Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World)

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Green Man Gaming is a PC game digital distribution service that was founded in and contains a catalog of more than 5, PC games to download. While Steam is clearly the biggest download service for PC games, Green Man Gaming has quickly gained fans through its very aggressive pricing and discounts. You're probably not going to see a hot new release discounted, but many games as little as 6 months old can be found at discounts of up to 75 percent off at times and Green Man Gaming offers a very enticing rewards programs. Like many brick and mortar retailers, Green Man Gaming offers a rewards program that provides incentives for frequent customers.

Gamers can earn rewards through new purchases or trade-ins of their digital purchases that can be turned into cash back or credit for new games. Green Man Gaming also offers credit towards future purchases through friend referrals and the submission of game reviews. Finally, through their social media platform Playfire, Green Man Gaming offers an additional rewards program that allows players to earn credits towards GMG game purchases by linking their Steam account to Playfire and then playing games and unlocking achievements to earn credits.

Additional details on this program can be found on the Playfire Rewards page. GamersGate is a Swedish based digital distributor of PC games launched in that was originally operated by Paradox Interactive as a way of providing digital distribution of their library of games that were either not present or hard to find in traditional retail outlets. The GamersGate service has since been separated from Paradox and now offers the digital distribution of more than 5, PC games from all major video game publishers and development companies. GamersGate provides many of the same games that you will find on Steam and Green Man Gaming, but unlike those services, GamersGate does not require the use of a client install in order to download and play.

Instead, it uses a small program that opens a download client to download the game files to your local PC. Once the download is complete the micro download program can be deleted and the game installed as if you had purchased a physical copy of the game. That being said, there still may be the requirement to install Steam if the game purchased uses Steam DRM.

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Much like Green Man Gaming, GamersGate provides a lot of discounts and incentives for purchasing games, including Blue Coins, a virtual currency which basically serves as their rewards program. Blue coins are earned through purchase, reviews, pre-orders, answering questions from other users and through submission of user created game guides. Started in , it began as a DRM-free platform for updating and delivering classic PC games, that work on more modern operating systems.

The service also provides extra downloadable content for games such as wallpapers and manuals. Origin rounds out the top 5 list of PC game digital distributors, which was launched by Electronic Arts in as a competitor to Valve's Steam. Origin has notably fewer games than other services but being one of if not the world's largest video game publisher does have its advantages. Some popular EA game titles are available exclusively through their Origin service.

Origin does contain some third party games and a fairly large catalog of older EA titles. I have watched young kids signing in to a game that requires a name, fight over who gets to be Link, the hero of the Zelda games. Link is their hero, the person they want to be. The qualities he possesses— courage, the desire to search, explore, overcome all enemies, and get to the end to save the princess—are the ones they want to possess. Game learning goes right into kids' language and concepts; one writer reports a six-year-old Nintendo player referring to his teacher as "the boss" Provenzo, For better or for worse, kids use video and com- puter games as a filter through which to understand their lives.

This is not so different from the past, where their hero and filter for interpreting life might have come from a story e. But one big difference between games and stories is that kids learn they have control over this life. One of the most effective game techniques for transmitting the Where—diat is, the contextual information—is i? It seems that the more one feels one is actually "in" a culture, the more one leams from it—especially nonconsciously. With recent im- provements in graphics, sound, smells, and "force feed- back" controllers, video and computer games have become incredibly immersive.

Soon there'll be appro- priate food or gum to chew, I predict. Language teach- ers are especially aware of how much learning goes on in immersive situations. So it is not surprising that the many immersive games are causing kids to learn a lot. Because no simulation is ever perfect, and de- signers must make choices, the learning in these im- mersive worlds is extremely controllable by the designers, via what the designers choose to amplify, and what they decide to reduce.

For example, if the designers amplify the difficulty of defeating enemies in order to increase the challenge or prolong the game, the mes- sage the player will get is that "enemies are hard to defeat. And this is the importance of the fifth, and most important, learning level of all. The learning at this level is the deepest, most interesting learning that goes on in video and computer games. For it involves the noncon- mmm emotional messages—the "subtext," as actors say. It is the level where game players learn to make value- based and moral decisions—decisions about whether do- ing something is right or wrong.

It is therefore the most problematic of the learning levels, and the one that causes the most controversy. At the simplest level, learning comes through the game's am- plification of certain factors through repetition and other means and reduction of others, as we have al- ready seen. At more complex levels it comes through the use of allegory and symbols, and through the ma- nipulation of images, situations, sounds, music, and other emotion-producing effects and combinations of effects, just like a novel or movie. It is hard to argue, I think, that the combination of "amplification" and "emotional" cues in certain games doesn't lead players to learn that the answer to "Is it OK to kill this character?

I would argue that they don't, at least not in our society. Just as with the rules, game players are constantly cross-checking, automatically and noncon- sciously and occasionally consciously as well with whatever else they know or have heard for consistency. Messages that are consistent get accepted, messages that are in conflict get further examination.

So in a warped culture where killing was encour- aged, the messages in a killing game could indeed, I think, encourage a young player to kill in real life. But in a culture such as ours, where the message "do not kill" is profoundly a part of our cultural context, peo- ple—even kids—think more than twice about whether to do it in real life, unless they are already severely dis- turbed although here we many have to distinguish the very youngest children. My friend the game designer is right when he says, "We have to be careful about buy- ing into the rhetoric of people who blame Doom for Columbine and ignore the fact that those guys were building pipe bombs in their garage and their parents never noticed.

But they are the exception. An excellent illustration of this consistency check- ing comes via a player who told me that one lesson he had learned from games is that "in a video game, it's usually more fun to be the outlaw or bad guy " This would, of course, also be true in life, were there no restrictions. But he, like most players, gets the message that the penalties society imposes make it a lot less fun later on, and so he is not an outlaw in real life. To really learn the latter, a player would have to have to overcome an awful lot of disconnects with the messages he or she hears in the rest of life—at least in civilized countries.

I think it is certainly in the public interest to keep these counter-messages as frequent and strong as possible, because as reality and simulation blur and games are not the only place where this is happening , we get help keeping them straight This has important implications for policy makers.

Digital Game-Based Learning: 13 Pros and Cons | The Helpful Professor

Positive or Negative? So I hope that it is clear that players learn a lot from the computer and video games they play. By now the idea that people who play these games, especially people who play them a great deal as so many kids do, learn from them will not cause very much disagreement. But it is worth taking a minute to discuss an area where there is a great deal of fundamental disagreement.

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That is whether the learning in computer and video games is positive or negative for games players—especially those who are kids—and for the society they live in. There are many appropriate things to do in video games. And even for those things the critics dislike, the games are, in the opinion of many, a useful defuser. Every day games are becoming less restrictive and more open to players' imaginations and personalities, with many more open- ended toylike elements that kids can use to exercise their own imaginations and tell their own stories.

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Newer games have multiple winning strategies. So- called "cheats" are, in reality, only alternative games. As network technology proliferates, video and com- puter games are quickly going back to the social orien- tation that games have always had. Video games are becoming more open to girls, and girls are becoming more open to video games.

And tons of other messages exist, and more can be created, to counter the "killing is the answer" message that some games may impart to a small number of players. The problem for me with all the nay-sayers' argu- ments is that they generally ignore all the positive learning that goes on, and, more importandy, could go on, in video and computer games. In my view, this far overwhelms any negatives. Designing Games as Learning Tools One wonders whether there's any limit to what, can be done in merging the addictive elements of computer games with effective instruction.

This has been the Holy Grail of many educators almost ever since there were computer games. However, many of the initial attempts pro- duced—to be charitable—mixed results. Designers and players of entertainment-oriented computer and video games—and therefore the computer and video games companies—typically turn up their noses at anything that even smacks of education or learning—and with some justification. With only a few notable exceptions see the end of this chapter , what are sold as "learning games" are not real games at all in the commercial sense, but rather short multimedia pieces containing problems to be found and solved, with varying amounts of graphics and animated rewards for getting problems right.

These edutainment games have little in common with the exciting and challenging thirty to one hundred- hour experiences of Quake, Unreal, Roller Coaster Tycoon, The Sims, Command and Conquer, Black and U 'hite, and the gamut of sports games. Why is this the case? In the opinion of one game designer, the "instructional designers" brought into the creation of a learning game because they sup- posedly know how to get people to leam, typically "suck the fun out" of any game they get their hands on.

Although learning games can fail as real games in many ways, the failure happens mostly commonly in their lack of gameplay—the fun things that the player gets to decide, control, and do. Although this is not as much true for the preschool set, who, in my experience, enjoy many of the edutainment offerings available, it becomes increasingly true once kids get their hand on real entertainment games in consoles, arcades, movie theaters, and so on.

The reason it's not easy is this: When a designer sits down to create an entertainment game a new one. The designer's "prime di- rective" is to make something that will engage players for as much time as possible, usually thirty, sixty, even a hundred or more hours. The designer invents all the content of the game—worlds, characters, puzzles—to help reach that goal.

In the process of designing the game any element or idea can be accepted into the game if it furthers the goal of engagement, rejected if it doesn't. At the end of the process one can—and pub- lishers often do—write a book about the game's con- tent, often to help players understand the world in the game and succeed in it. In educational games, on the other hand, the book of content is sitting on the desk before the designer even starts, and the game has to somehow be about that book.

So the designer has at least two prime direc- tives to follow simultaneously, to be engaging and to follow the book i. He or she can't just go about jiggling a concept here, changing a fact there, because it will enhance the game. And to make matters even harder, in addition to the two masters of engagement and accuracy, there is a third master, effec- tiveness. Does the game cause people to learn? How do we deal with this three-headed prob- lem? The answer, I suggest, is with gameplay. Of the major elements that make a computer or video game— the graphics the player sees known as the "eye candy" and the actions the player takes known as the game- play —it is the gameplay that really makes the differ- ence between bad games, good games, and great games.

Yet many games with little or no eye-candy but great gameplay, such as Pong, Asteroids, and its early arcade cousins, and of course Tetris, live on as classics. Over million eye candy-poor Game Boys have been sold in the world. Any game designer will tell you gameplay is much more important than eye candy, and many of them wait eagerly for the day when graphics are so good that designers can forget about improving them in every game and go back to concentrating on creating exciting gameplay.

It challenges us as digital game-based learning de- signers to take whatever material is our starting point and design a series of great gameplay experiences to get it across. Although our games will certainly involve graphics and even characters, it is what the gameplay has those characters do and, more impor- tant, has you, the player, do that really counts. One great advantage of this approach is that it can potentially bring our costs way down, because state-of-the-art graphics take up by far the greatest part of any game's budget.

How can two so seemingly disparate phenomena as good gameplay and effective, rigorous learning be- cause that's what we want, of course be combined? The answer, happily, is, in a great variety of ways. Digital game-based learning occupies the high ganu-- plav and high learning upper right quadrant.

And 1 have yet to see something, online or elsewhere, that is really high learning with low engagement. I think it is a "null" category that just doesn't exist. Each dimen- sion is a continuum, and each project has a different amount of both learning and engagement. Although there might be reasons in a given case to lean more towards one or the other, I'm not sure this is a good idea, although I have always thought it would be nice to have a slider as part of the interface, so the user could choose his or her own mix between learning and engagement based on their mood at die time figure 6.

As we design learning games, we have to continu- ally consider both the gameplay and learning dimen- sions. Not enough emphasis on learning and we risk sliding into being just a game; not enough emphasis on gameplay and we risk falling into CB T. It is much bet- ter to think alwut keeping both dimensions high than to think about trading them off, as some suggest we need to do. So our process in creating digital game-based learn- ing is the following: I Find or create a game with great gameplay that will engage our audience.

Understanding Your Players Let us begin, as any game designer would, with our au- dience. Most learners will be excited when they hear you are designing a game for them, but they will also be skeptical. So much learning is boring and done to learners, that people need to be clear that the game is being made to engage them and that ideally they have j real say in its design. Ln the end, the audience will quickly determine whether the game is engaging, and if it isn't, they will basically ignore it or throw it away, wasting a lot of your effort, time, and money- So we be- gin by considering our particular type of audience, from h horn we will select a representative group to work with.

In some fortunate situations we may have an audi- ence that is reasonably homogeneous. The military's : int Force Deployment was designed for a relatively mnogenous group at least in their training of mid- level military unit commanders. But some audiences are not as easy. If the audience is diverse along one or more of these dimensions, there are alternative strategies for dealing with creating games for such groups: 1. Seek a "lowest common denominator" game style, a game format that appeals to both men and women, or to both competitive and noncompetitive employees.

Among game formats that may serve this purpose are detective games, adventure and puzzle games, and strat- egy games. Create more than one game, for example, one more competitive and one more cooperative. The com- mercial Virtual World game centers in America began by offering two games—a highly aggressive shooting game and a much less aggressive racing game.

Games 2train has created a template in which the user can choose from among eight different games to learn the same content. Provide a nongame alternative for those in the audi- ence who are not engaged by die game you choose. This is valuable in every case. Of course, the danger with the first strategy is that it may involve too much compromise, resulting in a game that pleases no one.

The second may be too ex- pensive. In such cases the diird alternative, building the best game you can for the most people, but allowing those who don't like the game to learn another way, may be the best solution. One of the most important things one can do in designing digital game-based learning is to get repre- sentatives of the audience involved very early on in the process. More than anything else, player in- put and preferences will determine the game's ultimate acceptance and success. Selecting a Game Style The types of games we have to choose from to engage our audience include all the standard categories of com- puter games: action, adventure, fighting, puzzle, role- playing, simulation, sports, and strategy.

Selecting a game style from these categories can be done in a number of ways. There may be a commercial game you are aware of for children or adults that immedi- ately makes sense in terms of the content. However, it is best not to stop with the games you know, but to look at a wide variety of options, to speak with a lot of gamers, and especially to play as many games as pos- sible.

The reason these and other "hit" games are good models, is that their gameplay is proven. However, it is also possible, if you have a good idea, to create an entirely new game from scratch combining gameplay elements from many, but you must be very careful to make the gameplay great. In the words of. Ashley Upson creator of the le- gal game Objection!

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Game Elements? A number of people studying games have come up with lists of game "elements" to put into a learning game to make it successful. Robert Ahlers and Rosemary Garris, of the U. This is helpful information. But the trouble with an elements approach is that although these elements are indeed found in good games, just having a list of elements does not guarantee you a good game—that's one reason why there are so many boring and ineffec- tive "learning games" that thought they were "doing it right.

Do not take this phase of the process lightly— consider many options. The type of game you finally choose, and your skill in integrating it with the learn- ing, will determine the level of engagement. Find the potential game styles that will engage, consult, and reconsult your audience. Offering a Choice We don't all like the same game, so offering the player options is often a good idea. I have found this latter strategy, giving users a choice of not playing, to be very important, particularly if they have the option of opting in and out whenever they choose.

This probably relates not only to the fact that some people may prefer not to play games or may not like the game you have, but also to the fact that one of the defining characteristics of play is that it is free— you don't have to do it, you can opt out. The option of having more than one game may sound difficult, but in some instances it is not.

It is not that hard to create parallel interfaces that allow you to create content once and have it How into a number of game formats, offering the player a choice of style. Understanding Your Content Second in the process, not because it is less important, but because game-based learning the audience comes first, you need to consider the kind of learning you are trying to make happen, and select your interactive pro- cesses for doing so the steps can also be done in paral- lel.

The types of content will also have an effect on your choice of game. Whatever your subject, you should begin by look- ing genetically at the different kinds of learning content you want to teach to see what kinds of learning are re- ally going on, such as learning knowledge facts , skills, judgments, behaviors, theories, reasoning, process, pro- cedures, creativity, language, systems, observation, or communication. For any subject there will no doubt be more than one, and probably many. We can then take the different kinds of games, and line them up against these requirements.

Then we can decide if our game and its subgames can support these types learning, and iterate as required. Table 6. Choosing Your Learning Activities and Techniques For the "learning" part of digital game-based learning, one can employ many interactive activities techniques that have been shown to work both in nongame forms of interactive learning such as CBT and in digital games in many cases, that's where the CBT designers got them! Additionally, we can and should invent new interactive learning techniques as they are needed.

Continuous addition of new interactive activities and learning techniques to our repertoire will make digital game-based learning increasingly effective as time goes on. Computers are very good at presenting a series of problems and keeping track, sta- tistically, of how people answer them. Used poorly, this is often labeled "drill and kill. Anyone who denies there are such things should go out and learn to play a musical instrument. Examples can include facts e. Practice and feedback has become a lot more acceptable with the advent of adaptive pro- gramming techniques, which shift the difficulty level of the tasks or problems on the fly depending on how the user is doing.

Most who reject "telling" as a methodology want to replace it with "learning by do- ing. When was the last time you played a game that spent a lot of the time "telling" you anything. Of course, there is doing, and there is doing. The "drill and kill" is, of course, one form of "doing. The com- mon element is active participation and decision making by the learner. In this interactive learning technique, a user moves toward his or her goal until he or she comes to a "failure point" and then gets some kind of feedback.

Of course, this is precisely what hap- pens in many games. Anyone who has ever tried and failed over and over again to solve a puzzle in an adven- ture game or to beat a boss in an action game or get somewhere in a flying simulation knows that doing and failing—trial and error—is often a successful way to learn. It is something games are full of because it gives players the motivation to keep trying. One difference between games and learning applications is the way the feedback comes. In most learning apps, it is dirough some form of telling, be it video-based war stories, coaching, or written feedback.

In most games feedback comes via action: something happens. You die. You lose. Your company fails. You go back to the beginning. You are mocked. Designing feedback to be less learn- inglike and more gamelike is often a big paradigm shift and challenge for digital game-based learning designers. Game designers almost always make the fail- ure consequences interesting, and often fun. Some interactive learning de- signers distinguish learning that is fact oriented learn- ing about something from leaning that is goal oriented learning to do something. Those who use the term "goal-oriented" or "goal-based" learning have adopted a concept that has been in games since the beginning.

A goal is a key element of a game; it's what makes free play into a game. The goals in a game, which players usually consider worth reaching, are what give players the incentive to push on through repeated failure. Discovery learning is based on the idea is that you learn some- thing better if you find it out for yourself, rather than having it told to you.

In learning applications, discovery learning usually implies some sort of problem to solve, which is usually accomplished by searching through data or structures for pieces or clues. This is yet an- other kind of learning diat has a long history in games—discovery learning is what many games, and certainly all adventure games, are all about.

Structured or not, discovery learning is better for some things than others. Traditional learning of systems and procedures i. Task-based learning is a different approach, a variation of learning by doing.

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Here the approach is to skip or greatly truncate the generalized explanations and go straight to a series of tasks or problems that build on each other and gradually increase in difficult '. By doing the tasks, with strong specific guidance anil modeling, the user gradually learns the skills. A poten- tial downside of this methodology is that users may learn less of the theory behind the skills, although this can be made available as well in a number of ways. Although questions are most often used in interactive learning applications as some form of test pre, post, mastery, etc.

Attempting to respond as best you can to a question whose answer you don't know forces you to think about the information and reason among the answers, rather than just being told the response. Question-based learning is traditionally associated with one particular type of game, the quiz or trivia game.

The tact that these types of games are so popular in the world, and so easily grab people's time and atten- tion, makes them obvious vehicles for digital game- based learning. Situated learning sets the learning in an environment that is similar to where the learning material will be applied in the future. According to this approach, when students learn in such an environment they benefit not only from the learning material that is taught but also from the culture that is in that environ- ment, the vocabulary used, and behavior associated to that environment.

This obviously marries well with immersive style games. Role playing is often used as a strategy in interactive training, particularly for skills such as interviewing, communication coaching, sales, and the like. Role playing, of course, is so much a part of games that it has its own genre, role-playing games, or RPGs. One of the differences between role playing in training and role playing in games is that training role plays tend to he much shorter and more structured than those in games, which arc often mulrihour, multiday, or even openended. Games in which players con- struct worlds use this approach, which takes discovery learning even farther.

The original ideas of including multiple senses in the learning process began in lan- guage learning. This type of learning is also related to theories of "multiple intelligences. The idea of learning objects grows out of object-oriented programming, where pieces of a program are built as stand-alone units with input and output "hooks" to link them together in whatever order is needed for the particular larger task at hand.

The concept is to design pieces of content and, hopefully, certain interactions that are independent, and then to hook them up in whatever sequence needed. Learning objects fit nicely with games, which are becoming much more object-oriented themselves. Coaching is a growing part of interac- tive learning applications. Although this was formerly a role left almost entirety to the instructor, designers are now finding ways to build useful coaches into learn- ing programs. Coaching has also existed in games for a long time.

It often comes from various characters in the game that you happen across as you are madly search- ing around, or that you encounter when you have hit a failure point. An "intelligent tutor" is able to look at a learner's responses, decide why he or she made the error, and give specific feedback, usually based on an inference engine with a cognitive model from expert problem solvers.

Essentially, the tutor compares a user's behavior to that of an expert. The tutor understands most common misconceptions and tries to correct them early on, as well as giving prob- lems and hints to mediate the misconceptions. Second generation intelligent tutors add the ability not only to go out and find the information the user needs, but to filter it and present it in the ways that are most helpful.

You should be consider and use all of the above techniques as necessary as you design your learning. In the end, the learning and the gameplay must be merged. There are a number of structures to con- sider when doing this. I present them here as a series of choices, but in reality none are purely binary "cither-or" choices; one must find an appropriate place on each continuum. In it, Malone made the argument that there arc two main categories of learning games: intrinsic and extrinsic. In an intrinsic game, Malone argued, the content is an integral part of the game structure. His example is a math game, where things go up as you get to higher quantities and down as diey are lower.

A more contemporary example is a flight simulanon game, where the game itself is about flying a plane, or Sim City, where you learn the rules of urban develop- ment by trying and succeeding or failing. Most simula- tion-type games fall into this category. Extrinsic games, on the other hand, are games where the content and the game structure are less righdy linked, or not linked at all. The paradigm here is the question or trivia game, where the questions can he about any subject, but the game remains esscntially the same.

Bingo, Jeopardy! Which model, intrinsic or extrinsic, is bener? Proponents of each will give you reasons why theirs is superior, and this is a highly controversial topic among digital game-based learning designers. These are perhaps the most noble and worthwhile applications of technology in the learning field.

I believe that both intrinsic and extrinsic games have their value in different situations. The trade-off is that although intrinsic games enhance certain kinds of learning and add to the engagement, they are typically created on a custom basis and are therefore more costly and often difficult to change or update. Extrinsic games, although lacking the learning power that may come from tighdy linking the content into the game, lend themselves well to templatization and rapid content changes, often at lower cost. There are a number of states between the tw o, one of which I refer to as loosely linked.

A tighdy linked game is one con- structed specifically around a fixed set of content.

The content is built in to the game, and knowing the con- tent is vital to succeeding in and winning the game. A rightly linked game can still be extrinsic, and the entire game might be able, with a fair amount of effort, to be repurposed for other content. A detective game where the clues are pieces of information about the product might he an example. A loosely linked game, on the other hand is one where the content is essentially separate from the game, but there are hooks in the game that bring the two together, and send the player from the game to the content and back again.

In repurposing the game to new content, only the hooks must be changed, not the whole game. An example of a loosely linked game is the Monkey Wrench Conspiracy, a task-based learning game where the tasks, which are done outside the game in the software to be learned, are initiated by encountering flashing objects, which although part of the story line, can easily be changed to add, eliminate, or change a task. Like extrinsic games, loosely linked games often allow content to be changed much more easily than tighdy linked games. That means you would use them in situations where, say, the content was still in devel- opment, or changing rapidly.

A tighdy linked game is better for incorporating unchanging content. Hard-Wired Games versus "Engines," "Templates," or Shells" The ultimate tightly linked game is the so-called hard- wired game. Here the designers and programmers sit down with the goal of building only this particular game. Reusability is not a consideration. Everything in the game is designed and optimized around the game, the content, and the player experience.

In many ways, if done well, this will produce the best game of all, just as a custom tailored suit is likely to look and fit better. But it is a very expensive way to do things. The opposite of the hard-wired game is the tem- plate, or shell. In this approach the content, be it text, graphics, video clips, or whatever, sits somewhere exter- nal to the game and is "read-in" or "called" by the pro- gram at the appropriate time and displayed on screen.

This allows the construction of "content editor" soft- ware, where a trainer or teacher can just type in various pieces of the content, which are automatically displayed in the correct place in the game. An approach between hard-wiring and pure tem- plates is to use what programmers refer to as an "en- gine. Such an engine can underlie or drive equally well either a shoot em up such as Doom, Quake, or Unreal, or a nonviolent, more politically correct game such as Straight Shooter.

A number of game engines are available commercially—game companies often amortize the large expense of developing them by licensing them to other companies for other games. The latest Doom, Quake, and Unreal engines are all on the market typically at high prices for commercial use , as are many individually developed versions. Some vendors often take the trouble to turn what were originally custom-developed, hard-wired games into engines, so they can resell them in a number of dif- ferent contexts this is also referred to as "templatizing" a game. In this case, the interactions in the game make up the engine, and all the graphics and words change according to the new context.

The least happy result of all comes when a game is hard-wired not because it makes sense to do things in a unique way from a design or programming perspective, but because the designers or programmers are inexper- ienced with games and just plunge ahead building it as they go without considering reusability. This can hap- pen either because they don't think they have to make things reusable, or because they don't know how to, or both. For maximum flexibility and reusability, hard- wiring should be avoided as much as possible in a final product. Prototypes, however, are often built hard- wired because doing so is faster and cheaper in this very limited case.

Reflective Games versus Action Games There are a number of genres of games, ranging from action to role playing to strategy. One of the differenti- ating characteristics among these types of games that has an important bearing on digital game-based learn- ing design is the degree of reflection they allow, because reflection is an important part of the learning process for certain things that is often under-included.

Non- stop action games aka "twitch" games , offer the least opportunity for reflection in themselves, whereas role playing, adventure, simulation, strategy, and puzzle games often proceed at a slower pace and offer more built-in reflective "space. In role playing games, one typically gets to make choices in various types of dialogues, which provide reflection points.

Adventure games, where one goes around finding objects that allow you to solve puzzles, also give time for reflection around "how do I solve this—what do I need? Does this mean we can or should never use a twitch game as part of digital game-based learning? Not necessarily. The important thing is that the game- play be suited to the content, and there be the right balance of action and reflection in the final product.

Too much action, and there's no time to reflect. Too much reflection, and it can get boring.


We need to find the flow path between the two. This is part of pac- ing, which is so important to novels, movies, games, and all devices meant to hold our attention. Synchronous Real-Time Games versus Asynchronous Turn-Based Games The distinction between real-time and turn-based aka synchronous and asynchronous games is important to digital game-based learning in at least two ways. In a single player mode, a player must pause a real-time game, or put it into a pause state to interrupt it, cither for reflection or to do something else.

This usually involves saving the game-state everything that is hap- pening at that point. Some games—for example with virtual pets—do not allow this, and the game continues whether or not one is playing. Stop playing long enough and one loses. In a turn-based game, on the other hand—Chess for example, but also many strategy games—the machine will wait torever tor a player to figure out his or her next move, unless one is playing by the clock.

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The distinction between synchronous and asyn- chronous becomes even more important in multiplayer games. A game where everyone is playing with or against each other at the same time—say a real-time battle or a competitive business simulation—can be very interesting, but for learning it can usually only happen when learners are in the same situation at the same time, such as in a class, orientation, offsite, and so on.

When this is not the case, turn-based games, which allow each player to play whenever he or she has the time, may be a better solution. A turn-based game, though, may lack some of the immediate excitement of a real-time game, so the engagement has to be pro- duced in other ways, such as a real interest in the out- come and other types of ganieplay such as highly meaningful decisions.

Single Player Games versus Multiplayer versus Masshely Multiplayer Games today can be either single player, multiplayer on the same computer such as some You Don't Knoir Jack games , two or multiplayer over a network or the Inter- net, or massively multiplayer with hundreds, thousands, or potentially even millions playing either at once, or on an in-and-out basis.

Most digital game-based learning to date has been single player, except in the military, where the goal has always been to link people. One issue for multiplayer games is getting the people together in real time.

Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World) Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World)
Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World) Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World)
Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World) Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World)
Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World) Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World)
Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World) Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World)
Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World) Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World)
Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World) Digital Games: Computers at Play (The Digital World)

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