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Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down? Serious Learning in Serious Games

This is a talk for the 5th Vienna Games Conference FROG11

Konstantin Mitgutsch

on 25 January 2012

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Transcript of Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down? Serious Learning in Serious Games

Designer / Facilitator
If games are targeting at perspective change of the players and aim for long term impact on the players self- and world concept, they want to foster deep and transformative learning,NOT short term behavior change...
(Gregory Bateson, Jack Mezirow, Günther Buck)
April 2007, played more than 2.4 million times by over 1.2 million people worldwide. But the crisis was unaffected, gave publicity to the game's creators
“Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down? Serious Learning in Serious Games.”
STUDY: Wei Peng, Mira Lee and Carrie Heeter (2010)
---* 133 undergraduate students were asked to play the "Darfur is Dying" (mtv-u 2005) or read a text on the problematic situation in Darfur.
---* Afterwards, their willingness to take supportive action on the crisis in Darfur was measured and compared.
---* 7-point scale to rate how likely it was that they would donate money, sign a petition, discuss the situation with friends and family or forward a website link to others.
---* The study “demonstrated that game playing resulted in greater willingness to help and greater role-taking." (Peng et al. 2010, 735).
---* The study is a victim of the "Mary Poppins narrative". It reduces deep and meaningful learning to linear short-term3 attitude change.
---* The willingness to donate or support does not entirely mirror the transformational change.
---* The comparison of groups reading or watching a video of the game is questionable.
---* Fun fact: The second level of the game is broken.
---* The learning process "serious games for social change" aim for is different than in health or military serious games.
Konstantin Mitgutsch
"It has been very exciting to me to see so many ideas that integrate social good and efforts to make the world a better place into games" Al Gore 2011
Playful environment
Susana Ruiz (2005, TAKE ACTION)
Reebok Human Rights Foundation and the non-profit International Crisis Group: "Darfur Digital Activist Contest" and mtvU
5 aspects that oversalt the spoonful of sugar
In the 1970s the term "serious game" was introduced by Clark Abt (1970), but the technical term was not made dominant until the "Serious Game Initiative" coined it in 2002.
"We are concerned with serious games in the sense that these games have an explicit and carefully thought-out educational purpose and are not intended to be played primarily for amusement" (Abt 1970, 9).
Games are intentionally designed to "empower us to change the world in meaningful ways." (McGonigal 2011, 14).

Learning Level #1:
content (data, information, knowledge)
Level #2: context
(game mechanic, story, challenge, problems, goals...)
Level #3: meta-context (players are reframing the context of the game to their experience patterns and perspectives)
Was wir am Gambit machen!
Let's take a spoonfull of games and make the world a better place... really?
---* R. Clark (2007, 56): "The widespread interest in learning and motivation of serious video games has not been balanced by a robust discussion about evidence for their pedagogical effectiveness."
---* O'Neil, Wainess and Baker (2005) found that from 1990 to 2005 only 19 out of thousands of studies on simulations and educational games fulfilled the standards of providing either quantitative or qualitative data on measured learning outcomes.
---* From these 19 studies only three (Mayer and Wittrock 1996, Tkacz 1998, Parchman et al. 2000) evaluated the transfer impact of the outcomes.
#1 We lack theoretical concepts of change and learning
#2 Context is King
#3 Content is Queen
#4 No Player is an Island
#5 Relation to the problem
#6 Transfer is not Transformation
Thank you!
Demystify the narrative -
talk to the craft artists
Develop a theoretical framwork - analyse learning levels in games
Analyse the player - study transformative impact
What do we know?
Full transcript