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.


Life Simulations

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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