet convinced, here is a list of facts and statistics that may change your perception:
- According to the Entertainment Software Association, more than two-thirds of gamers are adults. In addition, 24% of adults over the age of 50 play video games, an increase from 9% in 1999 (http://www.theesa.com/facts/index.asp).
- Forty-three percent of PC gamers and 38 percent of console gamers are women ( http://www-01.ibm.com/software/solutions/soa/newsletter/aug10/cityone.html).
- According to the Summit on Educational Games 2006 “games can teach higher order thinking skills such as strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, and adaptation to rapid change” (http://www.genomicsdigitallab.com/gdl/default.cfm?thePage=CA/about).
- According to the eLearning Guilds’ report called Immersive Learning Simulation, the 2 groups inclined to create serious games are those 30 and under and those 60 and over.
- Serious games have been used to train athletes, soldiers and even doctors. It is predicted that 100 to 135 of the Global Fortune 500 companies will have used serious games in training by 2012 (http://www.theesa.com/gamesindailylife/education.asp).
- Serious games leverage the skills needed by 21st century knowledge leaders in their daily activities: recruiting, assessing, motivating, and rewarding. They can be used to prepare employees for the changing business climate ( http://hbr.org/2008/05/leaderships-online-labs/ar/1).
We all need to shift our mindset from seeing games as entertainment for the digital natives to a tool that can be used in training to teach higher order thinking in an enjoyable fashion. As demonstrated above, games are being enjoyed by learners from all generations, and therefore should not be perceived as a barrier. Learner-centered design should be at the forefront of the choice of instructional strategy, and that should be free of misconceptions on the preferences of the end-user.