When I think ‘game’ I instinctively think of hopscotch or something similar from my childhood. Suspecting that my retro association is restricted to me, I asked the rest of Team Totem what comes to mind when you say game. Here’s what they came up with:
Play (a lot of the Team said this one)
So, I’m less alone in my thinking than I thought. This leads me to suspect that equally some readers of this blog will have the same sorts of associations to the word ‘game’. If you do, it might leave you wondering how it’s possible to create a structured learning experience from a game – something that is so closely linked to childish play.
Learning from games.
Is it possible? Of course, it is.
I think it’s important to firstly recognise that any game or play (irrespective of how frivolous it might seem) has the potential to teach someone new skills or knowledge. In fact, if you think about children, most of their early learning is through game play. It’s clear that there is enormous potential for both fun and learning to coexist quite happily in the game.
If you’re thinking this principle only exists with children, you’d be wrong. Look at the amount of time and money spent on gaming. Instead of another industry-wide stat about the billions of dollars the gaming sector is worth, here’s an illustration of my point from a (nameless) member of Team Totem who has spent over 2,900 hours playing Dota 2. That’s 120 days! The rest of Team Totem had similar stories about the time and money they’d spent on various games. Over the time spent playing these games, skills are finessed, new techniques learnt and more levels unlocked.
The compelling nature of games is indisputable. The learning opportunities games provide should be equally indisputable, especially when you throw serious games into the mix.
The difference between games and serious games.
Put simply, the difference comes down to whether the game is being designed for purely entertainment purposes or whether there is another purpose, for example learning a specific skill.
Learning project management skills from a serious game.
Coming back to where we started with this blog – why can’t a game help you learn project management skills? – and I’m wondering ‘Well, why can’t it?’. It absolutely can.
A well-designed serious game (i.e. the opposite of this) has the potential to teach project management skills in a more compelling and engaging way than could be expected from traditional online learning. An example of this would be our serious game, Unlock: Project Management.
What you can expect from Unlock: Project Management.
It’s a single-player game comprising 6 levels that take you through the stages of planning and implementing a project. The game uses a high-pressure project scenario. A disaster has decimated the island ‘Cataleyo'. People need help, quickly! The player is tasked with providing quick-to-build, low-cost shelter for the affected population. The player must seek out information, understand what is required and meet those needs by organising resources, assessing risks, staying in budget, prioritising tasks and satisfying stakeholders.
Each level is scored and offers feedback on the learner's progress. In-game characters give feedback and there is the opportunity for self-assessment. Accompanying material provides further insight into successful project management.
It’ll take you approximately 2 hours to play through the whole game and, once done, you’re welcome to keep replaying the game as many times as you want. You can try out different strategies to see how it affects the outcome.