Download 2016 Simulations and Serious Games Portfolio PDF About Us Clients include
Unschooling Rules Project Clark Aldrich Bio Books and Articles Clark Aldrich Designs

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."

No comments:

Post a Comment