Purpose-built education games vs commercial entertainment games

Paul Ladley

IMS Expert in games based learning.

Paul is a Director of pixelfountain (games-ED). The company develops innovative learning products that have been delivered in companies, councils, schools, colleges and universities. games-ED supports curriculum; personal, learning & thinking skills; and cross curriculum dimensions. The games are played in groups and provide an interactive, experiential learning that promotes collaboration and enables problem solving and accelerated learning of even complex subjects. The games are based on tried and tested learning simulations that have been used in over 450 workshops.

Paul is the lead designer specialising in serious games and games based learning. He has worked in the learning industry for 20 years and designed his first learning game (Virtual Training) in 1998 and has been designing them ever since. He has created games that are delivered standalone (on the web) and games that are played collaboratively in workshop / classroom settings.

About.me: http://about.me/pladley

Website: www.games-ed.co.uk Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This article compares Purpose Built Education Games to Commercial Entertainment Games in terms of their use in the classroom. The comparison is done using the five factors: design, delivery, technology & support, outcomes and cost.

Does the game provide a sense of realism (as opposed to pure fantasy)? Commercial entertainment games (CEnG) provide a visually compelling experience for the player and can provide a chance to practice “authentic” activities. Unfortunately, it can also be argued that they can provide an experience that is too authentic with depictions of violence and sexuality. This has caused some parents to worry about the appropriateness of using games in the classroom. Purpose built education games (PBEdG) should not suffer from being inappropriate and can be graphic rich, although this is not always the case. In reality, the design should immerse the learners in the game play, but this should not be at the expense of the learning.

Does the game offer a suitable level of complexity and is it inclusive? This issue poses a lot of problems for CEnG as they are often designed to play over months. The game play has to be rich and thus complex. This means that they can be problematic for classroom use, as it is hard to justify the initial time spent learning about the game and how it plays. Some CEnG, though, are fairly easy to use – Wii party games, for example. PBEdG, on the other hand, ought to be designed to work easily and as importantly they should support multiple learning styles and be inclusive. Note: CEnG sessions can potentially be dominated by players who already know the game or gaming platform.

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Is the game learning focused? CEnG were not designed to work in the classroom, so they may not support learning conversations, collaboration and might be difficult for the educator to control. PBEdG can also suffer from these problems, but that is the fault of a specific design rather than a fundamental criticism of the category.

Learning flow, time constraints and flexibility: As stated, CEnG were not designed to work in the classroom, so they may difficult to use. The game play of a lot of games is geared up for long sessions over many months. Although, party games and some online games do not suffer from this problem.

Technology and Support
What kit is required and what support is provided? CEnG that use games consoles will obviously mean more hardware, but CEnG that run on PCs often require a high spec machine. The gaming session might mean decamping to the IT suite. Some PBEdG can also suffer from this problem, so it is worth considering the technical requirement of the game. Ideally, PBEdG should work “out of the box” and in all classrooms. Installation of CEnG can also be problematic.

What learning outcomes do you require? If the requirement is to motivate and engage students then pretty much all games are going to be useful tools. But, if specific curriculum needs are paramount, PBEdG are likely to work best. Generic / employability skills can be enhanced through the use of most games, but PBEdG could have the edge because they are easier to deliver (see Delivery above). If the game is more suited to the classroom then creative thinking, critical thinking, decision making and ideally collaboration skills are more likely to be improved.

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PBEdG games can often seem more expensive than CEnG, but that is not always the case when hidden costs are factored in. For example, if the game plays on a console, then the cost of the console(s) are going to increase the cost of the lesson - at least for the first time that platform is used. Multiple licences can also make the cost shoot up.

To conclude, games based learning provides a powerful tool for the educators to use in the classroom. And while this article has pitched Purpose Built Education Games against Commercial Entertainment Games, it should be stated that both can be work in the correct situation. PBEdG are more likely to work in general, but they are also thin on the ground. The comparison, though, provides a deeper understanding of what is required when choosing technologies and planning a games based learning driven lesson.

Learn more...

Check out Innovate My School's Websites / Online Content directory for an in-depth comparison of the latest games websites currently on the market.

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