Games, Simulations, & Virtual Worlds for Learning

Gaming is a complex activity that encourages learning and play and thinking and anxiety… Yes! If it doesn’t raise your blood pressure just a little, I would say its not an immersive game! Even Tetris raises my blood pressure and increases my anxiety exponentially. (It’s my favorite.) There are so many opportunities to create immersive and engaging learning experiences for students to get their heart rate up and to increase their skills and knowledge. The only downfall is that it costs money. Because it costs money and educational games do not sell at the level that popular games sell, creators don’t spend time developing them and we as educators consequently struggle to find good games to utilize.

Learning games takes time and experience. Sometimes you enjoy games and sometimes they don’t appeal to you at all. Games have their ups and downs and there are points in the process that you may struggle to be successful. Throughout gaming you may meet people or characters that you love but you are bound to meet one or two that you just can’t stand as well. In that, gaming is much like the PhD process. You must stick with it through the hills and valleys in order to reach your ultimate goal of completion. Moments of it are belly-aching hysterical and other moments make you want to crawl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth until you cry yourself to sleep. Okay maybe not that bad, but I can certainly come up with a moment or two that weren’t fun at all.

Over the last two years in the doctoral program, I have experienced many opportunities to incorporate instructional design into my coursework. This class gave me an opportunity to do it in a fun and unique manner different than any of the other courses. Creating a Game Design Document is much like creating an instructional design document. Often times it you are se deep into it, you just don’t know what you are missing until a question arises or a problem in the process occurs. This similarity allowed me to see game design in a different light and allowed me an opportunity to see the parallel similarities.

I see an opportunity in future game design to help redefine and create individualized learning opportunities for students. With the incorporation of machine learning and big data as a way to help advance gaming structure, it seams possible that it can revolutionize learning experiences. I see it in more of an industrial type setting early on but as learning and design continue to advance, these elements will hopefully trickle down into the k-12 classroom. Many teachers in elementary try very hard to include games and activities in the gaming realm because kids are immediately engaged regardless of their educational impact. It would just be nice to finally have something that makes a difference in the day-to-day lives of teachers and most importantly, young learners.

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