Since the 1970s, computer games have become more and more a part of our culture. For the past 20-30 years, some studies have shown that certain aspects of computer games may have potential benefits in a learning environment. For example, games may increase motivation, collaboration and competition, as well as provide an effective inquiry-based framework (Squire, 2002). With the extreme success of the gaming industry in recent years, the potential for using computer games as a teaching tool in higher education is being increasingly explored. Game-based learning has been used in the military, medicine, and physical education quite successfully. However, the rules and guidelines of incorporating digital game-based learning into education are still quite open and exploration of possibilities is greatly encouraged.
To understand the concept of a digital game, and be able to create a game, one must understand the components of a game. In other words, what are the elements that comprise a game?
Definition of a Game
Salen and Zimmerman’s Rule of Play: Game Design Fundamental (2004) provides a comprehensive discussion of the definition of a game. The book reviews and compares eight different models of game definition by David Parlett, a game historian; Clark Abt, also a game historian; Johann Huizinga, an Anthropologist; Roger Caillois, a Sociologist; Bernard Sutis, a Philosopher; Chris Crawford, a computer game designer; Greg Costikyan, a game designer and writer; and Elliot Avedon and Brian Sutton-Smith, both scholars of play and games. Each of these scholars/professionals provides his own framework of the elements that comprise a game. These elements can be defined and grouped into 15 categories: (1) proceeds according to rules that limit players; (2) conflict or contest; (3) goal/outcome-oriented; (4) an activity, process or event; (5) involves decision-making; (6) not serious and absorbing; (7) not associated with material gain; (8) outside ordinary life; (9) creates special social groups; (10) voluntary based; (11) uncertain quality; (12) make-believe or representational; (13) inefficient; (14) resources and tokens; and (15) a form of art.
Based on their analysis, Salen and Zimmerman provide their own definition of a game: “A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome. The key elements of this definition are the fact that a game is a system, players interact with the system; a game is an instance of conflict, the conflict in games is artificial, rules limit player behavior and define the game, and every game has a quantifiable outcome or goal” (Salen & Zimmerman, 2004, p. 83). Therefore, one can assume that digital games should include these components, and that digital games are like every other kind of game.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Constructive Learning: Constructivism describes learners as active participants in knowledge acquisition. Learners engage in knowledge restructuring, manipulation, re-invention and experimentation. Understanding is constructed by the learner. Therefore, knowledge becomes meaningful and permanent.
Game-Based Learning: Game-based learning includes elements of competition, engagement, and immediate reward. Players should receive immediate feedback—for example, scoring—when a goal is accomplished. A game-based learning environment allows students to compete with one another or work collaboratively; it provides a level of challenge that motivates students’ learning; and it provides a storyline that will help students engage in activities.
Usability Testing: Usability testing is a way of measuring and observing the degree to which people are able to use a product for its intended purpose. Usability testing is done in a controlled environment, and the objective is to discover errors in the product and identify areas that need improvement.
Edutainment: Edutainment is a type of entertainment which provides information that is both educational and entertaining at the same time.
Digital Immigrants: Refers to individuals who have needed to adapt to the digital environment after they were born. Examples include individuals who have needed to learn about the Internet or e-mail later on in their lives.
Digital/Computer Natives: Refers to individuals who grew up with direct access to digital media such as computers, cell phones, and electronic games. Electronic media is part of this group’s culture, and they are native speakers of the digital language.
Animation: An illusion of movement that is created through a rapid display of a sequence of drawings which shows a continuous action.