Embodied Video Gaming Technologies: A New Hope For Instructional Games

November 6, 2011

12:00 pm

In recent years, many people have discussed the potential of video games for instructional purposes. A few years ago, gaming interaction was achieved through computer or console peripherals such as keyboard, mouse, joysticks, a wide variety of game pads, and funny controllers such as the NES Zapper. The list of successful instructional games using these types of peripherals was rather limited. The only successful titles that come to mind are Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? or the Mathblaster series. Since then, most of the so-called educational games are often criticized for their low quality or simply because they are not fun at all.

With the inclusion of nontraditional controller technologies such as dance pads, the Wii-mote or the Kinect, new types of gaming experiences are beginning to emerge. These technologies are capable of enhancing games to incorporate movement, creating a whole embodied experience. Additionally, games using these technologies also succeed in attracting new audiences, who years before would ignore this type of entertainment.

Instructional games are also beginning to incorporate nontraditional technologies. An example that I briefly introduced in my previous post is Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, by DoubleFine. This educational children’s game has been successful in integrating the Microsoft Kinect technology in a very engaging way.  Another example, focused on a very different audience, that caught my attention last week is Ubisoft’s Rocksmith.

Rocksmith has a very clear goal: to teach people how to play the guitar in an entertaining way. The game’s mechanics are similar to existing rhythm games such as Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The player has to perform an action in time with the music; however, what is innovative about Rocksmith is that the interaction is achieved through the use of an actual guitar. The game includes a cable that plugs in the gaming console or PC and an amp jack for the guitar of your choosing. This game is mostly oriented for novices; its main intention is not to create the new generation of rock stars, but to introduce the basics of guitar playing in a very engaging way.

It’s important to note the trend of enhancing the gaming experience through nontraditional video gaming. This trend brings a new hope for instructional video games. Big publishers, small studies and academic laboratories are beginning again to invest in gaming experiences that are both educational and entertaining. Now there are more opportunities to successfully promote explicit learning through video games. As I concluded in my previous post, I cannot wait to see what is coming next.

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Salvador Garcia Martinez is currently collaborating as a researcher at the Technoculture, Art, and Games research centre; he is also a doctoral student in Educational Technology at Concordia University in Montreal. He has professional experience as a software developer, web designer, and instructional designer. You can connect with him on linkedIn or his personal website or follow him on Twitter @salgarciam.

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