So another post on the lessons from the world of gaming.
This one was sparked by an article considering if the latest Legend of Zelda game is the greatest ever in terms of design. I’ve spent quite a bit of time already in this iteration of the world of Hyrule and it is difficult to disagree with the arguments in the article.
The closing paragraph should particularly resonate with learning professionals thinking about how to support their organisations:
the job of the designers is not to hold your hand and guide you around a set path. It is [to] reach out hundreds of hands and leave it up to you which you grab first.
Wow! There’s a topic starter for instructional/learning design debate!
Whilst in the past people may have talked about things like “learning styles” to warrant different approaches we are now, instead, in a position where we consider the different approaches we might drive performance and support learning for people at different starting points and existing levels of competence.
Now the counter argument would be that the multiple, even unlimited, permutations of many games are not feasible in instructional design. Instead we end up with versions of relatively simple board game constructs when gaming or fairly restricted ‘serious games’. However, with dynamic algorithmically driven learning there is the potential for an explosion in personalisation.
Now the above image is an example of a counterfactual gaming experience, crusading as the Byzantine Empire. Traditional L&D has of course made use of just such counterfactuals, through role plays, business modeling, simulations, etc. If you can create an appropriate model then the variations are possible – with different focuses possible across, say, finance, marketing, etc. – all in the ‘safe’ environment of not impacting actual bottom lines, patients, customers, etc.
By thinking through game constructs there is the potential to think about what you want to achieve in a different way. For example, the battle focused historic counterfactual (such as Total War games in the above image) and more character focused such as the grand strategy Crusader Kings 2 (images below) are effectively giving you the same goal (rebuilding the empire) but in very different experiences.
The storytelling in a scenario such as the above is prompted by certain actions (for example Byzantium becoming large enough to reclaim the title of “Rome” as an achievement) but is not as structured as, say, a linear first-person-shooter game like Call of Duty. The latter, more linear style, offers up the potential for set storytelling, with some games much better at this than others. Which leads to an argument that future instructional designers would be best sourced from graphic communication or creative writing backgrounds.
Traditionally simulation has, of course, taken many forms in workplace development – from table top games to computer scenarios. The challenge with simulations remains the balance between ‘keeping it real’ (i.e. actually useful in the workplace environment) and maintaining interest through the storytelling/fun and other components. Meanwhile this post makes good points about balancing complexity versus needing to know ‘now’.
So what to takeaway?
- Think about how much hand holding is appropriate – it’s not always a bad thing.
- Have the plot/narrative/story drive motivation.
- Reward with hidden achievements.
- Use users/learners to determine if you are hitting the right balance between reality and gaming elements.