Simulation Games #1: Definition

It’s been a month that I have not posted but honestly speaking last month was crazy with lot of travel and other personal engagements. On the first day of 2008 I start with a new series on the topic ‘Simulation Games’. This first post will focus on defining the term ‘Simulation Game’.

In spite of the attention and research going on in the field of simulation games its definition remains unclear and ambiguous. Their applications in the field of education and training of professionals demand a precise and unambiguous definition. Simulation in its simplest definition is just “representation of reality”. The purpose of a game is to capture the attention of the player by conflict, motivation to win and a scoring element. The player has a sense of win or loss and gets a performance index in terms of score after the game. The desire to improve the performance and get a better score drives the player to get involved in the game more and more. However, steps to make the game more interesting usually leads to the distortion in the representation of reality.

A simulation game is a game, which has elements like score, performance rating, conflict, and payoff and simulates a real world situation for decision-making or alternative evaluation. These multi sensory experiential learning tools allow the player to experience cooperation and teamwork without the risk of expensive mistakes. Simulation games follow the widely accepted “learning by doing” philosophy. Simulation games have myriad applications in education. Simulation games can be used effectively to teach various subjects and topics.

My primary focus in this series of ‘Simulation Games’ will be to explore it’s applications in education and its implications.

Simulation game based learning is an extension of the problem-based learning paradigm, having all its inherent characteristics plus some additional advantages. Simulation game and problem based learning are both experiential, collaborative, active learning and learner centric approaches. In simulation game, the instructor is a facilitator of learning process and students have the responsibility of learning as in problem-based learning. In problem-based learning, a self-assessment is conducted at the end of the problem or the learning cycle. On the other hand, simulation game has a scoring system that is the indication of one’s performance. Students are motivated to maximize their score by trying alternative strategies and read more literature. This is a significant advantage over problem-based learning. Secondly, simulation games are online computer based where student can learn as per his or her time at any place where there is an internet connection. Some studies have found that engineers are visual learners. Advanced graphics and multimedia may be used to capture the student’s attention. This observation calls for extensive use of simulation games especially in the light of decreasing computer technology cost and increasing speeds. Thirdly, some sort of online help is provided in simulation games. Thus, a student does not have to wait for the instructor to address the difficulty. Last and the most important advantage with simulation games is that they can save a lot of clerical work for students. The student can try out various strategies and alternatives and focus on the parameter of interest leaving the calculation and presentation work for the software. It is a more systematic and organized way of learning.

To read more posts on the Simulation Game click here.


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