Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Games Theory

In the September 15, 2010 New York Times there is an interesting article* about the increasing recognition within school environments that game-base learning has great potential.  We cite this article as further food for thought about our initiatives to bring simulation-based games to training for nuclear safety management.

The benefits of using games as learning spaces is based on the insight that games are systems, and systems thinking is really the curriculum, bringing a nuanced and rich way of looking at real world situations. 

“Games are just one form of learning from experience. They give learners well-designed experiences that they cannot have in the real world (like being an electron or solving the crisis in the Middle East). The future for learning games, in my view, is in games that prepare people to solve problems in the world.” **

“A game….is really just a “designed experience,” in which a participant is motivated to achieve a goal while operating inside a prescribed system of boundaries and rules.” ***  The analogy in nuclear safety management is to have the game participants manage a nuclear operation - with defined budgets and performance goals - in a manner that achieves certain safety culture attributes even as achievement of those attributes comes into conflict with other business needs.  The game context brings an experiential dimension that is far more participatory and immersive than traditional training environments.  In the NuclearSafetySim simulation, the players’ actions and decisions also feedback into the system, impacting other factors such as  organizational trust and the willingness of personnel to identify deviations.  Experiencing the loss of trust in the simulation is likely to be a much more powerful lesson than simply the admonition to “walk the talk” burned into a Powerpoint slide.

* Sara Corbett, "Learning by Playing: Video Games in the Classroom," New York Times (Sep 15, 2010).

** J.P. Gee, "Part I: Answers to Questions About Video Games and Learning," New York Times (Sep 20, 2010).

*** "Learning by Playing," p. 3 of retrieved article.

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