Thursday, March 22, 2007

Games vs. Gaming

The topic that kept me thinking late last night: the difference between games and gaming; between people who play computer games and so-called gamers. Maybe this is an obvious distinction for those who have been long immersed in the immersive learning simulations discussion.

Here's my novice view on the differences between games and gaming:

Games are short, finite experiences. A game can be used as a simple distraction to pass some time; to cleanse the intellectual palate between tasks at work. Tetris. Solitare. Advancing to the next level usually means an increase in speed (the tetris blocks fall faster); the environment doesn't generally change although the degree of difficulty may. They can be immersive, in the sense of addictive. I've said before how occasionally I like to play Counterfeit when in need of distraction and the chance to view a beautiful work of art. Just one more time and then I'll get back to work...

I am a person who occasionally plays computer games. I am not a gamer.

Gaming involves a plot and storyline. Character development. Virtual worlds. Advancement to the next level -- which may be a new environment in that world. Examples are games like World of Warcraft, Zelda, Turok (those limited few to which I have had any exposure). Gaming requires a real time commitment; it might takes weeks of concentrated play to get through an entire game world and finally kill the boss monster and save the world. And a gamer is someone who is willing and able to spend that amount of time. Building gaming games requires a vast amount of resources.

So in the corporate training world, can we ever hope -- and is this even a worthy goal? -- to build a gaming game? Or should e-Learning designers be focusing instead on just trying to build some really good and addictive and immersive games that teach the required topic and enhance the learning experience? I wonder if some of the resistance about using games/serious games/ILS into the corporate training environment stems from the perception that ILS = gaming.

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