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Three types of games in education

Monday, July 28, 2008

I’ve used three different kinds of games in my classroom. The purpose of this blog post is to help teachers understand the differences, similarities, and characteristics of the three types of games.

COTS - Commercial, Off the Shelf game.

I’ve covered COTS games for a while. COTS games are designed for the mass market - they are designed for enjoyment, challenge, and fun. COTS games can often cost many millions of dollars to make, and a hit game (AAA title) can generate hundreds of millions of dollars. COTS games are increasingly being released for the personal computer and consoles.

COTS games offer:

1. High production value (very high quality graphics and sound)
2. Low technical problems and very strong technical support
3. Strong user communities (fan sites, active forums, etc…)
4. Often these games have very active modding communities
5. Work on a fairly new machines; older computers (more than 3 years) might have problems.
6. Run locally (from the internal hard disk)
7. Have exceptionally good gameplay
8. Very good tutorials, which check for understanding
9. Adjust difficulty based on the players skills
10. A game kids want to play at home


Many teachers are familiar with these titles - Millies Math House, Reader Rabbit, Sammy’s Science House The hallmark of these games are kid-friendly graphics with gameplay that follows a “solve these problems and get to the next fun thing to do”. Sometimes players are asked to do something like bowl for math problems. The general feel of the games is really fun math or reading worksheets.

These games are fun, and build basic skills. They are valuable and good learning tools. In my context of games in education, these games generally don’t fit well. They are a little to oriented to the drilling model (but who says drilling has to be no fun?).

Characteristics of edutainment titles:

1. Marketed exclusively for schools / education
2. Content-specific (titles focusing on math, reading, spelling, foreign language, etc)
3. Marketed for specific age or grade levels
4. ESRB ratings are often intended for general
5. The back-story of the game i
6. Gameplay is generally segmented and measured around learning objectives

Serious games

Serious games are a relatively new phenomena (although people have been seriously playing games for a long time). Here’s wikipedia’s view on the matter; I like what they say. I think of serious games a single-topic, highly specific semi-simulations.

Serious games have similar profiles:

1. They are usually web-based (flash or shockwave)
2. They usually have a very specific theme (peace in the mideast,
3. They are not meant to be in-depth simulations, they are meant to model the most important dynamics
4. They are short-term games
5. They are deliberately designed to teach, explain an issue, or clarify the dynamics of an issue
6. The point is to simplify complex issues

I’ll blog more about these types of games, and provide some examples of each game in action - in the classroom.

On 11 November 2009, Jo inscribed the following thoughts about this post:

I with you agree. In it something is. Now all became clear, I thank for the help and I hope to see more such articles.

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Bill MacKenty, Chief Zuccini

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