Context-Free Educational Games: Open-Source and Flexible

Context-Free Educational Games: Open-Source and Flexible

Vasiliki Dai, Vasilis Daloukas, Maria Rigou, Spiros Sirmakessis
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-495-0.ch049
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A discussion regarding the integration of video games in education has been going on lately. Recent studies indicate a positive shift in attitude towards the role of video games in education, however, the issue of impeding dangers remains. This chapter will focus mainly on presenting an approach to teaching and evaluation through the implementation of educational games created using the Game module, designed as an add-on for the Moodle e-learning platform. Through the use of common ’casual’ games, such as ‘Crossword’ and ‘Hangman’, and drawing questions from the Moodle question bank or the dictionaries, the Game module can be perceived as a freely available tool which can enrich an online lesson across various platforms, including normal computers, PDAs, et cetera. These games have advantages such as technical requirements lower than modern commercial games, facilitating the distribution of game-based contents to broader audiences without demanding constantly updated software as well as hardware infrastructure, simple rules, et cetera.
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Introduction And Literature Review

Games and game players have been a part of human life for thousands of years. According to Klabbers (2006), play is a natural element that has determined the course of nature right from its beginning. However, there is a distinction between 'Game' and 'Play'. Play is subjectively grounded in the player, while game is objectively grounded in the game rules (Klabbers, 2006, p.22). A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003, p.96). According to Sauvé et al. (2007), a game is a fictitious, whimsical or artificial situation in which players are put in a position of conflict. Sometimes players square off against one another and at other times they are on the same side and are pitted against other teams. Rules govern games and structure game actions based on learning objectives or purposes set by the game itself, such as winning or taking revenge. Operational gaming is not something new. It has its roots in ancient China where Generals of the 5th century B.C. used elements similar to the theory of games to win battles (Klabbers, 2006, p.25). Many centuries later, the Prussian army used war games to experiment with strategies and tactics, and in the mid 20th century, Von Neumann and Morgenstern elaborated on mathematical game theory with their work “The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior”.

Digital games appeared back in the 1960’s, when a group of MIT students developed the game “Spacewar!” whose goal was to have two players fight each other (Brand, 1972; Graetz, 1981). Gradually, digital games started penetrating places of entertainment where people would spend their spare time playing billiards or similar games while in the 70’s the evolution of technology made them more accessible through desktop PCs and game consoles. Digital games were received quite positively by the narrow computer users’ community as they demonstrated a number of characteristics that made players become engaged in them (Table 1).

Table 1.
Game characteristics and their influence on the player (Prensky, 2001)
Game characteristicsPossible influence on the user
Games are a form of fun.That gives us enjoyment and pleasure.
Games are form of play.That gives us intense and passionate involvement.
Games have rules.That gives us structure.
Games have goals.That give us motivation.
Games are interactive.That gives us doing.
Games are adaptive.That gives us flow.
Games have outcomes and feedback.That gives us learning.
Games have win states.That gives us ego gratification.
Games have conflict/competition/challenge/opposition.That gives us adrenaline.
Games have problem solving.That sparks our creativity.
Games have interaction.That gives us social groups.
Games have representation and story.That gives us emotion.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Casual Games: Games that derive their name from their ease of accessibility, simple to understand game play and quick to grasp rule sets. Casual games frequently support the ability to jump in and out of play on demand and are often computer simulations of traditional games such as chess, checkers, pinball, poker, sudoku, solitaire, and mahjong.

Casual Gamer: a type of video game player who plays casual games whose time or interest in playing games is limited compared with a hardcore gamer. The type of game a casual gamer prefers varies but it is generally a game with a few simple rules and which requires no long-term time commitment or special skills to play.

Social Constructivism: Extends constructivism into social settings, wherein groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts with shared meanings. When one is immersed within a culture like this, one is learning all the time about how to be a part of that culture, on many levels.

Moodle: Software package for producing Internet-based courses and web sites. It is a global development project designed to support a social constructionist framework of education.

Module: Moodle add-on offering new potentialities/abilities/possibilities.

Game: A fictitious, whimsical or artificial situation in which players are put in a position of conflict. Sometimes players square off against one another and at other times they are on the same side and are pitted against other teams.

Serious Games: Also known as “simulations”, they are edutainment applications that deploy interactive, 3D game technology to provide content that simulates real world scenarios and produces learning outcomes. Serious games allow learners to experience situations that are impossible in the real world for reasons of safety, cost, and time (physician surgical techniques and airline pilot maneuvers).

Core Games: Core games are generally defined by their intensity, depth of play or scale of production involved in their creation and can include games across a wide spectrum of genres. Core games are considered demanding in their game play.

Constructionism: Asserts that learning is particularly effective when constructing something for others to experience. This can be anything from a spoken sentence or an internet posting, to more complex artifacts like a painting, a house or a software package.

Module Game: Module that gives the ability to Moodle’s students to play a game with questions from Moodle.

Constructivism: People actively construct new knowledge as they interact with their environments.

MMOGs: Massively multiplayer online games are video games which are capable of supporting hundreds or thousands of players simultaneously. They are played on the Internet and feature at least one persistent virtual world.

Social Constructivist Oriented Course: I learn by creating something in order to explain to others what I have learned.

Edutainment: A form of recreational software aiming to please and educate at the same time.

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