Why not use games at school?

A recently published survey revealed that three in five 11-16 year-olds in the UK would like to use computer games to learn in school. The research, which was conducted by the UK research company Ipsos MORI surveyed over 2,300 11-16 year-old students in England and Wales. It explored students’ opinions and their use of games. The findings could help to determine how computer games may be integrated into the school curriculum.

Nearly 90% of those who said they would like to use games at school agreed that it would make lessons more interesting. More than two-thirds of the respondents thought that games would improve their computer skills, and just under half thought that they would help to improve strategic thinking skills such as problem solving.


One imaginable application for educational content are Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), a type of online role playing game in which a large number of players interact. Since most of these games have a rather violent setting and deal with war scenarios, the discussion of the negative influence they may have on kids has overshadowed the potential for learning purposes that they provide. They are, however, both highly entertaining and demanding, two major benefits that could enhance learning processes. The learning process is individual: no two people go through the virtual environments with the same experiences. And – probably the strongest argument for using them with younger adults and pupils – most kids know how to use them.


Potential of Online Role Play Games


In online role play games, the player becomes an actor in a virtual world where the technology creates the spatial, temporal and material conditions for interaction. Games allow players to see themselves in relationship to an endeavour and to experience the consequences of their actions as it relates to the accomplishment of that endeavour. In online role play games, unlike other places on the web, interaction is not disembodied and asynchronous. It is embodied and interactive, says Dr. Tony O’Driscoll, who leads the Performance Architecture Analysis and Design Group from IBM Corporate Learning.


For O’Driscoll, who will analyse the learning potential of the so-called ‘serious games’ in corporate training in a session at ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN, the most exciting characteristic of these games is the rapidity with which they allow players to analyse scenarios and force them to decide intuitively. According to O’Driscoll, the true value of online role play games is not about how predictive they are, but about how purposeful they can be in allowing players to act and interact towards a common goal, fail, try again a different way and eventually – but much quicker than in real life – achieve the outcome desired. Skills such as situation analysis, decision making, leadership and trust building can be trained effectively through online role games.


Play peace not war!


One educational game that has been adopted on an international level is the so-called “Peace Game” Pax Warrior.


Paxwarrior, copyright Resolve Labs

Aimed at pupils and young adults, Pax Warrior uses the nascent ‘Interactive Documentary’ form to incorporate decision-based simulation and collaborative learning tools. Players are guided through a simulation based on the UN mission during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.


The fusion of drama, documentary and game is particularly well realised and sophisticated in Pax Warrior. Acknowledged as a great example of how drama might be applied to the interactive realm, Pax Warrior was selected best eLearning in the Americas and Oceania at the World Summit on the Information Society WSIS. It is in used on four continents, with more than 250,000 licenses having been sold so far. It has been implemented in curricula in Canada, Britain and South Africa. Pax Warrior will be presented by Andreas Ua’Siaghail, Producer of Pax Warrior and President and Chief Creative Officer of Resolve Labs, Canada, at ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN.


Another practical focus will be provided by Euan Mackenzie from 3MRT, UK, a company that produces educational games for secondary schools. Mackenzie will talk about the various challenges that 3MRT faces in the design of educational games and how they tried to solve them. One major problem, for example, is how to gain credibility amongst the digitally experienced teenagers. They can spot a fake a mile away, says Mackenzie. So 3MRT worked together with several developers of Grand Theft Auto, a notorious action role game, to address this challenge. The presentation will also cover topics such as teacher control and measurement of educational benefits, software design and game play techniques as well as potential traps and failures of games developers.


Quality of learning games


Reliable quality criteria can certainly help to force implementation of learning games in education and training markets. Despite over one-quarter of the teachers polled by the above-mentioned Ipso Mori survey reporting that they themselves play computer games, around two-thirds still felt, for example, that computer games may present stereotypical views of others and lead to anti-social behaviour. The poll findings also highlight some barriers to the use of games in schools, such as a lack of strong evidence of the educational value of games.


To stimulate and assess high quality games in learning, the European Special Interest Group for Game-based Learning in Universities and lifElong Learning SIG-GLUE (www.sig-glue.net) started a quality stamp service for games in May 2006. It is focused on fully developed games already in use as well as on games prototypes. Maja Pivec from FH Joanneum, the project leader of SIG-GLUE, will lead a round table discussion about the purpose of games in learning, quality issues and theoretical foundations of games design and development on Friday, December 1.


For more information, you can contact Maja Pivec at OEB 2006 or go to the SIG GLUE website at




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