Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
BACKGROUND
digital music players, video cams, cell phones,
and all the other toys and tools of the digital age.
Today's average college grads have spent less than
5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000
hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000
hours watching TV). This is one out of many rea-
sons why both researchers and practitioners have
started to embrace games as educational tools,
as opposed to the traditional vision of games as
merely entertainment instruments.
The process of designing novel educational
games, however, is still far from becoming well de-
fined. In this topic chapter, we describe “SimCom-
pany”, a fun game designed to instill in children
(9-14 years old) the entrepreneurship spirit. As the
young player progresses in the game, the basic
concepts of consumer behavior, marketing and
strategic management are described, illustrated
and reinforced in a fun, easy and engaging way.
The goal of the game is to reach the last level
and complete it with the greatest amount of points
accumulated and before time expires. As an ex-
ample, we provide a brief description of the levels
of this game, taken from the game's script, which
was outlined through a multidisciplinary design
approach involving designers, programmers, user
interface experts and - most importantly - entrepre-
neurship and management research and experts.
The remaining of this chapter is structured as
follows. The next section, “Background” provides
a starting point of discussion and contextualizes
this research, in terms of existing educational
games and also conceptualizing the learning ex-
perience per se . The third section describes the
approach followed and also describes the “Sim-
Company” game in some detail. The results from
evaluation sessions are also presented. Finally,
sections “Conclusions” and “Future Work” pres-
ent a summary of the findings as well as future
avenues of research in this field.
Some authors observed that computer games
have achieved their massive reach without going
through the education system. While games may
be an ideal companion to classroom instruction,
they do not have to go through the classroom
to access students. Other educational reforms
depend on the teacher as the medium and do not
necessarily take into account the many demands
and constraints already faced by educators. Video
games give teachers and parents the ability to
reach students where they live, bypassing many
of the challenges associated with restructuring the
education system from the inside out.
Games for Learning
Using games as an educational tool is not a novel
approach. Their true potential emerged from the
fact that 50 to 60 percent of all Americans play
games and the typical game players are relatively
young computer users (Kafai, 1995). Particularly
popular games include the simulation genre, e.g.
The Sims and SimCity , which allow players to
create and manage simulated communities and
worlds. Spore is another title aimed at simulating
evolutionary adaptation (Maxis, 2006).
Games have also been used for serious pur-
poses. Early examples include games that promote
health behavior change and management for chil-
dren, such as Packy and Marlon , and adventure
game for children to learn about diabetes self
management skills, and Rex Ronin , a smoking
prevention video game. Games have also proven
effective in teaching children a foreign language
(Baltra, 1990).
Serious games have also been developed for
adults to train personnel in a variety of areas. Ex-
amples include Visual Purple's Angel Five , model-
ing a weapons of mass destruction terrorist attack
with the trainee coordinating resources between
federal, state, and local agencies; BreakAway's
Incident Commander trains first responders and
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