“Games can be defined as experi(m)ent(i)al, rule-based, interactive environments, where players learn by taking actions and by experiencing their effects through feedback mechanisms that are deliberately built into & around the game. Gaming is based on the assumption that the individual & social learning that emerges in the game can be transferred to the world outside the game.” A definition from a 2009 article in Simulation & Gaming by Igor Mayer
Be it ‘Go’ with its deceptively simple rules governing smooth ovals across a chequered board or hopscotch that enlivens school yards and streets, games are integral to any community’s cultural heritage. Game play involves and invokes memories of fun, friendship and sometimes failure too. Strategising, winning, plotting or just pulling a slingshot to launch an angry bird at a doomed pig, what we do in a game comes naturally to us because games are a safe and comforting metaphor of life itself. Here is a definition from a 2009 article in Simulation & Gaming by Igor Mayer, “Games can be defined as experi(m)ent(i)al, rule-based, interactive environments, where players learn by taking actions and by experiencing their effects through feedback mechanisms that are deliberately built into & around the game. Gaming is based on the assumption that the individual & social learning that emerges in the game can be transferred to the world outside the game.”
It was but natural that this immersive power of games was harnessed to serve a variety of objectives from war games to train soldiers to games to understand policy implications. Not only do games provide an inexpensive way of mimicking real life situations, they also allow us to experience the implications of our decisions, learn from those experiences and contemplate on possible futures. David Kolb, and American educational theorist, popularised the idea of experiential learning. Kolb’s model of experiential learning consisted of four elements: concrete experience, observation and reflection, the formation of abstract concepts and testing in new situations. This process itself is a cycle, although learning can begin at any stage.
Role-playing also reinforces what has already been learnt elsewhere, say a textbook. For instance SPENT is one such game where the objective of the player is to survive a month on $1000. By letting the players experience the situation, this game was very successful in helping the player understand the difficulties of trying to survive a month on a very small income.
E-adventure is a game engine that has been used to develop checklist-based (procedure based) games for training medical and emergency personnel. Using principles from Crew Resource Management for cockpit crews, which emphasizes on decision making and teamwork principles, a team at Stanford University created a training simulation for anaesthesiology, which involves highly realistic simulation scenarios requiring complex and rapid decision making and interacting with multiple personnel.
Games have been widely used to understand "wicked problems", and to explore ways to tackle them. Planning and designing cities with all the stakeholders is such problem, a simple turn based table-top game can help us design cities better. Military strategies have been play-tested before being employed real-time situations for a long time. The armed forces trained their personnel to respond to varying degrees of stress with games. Games provide a space to understand the implications our actions, which make them a powerful analysis tool for policies. Policy games can be used to interactively collect inputs from the citizenry. City Planning Games, first proposed by Dr. Juval Portugali in his book Self-Organization and the City, have been widely used as participatory tools for city planning. Budget games have been used as a medium to increase awareness about national budgets and the influence of subsidies over deficit.
In essence, games provide a space for reflection, collaboration and learning. Our goal is to understand and explore different ways in which games can be used to enhance the following capabilities: decision making, learning and education and participatory processes, in the areas of public safety and security and urban systems.
Here is a list of our games,
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