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Games for Learning

       Liberating the Learning Process through the 'Sandbox' game design    Too much of learning is top down, trainer led, sage on the stage – these are the traditional models of imparting knowledge into a mass audience. Originally designed for educating workers during the industrial revolution the classroom seems to be a concept we are holding onto for dear life. But why does formal learning have to be this way? The classroom is a complete contrast to how we learn informally, where the world is our sandbox, our playground, a place where we discover, we learn, we remember. Where experiences are personal, and they mean something to us.  Why can’t we take some of the principles of this free form, learner driven experience and apply it to formal learning? Well, the good news is that we can! We can create environments that encourage exploration, that encourage curiosity that lead to meaningful ‘aha’ moments and environments that can be leveraged in many ways. The secret is working with elements of Sandbox Game Design and blending them with learning outcomes.       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Many think of a sandbox game as a completely open world where anything is possible, anything is achievable and there are no limits. However a sandbox game does contain structure, it contains rules, there are tools, but you are free to play in the ways you think are best. Sandbox games can be complex; to develop, to make, to maintain, to market and promote. Only a few make the big time, Sim City, World of Warcraft and Minecraft to name a few. However, reflecting on the name of this genre, ‘sandbox’, it conjures up the most simple of play experiences. A box of sand and a person’s imagination. Another way to think about sandbox game design is to think of a football pitch; a patch of grass with white lines and goals at either end of the field. Now you can have under 11’s play on that pitch or you can have Real Madrid vs Barcelona – the environment is the same; the same grass, the same goals, the same paint, but the strategy, the style and the pace of the game will be different. This is the essence of sandbox design – creating an environment that can be leveraged for multiple abilities and multiple learning outcomes – it becomes what you make of it.  The goal of a sandbox game designer is to create a world where players keep coming back. A world which players want to explore. However, learning designers have a different goal and that is to allow learners to discover content. You can use the design of a sandbox world to pique curiosity, revealing a certain amount of information to the learner when appropriate to drive them through the experience.  Of course you probably don’t have the budget to create an open world which is representative of your business. And the good news is that you don’t need to. You just need to create a world that feels big – it’s all an illusion. You can reference wider systems and consequences in the narrative, you can visualise mountains in the distance, or use clues to suggest a sprawling city. This ‘expansive world’ will feel like a playground and learners will want to explore and see what’s round the next corner.      
   
     “ Games in general refocus the learning experience onto the learner ” 
   
  
 
     Games in general refocus the learning experience onto the learner. They place an individual in a scenario and ask them what are you going to do? This isn't a mechanic limited to sandbox games, alone, it’s very common amongst game thinking but in a more structured game you can divert a learner back onto the right track or you can reflect consequences immediately. In terms of sandbox design, a designer needs to let go of the structured learning process and realise that through experimentation with the environment and the tools, learners will find their own way through the content. Therefore, you will find time on tasks varies wildly from player to player depending on how they go about completing tasks, which path they have taken, how they prioritised information, and their own individual approach to learning. Of course a learning designer, doesn't want learners to become lost or frustrated so the key is to create a world where the content can be discovered and use good sign posting on how to find it.  Sandbox game design allows learners to explore, refine and practice skills. The design principles behind the game Unlock: Leadership for example, don’t align to any specific school of leadership; rather the environment gives players a platform to try out behaviours and strategies to develop their own leadership methodology. The game doesn't tell you how to be a good leader, the design is more about the changing role of leadership, to be a leader as part of the team and seeing the bigger picture.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Providing this context for learning is important. Most sandbox games are multiplayer and the dynamics of the players impacts on the experience of any given user: change the players and the game changes. Each player comes with their own strengths, weaknesses, experiences and expectations and change the way the game plays out.  Multiplayer sandbox games also allow players roles to change. As the players are controlling their actions and choices, roles change and adapt. Different challenges may require different strengths and a sandbox game should be flexible enough to allow learners to showcase their expertise under different circumstances.  Because sandbox games are all about the players and the context, the ‘aha’ moments vary from player to player, from team to team. Because learners are placed at the centre of the experience and we make it about how they play, we make it personal. And by making it personal, by discovering it for yourself, we can make those lessons stick. 

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LIBERATING THE LEARNING PROCESS THROUGH THE 'SANDBOX' GAME DESIGN

Too much of learning is top down, trainer led, sage on the stage – these are the traditional models of imparting knowledge into a mass audience. Originally designed for educating workers during the industrial revolution the classroom seems to be a concept we are holding onto for dear life. But why does formal learning have to be this way?

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       Serious Games awards    Here is a list of awards for serious games, its a work in progress so please contact us if you know of any more we can add - or any more detail about submission deadlines for next year's awards...   Games for Change Awards   New York, Applications Closed 2nd March  The Games for Change Awards celebrate the year's best social impact games. There are three categories; Best Gameplay, Most Significant Impact and Most Innovative. Winners are announced at the Games for Change Festival's Awards Ceremony.   Serious Play Conference Awards   Pittsburgh, Deadline for Applications 1st April, Cost $150-350   The Serious Play Conference, now in our 5th year, is a leadership conference for professionals who embrace the idea that games can revolutionize learning. Speakers, who come from all parts of the globe, share their experience creating or using games in the corporation, classroom, healthcare institution, government and military and offer tips on how to move game-based education programs ahead.    German Computer Game Awards (Serious Game Category)   Netherlands, Applications closed 31st January   In the category of Best Serious Game the best Computer Simulation (Serious Game) will be awarded from Germany. Serious Games use technologies from the computer and video game industry, for example, simulation technologies to treat serious issues in a fun way. So you use the motivational and / or entertaining game mechanics for the transfer of skills and knowledge and can be used in education and training. This category can be awarded in other sectors of the economy as an alternative successful examples of playful representation (Gamification) as well as technology transfer from the computer and video game industry. If there is such a distinction, the category is renamed in the respective year in Best Playful representation (Gamification) and Best Technology Transfer. This award is endowed with € 30,000.00.    Serious Play Awards   California, Application Deadline 14th March   The Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN) is an international organization of developers, educators, and research professionals collaborating to develop the scientific, technical, and applied potential of immersive learning.    The eLearning Awards (Learning Technologies Award Category)   London, Application Deadline 30th September   Celebrating quality, excellence and best practice The Learning and Performance Institute hosts the annual Learning Awards to recognise outstanding examples of high standards, best practice, innovation and excellence in Learning and Development.    The Fun and Serious Game Festival Awards (Serious Game Category)   Spain, Application Deadline TBC but likely to be September 2016   The Fun & Serious Game Festival was established in 2011 to recognise the best fun and serious games of the year and, through them, the work of artists, developers, directors, producers, and all the professionals in the video game industry.    Bilbao (Spain) will be the city of video games thanks to the 5th Fun & Serious Game Festival, which is becoming a leading event in the sector in Europe.    Awards are given to the best video games in entertainment and other industries. The latter are the so-called ‘Serious Games’ using video game technologies in developments for education, health, aerospace, culture and many other sectors.    The awards are meant to debunk stereotypes about video games and give a well-deserved boost to the video game industry.    GALA Conference Awards   Italy, TBC but likely to be October 2016   The GALA Conf SG Awards wants to favor the flourishing of the SGS market by encouraging students, newcomers, amateurs developers and small studio to present their work in a friendly contest. Organized by the Serious Games Society, the awards are based on the judgment of experts of the SGS network.     The experts will evaluate the user experience and the learning effectiveness of the submitted games. Games on any application field are welcome.    Gamification World Awards   Spain, TBC but likely to be October 2016   The Gamification World Awards (GWA) will honor the most outstanding gamification projects of the year and their creators. Awarded by an international Jury, the main goal is to encourage the various agencies/promoters/companies to share their projects in the Gamification World Map. In addition, they are meant to become an annual meeting point for the gamification industry, where the best projects of the year can be recognized.    The Serious Games Showcase and Challenge   Florida, TBC but likely to be September '16   The Serious Games Showcase & Challenge is the premiere venue for recognition of excellence in the field of Serious Games development. The Challenge prides itself on helping foster creativity and innovation in Serious Games since 2006 as part of NTSA's I/ITSEC Conference held in Orlando, FL.    The Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Learning Awards (Learning and Development Category; Best Use of Games and Simulations for Learning)   Florida, Application Deadline 23rd September '16   Now entering its 21st year, the Brandon Hall Group HCM Excellence Awards Program is the most prestigious awards program in the industry.  Often times called the “Academy Awards” by Learning, Talent and Business Executives, the program was one of the first of its kind in the learning industry, which was pioneered in 1994.    The Dutch Game Awards (Serious Game Category)   Netherlands, TBC   The Dutch Game Awards are the professional awards for the Dutch and Flemish gaming industry. On 30 September they are awarded for the eighth time during the Awards Dinner.    The Tech and Learning Awards   TBC likely to be April '16   Tech & Learning's Awards of Excellence program has been recognizing outstanding ed tech products for over 30 years. With a solid reputation in the industry as a long-standing, high-quality program, the AOE recognizes both creative new offerings and significantly updated products that help educators in the business of teaching, training and managing with technology. All entries are given a rigorous test-driving by qualified educators in several rounds of judging. Products are also carefully screened by the T&L editorial team.   Evaluation criteria include the following: quality and effectiveness, ease of use, creative use of technology, and suitability for use in an educational environment.    eLearning Awards - Best Game for Learning Category   London, Application opens March '16 and closes June '16   The E-Learning Awards showcase some of the most recognisable, memorable, and life-changing e-learning worldwide.  They are internationally recognised and open to organisations of all sizes - if you offer outstanding e-learning, then you should be entering the E-Learning Awards!     Independently judged to the highest and most rigorous of standards, there is no greater recognition of your hard work and commitment to e-learning than winning an E-Learning Award.  Reaching the shortlist is really something to shout about. Winning is proof to your, clients, colleagues and rivals that you're at the top of your game – a shining example to the learning and technology world.    Elearning! Learning Champions Award    TBC, likely to be December '16   The first annual Learning! Champion Awards recognizes individuals for exceptional contributions to the industry. Nominees can be innovators, thought-leaders, trail-blazers, mentors, cutting-edge technologists, rookie of the year, creative consultants, or high performing learning leaders that positively impact the learning industry.  Nominate a client, leader or mentor for consideration.    IMGA International Mobile Gaming Awards    EU Applications closed January'16, but applications are open for the IMGA China, Application Deadline September '16   In 2004 games were made for phones with a resolution 176 x 220 pixels and they had to be below 1 MB in size. Now games are running on devices with 2,048 x 1,536 pixels and many games are heavier than 1 GB. The first IMGA had 85 entrants and it took only half a day to judge them. Now, more than 1000 entries are expected and 20 judges will begin pre-judging three weeks before the actual 2-day judging session in France.    Serious Games and Applications for Health - Papers/Demo/Workshops Submission   Florida, TBC but likely to be November'16   It is with great pleasure that we invite you to participate in the 4th International Conference on Serious Games and Applications for Health, IEEE SeGAH 2016, to be held in Orlando, at the Center for Emerging Media, University of Central Florida, from May 11-13, 2016.    Game Developers Choice Awards   San Francisco and France, TBC   The Game Developers Choice Awards are the premier accolades for peer recognition in the digital games industry. Each year, the Choice Awards recognize and celebrate the creativity, artistry and technical genius of the finest developers and games created in the last year.     VS- Games, Paper Submissions      Applications close 25th March'16    VSGames 2016 aims to continue the series’ overall goals of developing and nurturing theoretical and academic rigour in the discussion of serious games and virtual worlds.    JCSG   - Serious Games Papers Submission   Australia, Application Deadline May'16   We invite researchers, developers, practitioners, designers, writers and artists of serious games to submit their work and join us at JCSG 2016. Accepted papers are expected to present high quality material that illustrates the broad range of work in serious games and gamification, with particular interest in best practice and field / case studies, but also underlying theories, models, designs, and artwork. We seek submissions on serious games, supported on, or across, any technology and delivery platforms, including traditional or novel, augmented and virtual reality, mobile and location-based, and transmedia, etc.    IITSEC   Application Deadline November '16   To recognize the impact of individuals and teams upon not only the I/ITSEC Conference but the greater Training, Modeling and Simulation Community, a variety of awards and recognitions have been established. Each has its own method of nomination and award process, please select the specific award for details and history.     Serious Games Conf, CeBIT    TBC   Under the heading Virtual & Other Realities the 9th Serious Games Conference (SGC) focuses on Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and other digital application environments. Since 2015 the SGC also looks at Applied Interactive Technoligies (APITs) and therefore integrates the potentials for the industry 4.0. Consequently the conference approaches sociocultural as well as economic potentials in the field of Serious Games and Gamification.    

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SERIOUS GAMES AWARDS

Here is a list of awards for serious games, its a work in progress so please contact us if you know of any more we can add - or any more detail about submission deadlines for next year's awards...

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