Related Books

Here are the serious game/educational simulation/eLearning type books that currently live on my bookshelf. Each time I post about related books I’ve read, I’ll update this list.

Serious Games and Educational Simulations

Learning By Doing: the essential guide to simulations, computer games, and pedagogy in e-learning and other educational experiences

By Clark Aldrich

This is the book that inspired me to begin really exploring educational simulations and serious games. Even though Aldrich has since written a more comprehensive (and considerably heavier) book on this topic, this is still my favorite, and I would recommend it first to someone new to the topic. In addition to more general information, this book offers concrete examples of a variety of types of educational games and simulations. After you read it, you probably won’t be able to resist building something. I couldn’t.

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

By Jane McGonigal

After being sent approximately a bazillion links to videos of Jane McGonigal on YouTube, I finally watched one, and it was great.  I also decided to order her book since I typically like books more than YouTube videos (yes, I’m a traitor to my generation).

I really enjoyed the book in general.  I play games at least a couple of hours a week, and the sections about how games fulfill our needs to feel productive and just generally make us happier struck me as right on the mark.

I also think that several ideas fit closely with the desired effects of many learning activities: both that games can encourage positive behavior change for individuals and that games can be used to explore larger, real-world problems. The book includes detailed game examples to support McGonigal’s arguments for the usefulness of games.

A lot of people who haven’t actually read this book seem to be very grumpy about it based on the title.  Until they actually read the book, they should stop complaining.

A Theory of Fun for Game Design

By Ralph Koster

Early in the book, Koster writes, “fun from games arises out of mastery.  It arises out of comprehension.  It is the act of solving puzzles that makes games fun.  In other words, with games, learning is the drug.”  A few pages later, he writes, “The definition of a good game is therefore ‘one that teaches everything it has to offer before the player stops playing.’”

Along this end, this book is full of ideas of which components are essential to creating a game that will sustain fun within a game to keep the learner playing.

I especially loved the ‘call to action’ from this book – that is, since people are ultimately playing games as an exercise in learning and problem solving, the world needs more games that focus on concepts relevant to the modern world.

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

By Jesse Schell

Whether you are starting from the viewpoint that games and simulations can in themselves be powerful learning, or you are just looking for ways of crafting more engaging, user-focused learning, this book is full of useful perspectives (lenses!) with questions to ask yourself during the development process.

Schell does directly (and briefly) address education as games (and games as education) towards the end of the book.  However, from the beginning, by applying a mental lens of my own (the lens of turning everything into learning?), I found 92.47% of the entire book relevant to crafting engaging learning experiences: think problem statements, prototyping, puzzles, user interface design, interest curves, projection, storytelling, aesthetics, and teamwork.  The other 7.53%?  Still interesting stuff.  Go read it.

Simulations and the Future of Learning: An Innovative (and Perhaps Revolutionary) Approach to e-Learning

By Clark Aldrich

This book struck me as memoir meets serious games. I loved the ability to peek into the design and development process for a large scale serious game focusing on leadership skills.

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning And Literacy

By James Paul Gee

In this book, Gee examines traditional video games in terms of thirty-six principles of learning. This is a really interesting read, and a good book to give to your Uncle Milroy who just won’t stop complaining about how those darned video games are ruining kids today. Or, give it to yourself, if you fit that profile.

The Complete Guide to Simulations & Serious Games

By Clark Aldrich

This book is a self described encyclopedic overview of the genre. It’s also heavy. I’d absolutely recommend buying this book, and sticking lots of post-it notes onto its pages as you flip through for ideas (mine has sixteen post-it notes currently). However, if you’re just getting started, I’d recommend you read Learning By Doing first for more concrete examples.

Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds

By Clark Aldrich

The general ideas in this book are similar to some of Aldrich’s other books but with a slant towards applications for higher education. I love that in addition to more general concepts, he includes specific examples of implemented projects, deployment strategies, and ideas for generating buy-in within a department/organization.  Like many of his other books, I finished it itching to try creating new stuff.

Even if this book wasn’t full generally nifty inspiration (which it is), I feel like it would have paid for itself with this suggestion: “write this on a yellow stickie and put it next to your computer, we don’t want to just re-create the classroom in a virtual 3-D world.” If they were available, I’d order a couple of pads of stickies pre-printed with that phrase to distribute as needed.

General eLearning

Designing Successful e-Learning: Forget What You Know About Instructional Design and Do Something Interesting

By Michael Allen

I love all of the Michael Allen books that I’ve read, but this is my current favorite, probably because it focuses on instructional design. This book has lots of practical advice and concrete ideas for building interesting and effective e-Learning that I use in my day-to-day work. Context. Challenge. Activity. Feedback. Yay.

Graphics for Learning

By Ruth Colvin Clark & Chopeta Lyons

This is another heavy book. However, the amount of relevant research that they included it makes it worth the weight. This books dives into how to most effectively use graphics to support computer-based learning (a quick hint from me – animated gifs that feature kittens running across a screen rarely support learning). Some of the examples are outdated, but the principles behind them still apply; so if you can wear imaginary “graphic updating” goggles, you’ll be fine.

Michael Allen’s Guide to e-Learning

By Michael Allen

This was my first Michael Allen book, so it has a special place it my heart. The copy I have, however, was published back in 2003, and I think that some of his more recent books have more useful examples and ideas.

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