The Complete Guide to Simulations and Serious Games is the book I always wanted to write. It is a first pass at a grammar guide to interactive experiences. In many ways, The Complete Guide is meta-criticism of literature and other linear material, including the over-reliance on narration and passive story telling, as a sufficient enabler of "a good life." The book is so dense that it will take generations to fully unpack.
Just two middle chapters, for example, launched the entire Gamification Movement, and those sections aren't even the really innovative ones. Here is what they cover:
Chapter 16 Game Elements: A Spoonful of Sugar If You Can Avoid Hypoglycemic Shock:
Advanced Graphics • Award • Beauty • Chase • Cheat • Choosing Appearance or Voice for an On-Screen Character • Clicking Quickly and Accurately • Collecting • Colloquialisms • Comics • Competition • Destroy • Easter Egg • Fantasy • Futuristic • Gambling • Gaming • Hero • Jeopardy • Mastering an Action • Mystery • New Sets and Settings • Pet • Poll • Power-Ups • References to Culture • Rubber Banding • Scores and Grades • Setting • Shopping, Virtual • Timer •
Chapter 17 Pedagogical Elements: Learn Faster and Better
Sound Cue • Mentor, Supervisor, or Guide • Abstraction • Simplified Interfaces • Noise • Acrostic • Auto-Journal • Difficulty Adjustment • Speed-Up Or Slow-Down Switch • Alert • Exaggerated Response • Bread Crumbs • Mouse-Over • Libraries of Plays • Mixed Scales • List of Tasks • Virtual Adviser • Redo • Replay Option • Save • Removal of Scaffolding • Slow Motion Replay • Taxonomies • Time Line • Time to Core Gameplay or First Decision • Trail • Venn Diagram • Walk-Through • Pace Setter • Juxtaposition • Forced Moments of Reflection • Graph •
Highlight • Illustration • In-Game Tips and Directions • Fourth Wall • Superstition • Forcing Different Approaches
Learning Online forced me to finally create a unifying framework between virtual worlds, serious games, and educational simulations. I introduced the HIVE framework, which can best be summed up in the first paragraphs of the book:
I also liked in the book this distinction between what is a serious game vs. what is an educational simulation:
A five-year-old girl visits a swimming pool at the beginning of the summer, and is terrified. She runs and hides behind her father’s leg. But she works up her nerve to dip her toe in the water. She has entered a new world.
Slowly, she begins playing games on the pool stairs. She imagines the water is the ocean, and she lives in an undersea world, where her father is the king. She splashes with other children. In playing, she is learning how this new world works. The pool then becomes a comfortable environment for her and her friends to spend time.
Finally, she begins to challenge herself. It is not enough to be in the shallow end; she wants to learn to swim to the deep end. With the coaching of her father, she pushes towards the dark and cold, experimenting with strokes, sometimes getting mouthfuls of water. She gets frustrated, and then excited with each new skill. It takes time, and progress is uneven. But by the end of the summer, she has become a competent swimmer, and could swim to safety in many different environments, from other pools to lakes to beaches.
Perhaps the difference between educational simulations and serious games can be summed up by the “origin examples” of each, the first examples that inspired the fields.
The best example of an educational simulation, and also its earliest success and justification, is the flight simulator for training pilots. Flight simulators have many of the attributes respected and desired in all educational simulations today. They are first person (what you see in the simulation is what you would see in real life), directly relate to the needed skills, and their value is self-evident (in this case, keep both pilot and plane from crashing, which would result in killing hundreds of people and costing millions of dollars, and just making a big ol’ mess).
Flight simulators impressively deal with both simple actions like turning n a flap or putting down landing gear and nuanced actions such as using the throttle, but these actions are also interfaces into complicated, dynamic, and intertwined systems like wind shear and flying with a broken engine or landing gear. And these actions and systems are all coordinated towards the straightforward goal of landing a plane safely, and ideally at the right airport.
The hope and promise of the educational simulation movement is simple, if still somewhat speculative. This interactive model can increasingly be used for more academic and higher-level skills such as “understanding the decisions of a historical leader” or even “applying leadership.”
In contrast, the prototypical serious game is Will Wright’s brilliant SimCity (and later The Sims and even Spore). In SimCity, players are highly entertained while designing and nurturing the cities they evolved. It was designed to be (and published as) a game and yet has found its way into many academic curricula. It is easy to use, originally even presenting a model train interface, yet presents complicated and interesting systems. Players have immense (albeit unrealistic) power, and eventually become proud of their city, in a way that few are proud of homework assignments. They even view their cities as an extension of their own views, ethics, and priorities.
While playing SimCity, players also gain (some) insight into urban planning. However, no mayor has ever prepared for his or her job by playing it. The content is abstracted to a point of high engagement, not transfer. The hope and promise of this serious games approach is that many more examples emerge that likewise are addictive and educational.
So what is the difference between educational simulations and serious games in a nutshell? Serious games are how you want to learn, and educational simulations are how you want your doctor to learn.
2009 Published Writings Include:
Karrasch, A., Hilgenkamp, H., Landers, M., Potter, J., & Aldrich, C. (2009, December). Using simulation to train influence. Paper presented at Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference, Orlando, FL.
Aldrich, C. (2009), 'Capturing the Wisdom That Fell Through the Cracks of Gutenberg and Google.', Training, November.
Aldrich, C. (2009), 'Because You Can't Learn to Ride a Bicycle from a Book', T + D, 63(12)/December, 24-26.
Aldrich, C. (2009), Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds: Strategies for Online Instruction (Jossey-Bass Guides to Online Teaching and Learning), Jossey-Bass.
Aldrich, C. (2009), The Complete Guide to Simulations and Serious Games: How the Most Valuable Content Will be Created in the Age Beyond Gutenberg to Google, Pfeiffer, San Francisco.
Aldrich, C. (2009), 'Virtual Worlds, Simulations, and Games for Education: A Unifying View', Innovate: Journal of Online Education 5(5), --. (Link)
Aldrich, C. & DiPietro, J. (2009), 'An Overview of Gaming Terminology: Chapters I-LXXVI', Handbook of research on effective electronic gaming in education.
Aldrich, Clark B., and Denis Salnier. "Simulations and Serious Games: An Interview with Clark Aldrich (Experiential ELearning)." Experiential ELearning. Harvard Business School Publishing, 12 Apr. 2009. Web. http://saulnier.typepad.com/learning_technology/2009/04/simulations-and-serious-games-an-interview-with-clark-aldrich.html.