From my experience and observation, a lot people lately (the last two/three years or so) have been throwing the whole “gamification” and “simulation” terms around in the eLearning community. As some of you know, I have been into this sort of stuff for a bit longer than this (5+ years) so I would like to help some of those newbies out there, what these terms are and how to appropriately use them.
Game: The first thing that usually pops into someone’s mind when the word game is mentioned is some sort of activity that is not work related, is done by choice, is fun and entertaining and does not require any recall of the game play for future non game use. A person implementing a game as an intervention must immediately confront these perceptions by addressing the fact that a game is being used for something work related, there is no choice but to play, and that there is an expectation to remember and reflect upon the game play. The aspects of the game being fun and entertaining may still be the case, but just what ‘fun’ is and what ‘entertaining’ is requires some deeper analysis and redefining on the part of both the trainer and trainee. But essentially, both fun and entertainment are primary motivators that the trainer may use to increase the engagement and focus on the topic at hand. And that is for another day. But for those thirsty for more now, read Theory of Fun by Raph Koster or The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell. Two awesome books. Both I use quite regularly as reference quite often.
Simulation/Sim: Okay, now, simulations are different because they are mainly used to create some what realistic models of people, places, and things. So, this makes it possible to use simulation strategies in a virtual mode to mirror more situations than could have been possible prior to this capability, and to even consider using virtual spaces to mirror interpersonal interactions and/or decision making. Like games, all cases of sims will be directed toward particular outcomes and will have certain aspects that are unique to a specific context. All will have varying degrees of the common characteristics and players will engage in interactions and activities similar to games. Outcomes are also one of the primary discriminators between Games and Simulations. True, fun and entertainment may be important outcomes of a game, but they are not a primary outcome of a simulation. For example, how a person plays or uses a simulation is more important than where they end up, since completion or winning is not one of the characteristics. Like anything, games and simulations can be very inexpensive to create or extremely expensive, depending on the complexity. I hope this quick guide helps all you newbies.