Let’s Understand What are Digital Games
A computer game is defined as such because the activity
- has goals,
- is interactive and
- is rewarding (gives feedback).
The gaming activities must offer the user the options to choose or define and then observe the newly created sequence.
We describe computer games as being interactive based on a set of agreed rules[i] and constraints[ii] and directed toward a clear goal that is often set by a challenge[iii]. In addition, games constantly provide feedback, either as a score or as changes in the game world, to enable players to monitor their progress toward the goal[iv]. In speaking of a serious (computer) game, we mean that the objective of the computer game is not to entertain the player, which would be an added value, but to use the entertaining quality for training, education, health, public policy, and strategic communication objectives[v].
Is Digital Game-Based Learning the Future of Learning?
Parents are confused when their child, who cannot multiply improper fractions can explain how to defeat a video game Boss in one sitting.
The explanation here is very simple:
Digital game-based learning (DGBL), is a motivational, challenging, and rewarding process that can be fun.
Next, we ask what is Game-Based Learning?
Game-based learning is an effective, interactive experience that motivates active participate in the learning process.
How does it work?
Game-based learning involves the use of computer smart device and video games to produce learning outcomes. It is designed to balance subject matter and gameplay. It also assesses the learner. It checks the learner’s ability to retain and apply acquired knowledge in a real-world scenarios.
An effective game-based learning environment helps learners work toward a goal while choosing actions (pathways) and the learner experience the consequences of those decisions first-hand.
Here is the interesting part: While players (learners) make mistakes, the risk-free setting of a game environment allows failures to become challenges, which then drives them to revise their actions until they arrive at the correct way of doing things. There are hardly embarrassing moments in this learning environment.
This makes the activity more engaging until the learning objective is fulfilled.
Is Digital Game-Based Learning Effective?
Extensive research has been done on DGBL. Richard Van Eck of the University of North Dakota said that several reviews of the literature on gaming over the last 40 years find that digital game-based learning generally has positive effects.
Referring to the principle of situated cognition, Van Eck states that games are effective partly because
- the learning takes place within a meaningful context.
- The subject matter is directly related to the environment in which learners/players learn.
- As such, the knowledge gained is not only relevant but applied and practiced within that context.
DGBL is a primary mechanism of learning and socialization through play. This is common to all human cultures and starts informally from a very young age. Hence humans as well as a number of animal groups learn in this manner. A lion learns to hunt through modelling and play, not through direct instruction, which is the same principle employed in a game-based instructional strategy.
The following elements of digital game-based learning add to its appeal as an effective educational tool:
The competitive elements of a game are generally not found in traditional learning methods or during classroom lectures or discussions. Competition provides motivation to learners/players to engage and finish an activity. It doesn’t need to be against another participant. It could be an attempt to bag get the highest score possible or outdoing one’s self every time.
Games that are fun to play significantly improve learning performance. When learners have fun, the learning pressure dissipates, allowing them to freely define and modify their strategies according to a specific goal.
- Immediate Rewards.
Rewards aid in the learning process by keeping the participant invested and coming back for more. This fosters a continuous learning process for the learner/player, as each learning objective is tied to a series of challenges. Goals and their corresponding rewards can be built in stages and set according to difficulty.
- Immediate Reinforcement and Feedback.
Research on learning and behaviour shows that learners learn faster when there’s a shorter interval between behaviour and reinforcer.
It would be less discouraging for learners to learn their mistakes right away than seeing a red mark on paper assessments a few days later. Feedback in a game context is instantaneous and scoring can be standardized to allow comparisons.
Criticisms of Digital Game-Based Learning
While positive claims have been made about using games as educational tools, some question its viability as well. There are those who argue that research has been slow to provide hard empirical evidence on its effectiveness.
Among the negatives that are associated with games and technology in general is that
it promotes isolation and anti-social behaviour, and
it results in short attention span.
However, the anti-social behaviour element might not, as more and more games are developed for social play. While some games do not allow face-to-face interactions, they mirror real-world communication that could prove useful in personal and business transactions.
Others argue that implementing either a fully digital game-based curriculum or even one that relies heavily on games requires additional equipment, software, and training of teachers, thus increasing costs.
Some believe that playing games distract learners from attaining other valuable skills.
Is Digital Game-Based Learning Here to Stay?
There are debates on whether or not digital game-based learning will prevail in the next 10 years or so, but it cannot be denied that it is thriving. Based on the figures released by Ambient Insight, the game-based global market reached $1.5 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow to $2.3 billion in 2017, a compound annual growth rate of 8.3%.
Educators can take advantage of the multiple learning
scenarios it presents to engage their audience.
[i] (Prensky, 2001; Vogel et al., 2006),
[ii] (Garris et al., 2002),
[iii] (Malone, 1981)
[iv] (Prensky, 2001). . . .
[v] Zyda, 2005). (p. 250)