Game Based Learning 2010 – Recap: Day 1

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I attended the two day conference on Game Based Learning held earlier this week in London. This was the second edition of the conference and had a decent 400+ delegate presence. There were some sponsors too and but very few stalls in the exhibit hall which was disguised as the experience lounge. Overall I was quite pleased to have attended the two day conference. Here are some of my impressions of the conference.

The delegate strength suggests increasing interest in game based learning, which is nice. The conference itself is growing. MPs (like Ed Vaizey the Shadow Minister for Culture and the Creative Industries) are making the right noises about the industry itself. However, elections are round the corner so my trust would only go so far.

The 2011 edition is scheduled in Birmingham over 3 days. It will also feature an industry first game based learning awards!

Moving on, I loved the presentation from Media Molecule. It’s always inspiring to hear from people who have done great stuff, are still humble, and are not trying to sell something when on stage. They have done some truly brilliant work on Little Big Planet for Sony. LBP on PS3  is a unique platform adventure game with a huge social community, which enables players to play, create, and share with others. Here is an intro video.

Among the experiences they shared I liked the idea of ‘jamming’ – which I understood as ‘uninhibited experimentation’ – trying to get together to try to do new things without fear of failure. This quote from them was doing rounds on twitter for quite some time after their presentation – “Only by watering ideas do you find out if it’s a weed or a flower”.

Jonathan Stewart, a surgeon from Hollier Medical Simulation Center talked about the need for simulation-based learning in medical education. He revealed that 98000 people in US die because of medical errors. Another research data shared in a different session reveals that you have a higher chance of dying in hospitals the month of August when new doctors come to hospitals. Clearly there is a huge opportunity for simulation based medical training. Dr. Stewart says the use of simulations, digitally enhanced mannequins, games, and virtual realities, all are part of new age medical training.

I am very impressed with the pioneering work that Channel 4 Education has done in education – some of their work has high social significance. Alice Taylor spoke of the various kinds of delivery medium they have used for their games & programs. The Smoke Screen Game for instance is a pure online game which lets players experience life online. They interact with various social media to understand what could be dangerous should be avoided while on the Internet. Other like Routes is a blend of game and TV show, Science of Scams is game based TV show, and Battlefront is a TV+ tools show.

Then we had the brilliant Matt Mason the Author of Pirates Dilemma sharing his thoughts on how the youth culture is changing capitalism. To me some of his thoughts overlapped with what Chris Andersen has to say in his book Free: The Future of a Radical Price. He still had a wonderful story to tell about how radio broadcasting was an illegal activity which some entrepreneurs lapped up and eventually the government had to legalize it. His main point is pirates are looking for gaps outside the market and actually helping innovation of new products and services before they go main stream (when bigger companies copy them). Piracy in music or fashion industry is a great example. He shares some of his thoughts in this video:

I attended a key session about Games for Healthcare. I was expecting to see some cutting edge simulation based training. It was not to be instead learnt about some interesting projects that the speaker spoke about. Daniel Glaser talked of the various kinds of projects Wellcome Trust is involved with. They typically work with gatekeepers like Channel 4 on projects like Routes Game and Sneeze Game. Jenny Hyatt spoke about the Big White Wall which helps people under stress by letting them anonymously share their problems.

I am really excited about the Augmented and Alternate Reality games and decided to join the next session on ARGs. Kris Rockwell talked about an ARG created by Hybrid Learning Systems. This game called Zombie Apocalypse was created for DevLearn2009. To get an idea of how the game worked here is something I picked up from the game website.

The goal of the game is for teams to learn how to more effectively use social media tools for collaboration, communication, and learning while fighting zombies together throughout the conference. To play, teams must find and log clues hidden throughout the conference and on affiliated social media sites. Each clue is a piece of data or metric related to social media.

You can join an existing team, or start your own by visiting the Teams page. Teams must have a minimum of 6 players and may have a maximum of 12 players. Once the first clue has been entered for your team, you will no longer be allowed to switch teams.

Each clue is a piece of data or metric related to social media. Clues are hidden throughout the conference and on affiliated social media sites. You and your teammates must find and log as many clues as you can, earning points along the way.

The Social section of this site will allow you to connect with other players. After finding people you know, you may request to add them as an associate. Associates are able to view profiles and send short messages to each other.

After this Alex Moseley and Simon Brookes showed of some cool ARG applications. Unfortunately I seem to have misplaced the notes I took during that session. I will revisit that again, after their presentations are available on the conference site.

So that was my day one at the conference – an enjoyable and enriching day. The highlight for me was Matt Mason. I certainly have many ideas from Matt and others to carry back to my workplace & business.

I’ll recap day two soon – probably when back in India next week.

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