Serious Games: Simulations - how real is real enough?
May 20, 2009
Elearning | Serious Games

Simulations: how real is real enough?


How realistic does a simulation have to be? The answer is: just high enough to achieve your specific learning objectives.  

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Posted by ellen at May 20, 2009 05:28 PM

Many medical games have some simulation component as part of the game play. The idea of producing a simulation can be daunting because of the difficulty of accurately reproducing a "real" environment or situation. But if you consider the amount of realism actually needed to teach specific learning objectives, you may find that not only will a simplification
of reality do, it may be better than presenting a more realistic representation. 

According to Chris Crawford, a simulation is an attempt to accurately represent a real phenomenon, whereas a game is an artistically simplified representation:

A simulation designer simplifies only as a concession to limited
resources. A game designer simplifies deliberately in order to focus
the player's attention on important factors. A game deliberately suppresses detail to accentuate the broader message that the designer wishes to present. ..." [Crawford, 1982]


Even in a fairly realistic simulation it is necessary to make choices about what components will get a less realistic treatment. In this surgical simulation from MySmartSimulations the use of surgical tools is greatly simplified, in favor of emphasizing procedural concepts.

Another example is a proposed Blood Vessel checking game (idea contributed by Pamela Andreatta of the UMHS Sim Center) for OB/GYN residents training in laparoscopic surgery. The goal of the game would be to select and use the right seal or closure for various size and types of blood vessels and then check the sealed vessels at lower air pressures to determine if they will hold or not. 

This game would teach cognitive skills, not psychomotor skills. The representative aspects of the game will be confined to almost cartoonish versions of blood vessels, just whatever is needed to help the player make the kinds of decisions necessary for this type of blood vessel closure.


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1 Comment

Really interesting serie of articles. I follow your post from a couple months and I like the quality of your texts.

I'm also a elearning developer from a public organisation in Quebec(Canada) who provide formation. I plan to write some blog post in french about Serious Games. Do you accept I reuse your presentations/ideas and translate your texts (and adapt it to our reality of course). Be sure I will put a link to your site. Many of my partners speek/read only in french and I think your texts will help them to know more about the possibles uses and issues in using Serious Gaming in learning process.

Hope it could be possible to me to do so... Have a nice day!

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