Every so often, while in a fit of agita, I run across a nugget that I appreciate just as much as when I first found it. Richard Van Eck is a frequent author of these treasures, and so it was today.
About a year ago, a question popped up on the serious game listserv run by Ben Sawyer. The discussion actually had to do with guided learning/discovery learning, but detoured at one point to scaffolding as a component of serious game design. Richard offered the following thoughts:
Regarding the idea of scaffolding a game, I would encourage us all to also consider how games provide scaffolding already, and to incorporate those strategies. First, games almost always begin with a tutorial which walks you through the main interface components and skill demonstration. Second, games often provide learner control over challenge (a la Malone and Lepper) in the form of selecting amongst levels of difficulty (usually akin to easy, medium, and hard). Third, games invariably proceed from the simple to the complex, require small, graduated steps in skill level until we "level up", at which point we usually face all the challenges of the first level plus increased challenges that require new learning (e.g., combination of a run and jump comm[a]nd in an action game, or combining two items in inventory to make a third thing). And this does not include the myriad of other features in the game that provide feedback and guidance (direct and indirect) such as journals that are automatically updated with important information, the availability of goal reminders (e.g., Bioshock or Neverwinter Nights), text options for possible actions, etc. So if we are going to scaffold learning in games, we need to [be] cognizant of the ways of scaffolding that are appropriate for games, and to make use of established tools and game strategies to do so.
And all of these ideas are just limited to what is part of the game itself--the game manual, cheats and walkthroughs, and game player social communities are also all arguably part of the game, and certainly allow players to self-regulate access to assistance (a kind of self-imposed scaffolding, I think).
I appreciate not only Richard's discussion of scaffolding, but his wholistic view of the game. If each of the components he refers to are also part of the game, then aren't they also part of the learning? Both learning about and learning from the game? Since these components often provide the player's "intro" to and "outro" from the game, don't these component's also have a good chance of influencing learning transference?
Good reminders, Richard. Thank you.