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Some of the sims listed on

Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome weighs in on "Sims" vs. "Serious Game" Babel Problem

Getting "A Good Sim Score" on Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome : "Episode 1"
I wrote in The Complete Guide to Simulations and Serious Games (Pfeiffer, October 12, 2009) about what I called "The Babel Problem."  Here is an excerpt:
The Babel Problem—“Serious Games” or “Educational Simulations”  
As noted, the focus of this book is to present common definitions of concepts and terms that apply to Sims. The lack of common terms is a huge problem, and it has substantially hindered the development of the simulation space. Sponsors, developers, and students have not been able to communicate intelligently. 
Perhaps the most salient example of this is the total lack of a universal name for the space (as in, “For our next program, we will use a ___ approach,” or “I am going to a conference to learn more about ____”).  
Here are the top ten candidates:  
10. Virtual experiences. Pros: Captures the essence of the value proposition. Cons: Overlaps with “social networking.”  
9. Games. Pros: Unambiguous and unapologetic; all smart animals from cats to otters to African Grays see play as a way of learning core skills. Computer games (a subsection of all games) are a $10 billion industry, therefore computer games should be in classrooms (something other people say even more convincingly than I do). Cons: People play lots of games anyway—what is the value of forcing them to play more? Besides, the term is too diverse; would you want your doctor to have learned from a game?  
8. Simulations. Pros: Scientific, accurate, really serious-sounding. Cons: Includes many approaches that are not instructional (weather simulations) or engaging; implies 100 percent predictive accuracy.  
7. Social impact games. Pros: Conveys the nobleness of the cause. Differentiates from the default notion of games as not having a (or having a negative) social impact. Cons: Still emphasizes the tricky word games, and doesn’t fit in corporate or military cultures. In any case, has any social impact game actually had a social impact? 
6. Practiceware. Pros: Emphasizes the core of practicing to learn skills. Recalls physical models such as batting cages and driving ranges. Cons: It’s a frankenword; besides, it doesn’t include a lot of puzzles and awareness-raising activities. It sounds vocational.  
5. Game-based learning or digital game-based learning. Pros: Spells everything out—game and learning—any questions? Cons: Sounds dated and academic. 
4. Immersive learning simulations. Pros: Hits all the key points. Cons: Doesn’t roll off the tongue. Name sounds a bit redundant (wouldn’t any two of the three words work just as well?), and besides, it sounds expensive. (And does “immersive” equal “3D”?)  
3. Educational simulations. Pros: Sponsors like it. Cons: Sounds hard and perhaps too rigorous for casual students.  
2. Serious games. Pros: Nicely ironic; students like it; press loves it—loves it (I mean New York Times and “serious games” should get a room); researchers use it as a way to get foundation grants; it’s the most popular handle. Cons: Sponsors hate it, and instructors from academics, corporate, and military hate it. It emphasizes the most controversial part of the experience—the fun part (that is, the game elements), and it often describes content that is too conceptual (you would never call a flight simulator a “serious game”). Most examples of serious games are neither very serious nor very good games. For better and worse, the term is the successor to edutainment.  
1. Sims. Pros: Attractive to both students and sponsors; it captures the essence, and it’s fun. Cons: Also includes computer games in general, as well as one very famous franchise.
I actually first used the term "sims" as an umbrella term for educational simulations and serious games in Learning by Doing (2004), knowing that serious games among the academic community was more popular in the short term but more problematic in the long.  So it was with some pleasure that I heard, on Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome : "Episode 1" (time 3:19) the following dialogue:
"Good sim score?"
"No, no. Not a good sim score. The top sim score."
"Well, I'm impressed."
"Thanks.I'd be if I were you."

Inside Learning Technologies & Skills: Four Articles

Today, my fourth article for the British magazine Inside Learning Technologies & Skills came out.

The three so far were (and click on title to download pdf):
  • Why Educational Simulations? Designs to Develop Competence Plus Conviction: This outlines the most important reasons for pursuing simulations and serious games, and some some design frameworks to make these programs accomplish their lofty goal.  Developing conviction in all students will be one of the most meaningful opportunities of the next decade for universities, corporations, and other organizations.

  • How Would Steve Jobs Do Training and Education?: My most important article, this outlines my research agenda for the next five years to create a unified framework for all education and learning.  Part three, the new old education, changes everything.

  • L&D Life Through a Lens: A broad look at the multiple perspectives through which to evaluate techniques and opportunities for any formal learning organization.  This is probably the weakest developed of the four (although I still like it quite a bit!).  

To these, I now add:

I am proud of my run, and thank both Inside Learning Technologies & Skills and its readers for the positive reaction.  I have also highlighted the most important passages in each.

As always, my portfolio (which necessarily precludes many corporate and military projects, but which I have tried to make as instructive as possible) is available here:

Finally, for those looking for some easy, fast reading over the holidays that still packs a punch, may I suggest my newest book, available at Amazon:

Start Here to Reboot Education

(Of course, if you have read it already, please feel free to leave a review on Amazon!)

Profile: 7 Tools to CPI

Title 7 Tools to CPI
Version Final
Other versions N/A
Sponsor/Producer Defense Acquisition University
Developer UCF RETRO Lab
Series Continuous Process Improvement Courseware
Number in Series 2
Company Description RETRO Lab: The RETRO Laboratory is a research and development group housed in the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Simulation & Training. RETRO stands for, “Recent and Emerging Technology Research Organization,” and specializes in the academic study of serious games and other virtual/interactive training and learning systems. The lab is co-directed by UCF faculty members Dr. Janis Cannon-Bowers of IST and Dr. Clint Bowers of UCF Psychology Department. This multidisciplinary lab's members are mostly students and are from several diverse disciplines ranging from computer programming and 3D-modeling to human factors, industrial / organizational, and clinical psychology. The lab consists of two main teams, one focusing on game development efforts while the other is devoted to research.
Categories/Folksonomy Training
Lead Designer Lucas Blair
Other Designers/ Writers N/A
Lead Programmer Stephen Nedley
Lead Artist / Video Stephen Nedley
Price Free
Demo Available
Link to Video N/A
Link(s) to Support Material
Platform(s) PC
Customizable (1 to 10) None, but you can use your own data if you want to.
Special Hardware No
Toolkit/Language used Action Script 3.0
Year Designed August 11, 2011 (final)
LMS Integration/ SCORM No
Skill Level (Corporate/Military/Government)/Grade Level (Academic) Government
Student time 1 hour
Available ([O]pen / [R]estricted by Organization / [N]o longer Available Open
Single player/Multiplayer Single Player
Category: Serious Game

Profile: Galactic Zappers

Title Galactic Zappers
Version 1
Other versions
Sponsor/Producer Acton MBA
Developer ViaVivo, Inc.
Number in Series
Company Description ViaVivo cultivates exceptional learning experiences by pushing the boundaries of technology to challenge learners, to assess performance deeply with insightful feedback, and to distribute learning when and how it is needed.
Description "Acton’s Galactic Zappers simulation game challenges aspiring entrepreneurs to manage a production line to maximize throughput and quality while minimizing the cost per unit of production.
During the game, you’ll grapple with the following challenges:
• How do I sequence activities to increase efficiency and control costs?
• How do I identify and remove bottlenecks in my production line?
• How can I use quality control to increase output and lower cost?

Using a “trial and error” approach to solve problems, you’ll develop a deep understanding of workflow—and find that “asking the right question” is often more important than having the right answer.
Categories/Folksonomy business operations, bottleneck, quality assurance, cycle time, lead time, throughput
Lead Designer Joel Hobbs / Laura James / Ben Allen
Other Designers/ Writers
Lead Programmer Adam Gretencord
Lead Artist / Video
Demo Available
Link to Video
Link(s) to Support Material
Platform(s) mac/win
Customizable (1 to 10) 3
Special Hardware none
Toolkit/Language used Flash / actionscript
Year Designed 2009
LMS Integration/ SCORM
Skill Level (Corporate/Military/Government)/Grade Level (Academic) elementary to MBA
Student time 120 min
Available ([O]pen / [R]estricted by Organization / [N]o longer Available R
Single player/Multiplayer single player
Category: Serious Game