Why use games for training?

“Without motivation there is no learning”

-James Paul Gee

“If a learner is motivated, there’s no stopping him [or her]”

-Will Wright

Why is there so much excitement around the idea of using games for
workplace training? Simply put, games have some advantages that make
them exceptionally suited for training in certain situations.

One word: Engagement!

    You probably have some sense of how compelling, if not addictive, games can be. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to borrow some of the stickiness and pull that a
    game creates for practicing and perfecting real-life skills? The engagement that games produce is hard to match with other training methods.

    If we can determine what features make games compelling, we can more
    easily spot opportunities to “kick it up a notch” and generate some of that same stickiness in our training programs. Competition and challenge can help provide motivation to meet learning goals even if they are only tangentially related. Trivia games, jeopardy games, or board games where you move a little farther toward a goal by solving a puzzle are all examples of this.

    If the game structure is directly related to the learning objectives, as in a simulation, it can be even more effective, since it combines the challenge of a game with a safe place to practice real-life skills.


Games feel “safe”

Games provide a safe place to practice, where learners know they will not
be penalized or stigmatized for their mistakes. There is also a low
physical risk to the learner, and of course there is no risk to
patients or others. Playing games can be a safe place to try different
approaches, to experiment, and most importantly to make mistakes and to fail.


Reduce Cost and Complexity of training

    The cost of developing even a very expensive game can still be lower than cost of other types of training


Enhance Transparency, Feedback

It is often possible for the educator to watch or replay complex
learner actions during the game, something that would be difficult to
achieve in a real-life demo.


“Situated cognition”

Richard Van Eck, a noted game researcher, points out the contextual nature of digital game-based learning:

“Games are effective partly because the learning takes place within a meaningful (to the game) context. What you must learn is directly related to the environment in which you learn and demonstrate it; thus, the learning is not only relevant but applied and practiced within that context.

… Researchers refer to this principle as situated cognition
and have demonstrated its effectiveness in many studies over the last
fifteen years. Researchers have also pointed out that play is a primary
socialization and learning mechanism common to all human cultures and
many animal species. Lions do not learn to hunt through direct instruction but through modeling and play.8 Games, clearly, make use of
the principle of play as an instructional strategy.”