The New Game of Life
The drag about life is that once you learn the ropes, it’s over… right? Or is it? Hasbro has just announced an update to their classic Game of Life, and this reincarnation might actually teach us something — something that we need to apply to eLearning design and development.
In a recent International Herald Tribune article ‘Meanwhile: Love and debt, The Game of Life‘, Lawrence Downes really took me back. Among his priceless observations of Hasbro’s original “Game of Life” was its meandering but overly simplified path to retirement — a game experience that made Downes: “…long for the solace of death.”
In the new game, you don’t just have two “paths” in life — college or career, but several other ways to play the game. And in “The Game of Life Twists and Turns,” fulfillment is based on more than just money. It’s about money, education, family and fun. Instead of a linear path, this game is circular, allowing you to play until time runs out. Art mirrors life. Who knows? With more dimensions and choices, maybe this time we’ll actually learn that life is more than just chance — and more than filling up a plastic car with pink and blue plastic spikes and earning more cash than the next guy.
Failing Forward and Game-based Learning
Choices, choices. Since the early 90s when I started out in eLearning and training, we’ve seen the benefits of simulations and game-based learning approaches. These force the learner to make choices — choices that often lead to failure. That’s why “The Game of Life” offered such great potential. If software can teach us how to fly a plane, maybe it could also teach us something about learning those life lessons, before we make those crucial mistakes.
John C. Maxwell’s book “Failing Forward” reinforces the value of failure in learning and success. It’s not about failure. It’s about strategy — learning what works and doesn’t work and trying something different. The great thing about games and game-based learning is that when it’s done right, it teaches strategy and failing forward.
Right now, Digitec is developing a life simulation for a game-based learning project. And I can relate to Hasbro’s original design. In fact, it was really difficult not to try and apply linear thinking or value judgements in designing the game. After lots of blue-sky sessions and heated discussions, let’s face it, there are so many possibilities, that the algorithms made our head’s spin.
But that is also the beauty of the game. In a true constructivist learning approach, players (NOT learners) create their own learning experience. To begin the game, they choose their Big Dream. It’s eLearning, but there are no tests and no “Click Next to Continue” buttons. Players learn the game by living it, reacting to snags and events by making decisions and learning strategy. They might fail right away, amassing piles of debt, living in the cardboard box. They might play again and buy a house they can’t afford. Eventually, maybe they’ll employ some strategies to get that education, earn a promotion and achieve that Big Dream.
During focus group testing on the 18-24 year old demographic, players wanted to keep playing until they beat the game — earning the lush retirement, private island or castle. So it was still about play — about competition, but along that meandering path, they might just learn something, too.
I want the blue car.
If you’d like to learn about game based learning from Digitec Interactive, visit our eLearning page.
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