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Why Game Based Learning Works

What is a game? A game is an exploratory narrative, which the user is actively involved in. It is challenging and requires mental effort to progress and this built-in learning process is what makes games fun! To progress through levels in a game, is to learn. Our minds initially struggle to cope, but persevere in reaching the next level with a renewed understanding of the platform, information and system. This is true regardless of an “entertainment” game like Call of Duty or a “serious” game like American Society of Anesthesiology’s SimSTAT.

If we can harness the power of good game design, and incorporate specific learning goals, the result is a highly motivated workforce, eager to engage with the material. Furthermore, it provides practice applying and contextualizing newly acquired knowledge to real world situations. Ultimately, good game design can serve as a feature template for an ideal learning environment. The same features that make entertainment games highly motivating, also make them a perfect framework for knowledge transfer.

Why Game Based Learning Works

Learning ≠ Memorization

Standard e-learning tools and some traditional teaching methods focus on rote memorization of material. This is not useful, will not serve a long-term purpose and fails to address the most important part of job training – applying newly learnt materials to relevant situations, under pressure. Standard training fails to assess the transferability of knowledge and actual takeaways from the training program.

Virtual Environments

Replicating professional environments in a fail-safe space encourage bold decision-making and emphasize the consequences of decisions taken in the simulation. Dr. Susan Ambrose, director of Carnegie Mellon’s Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence, explains that this is highly motivating as users can quickly see and understand the connection between the learning objectives and real work situations.

Consequential Learning

While you can distribute manuals, slides and thick binders, no amount of informational content shared during training will successfully translate into long-term retention and appropriate on-the-job application. Game based learning highlights the underlying hows and whys of the learning process, giving trainees a better shot at a holistic understanding of the process and more prepared to take on unforeseen challenges.

Look toward entertainment media for inspiration: we see a booming video game industry, and data reflecting the hours of time spent within these gaming worlds. Veteran gamers can explain maps, character backstories and many more idiosyncratic game content. Utilizing proper game mechanics can hack into our attentional systems to prolong its capacity in addition to making the learning process enjoyable.