Simulation Games

We co-design our training and assessment simulation games with the specific domain experts.

What are Simulation Games?

Definitions from different dictionaries for Simulation Games:

      1. A game in which participants are provided with a simulated environment in which to play.
      2. A type of digital game that presents the player with a simulation focused on a real-life scenario.
      3. Computer games in which players are provided with a simulated environment. Such games contain a mixture of skills, chances, and strategies to simulate an aspect of reality.
      4. A game that contains a mixture of skill, chance, and strategy to simulate an aspect of reality, or a simulation that has a game structure imposed on the system.

A simulation offers the ‘virtual world’ phenomenon that we are living in, and it is in this virtual replica that learning occurs in a profound way that engages learners by requiring them to develop a personal model of that ‘virtual world’ and how to engage with it. It is like recreating a hospital ward where patients with real problems requires the attention from the medical staff just like in the real hospital. However, simulations go beyond the active-learning assumption. In particular, we could argue that they embody two core ideas.

The first of this is the notion that the world (or at least the specific phenomenon in which we are interested) can be modelled, by which we understand that a set of relatively simple rules can encapsulate the fundamentals of a given situation. Those rules might take the form of some kind of decision-making architecture (e.g. select medication, priority of patients, etc.), or of personal or institutional characteristics (e.g. learners’ intrinsic desire, or for optimisation of gains), or indeed of random events (e.g. using dice to generate chaotic situations).

The second assumption is that the world is complex, by which we understand that despite such simple rules, the results are intrinsically uncertain and non-linear, because of the chaotic nature of human interaction. Put differently, when we run a simulation then we do so in the knowledge that both the process and the outcome will vary from iteration to iteration, and indeed it is precisely that uncertainty that we wish to convey to learners.

Game-based learning is one such pedagogical approach with the notion that the world can be brought into the classroom in a way that allows participants to actively engage with – and immerse themselves in – the material. Games offer an excellent way for learners to build knowledge and skills in a learning environment that they control. For the trainers, it opens up new spaces for interaction and moves the focus on to learner-led learning. This is succinctly captured by the proverb: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” We can indeed conclude that simulation games are especially good for exploring relatively complex topics, with many dimensions and factors with the main focus is the development of skills.

Serious Games Asia’s Approach to Simulation Game Development

There are 3 main guidelines for developing Serious Games or Simulation Games.

          1. Clear Learning Objectives
          2. Alignment of Learning Objectives, Game-Play and Assessment
          3. Provide Feedback

The game-designer needs to have clear learning objectives. These objectives forms the foundation for the simulation game. Without clear objectives, there is a strong danger of creating little more than a diversion or entertainment projects. Clear learning objectives allow the designer to create an appropriate game-play, as well as an understanding of how learners might understand what the simulation is for. These learning objectives typically relate to: knowledge acquisition; skills development and; attitude change.

The second key requirement is that the learning objectives need to shape the game-play and assessment in such a way as to allow those objectives to be achieved. Equally clearly, knowing what your objectives are will also make this process much easier and will facilitate a review of whether they are being met by the simulation as a whole. The simulation games need to create environments within which learners can achieve the learning objectives. Similarly, the assessment should focus on the processes, outcomes/outputs or on subsequent reflection.

The last requirement is game feedback. Without feedback, simulation games lose the vast majority of their pedagogic value. Unfortunately, this is one of the most overlooked aspects of simulation games. We gather our feedback results from (1) processes,(2) players (including non-playing characters) and (3) outputs. One of the advantage of simulation games is the real-time feedback that takes place at multiple points throughout the gameplay. These feedback data could be visualised immediately after the game-play, when learners can still recall their actions and thoughts, connect it to their learning.

Serious Games Asia partners with our domain experts through each game design and development journey.