# Bill MacKenty

Home Computing Teaching Bushcraft Games Writing About

## 9 Paradoxes of learning through video games & simulation

The Serious Games mailing list recently received a wonderful note from Clark Aldrich (blog).

Mr. Aldrich has written some books on the topic of games of learning (which I haven’t read yet). Simulations and the Future of Learning : An Innovative (and Perhaps Revolutionary) Approach to e-Learning and Learning by Doing : A Comprehensive Guide to Simulations, Computer Games, and Pedagogy in e-Learning and Other Educational Experiences”.

**The First Paradox** is that people learn more from the underlying systems and

interface in any educational experience than from the surface content.

**The Second Paradox** is that educational simulations can never be completely

comprehensive and accurate.

**The Third Paradox** is that one can’t even begin to understand a sim by watching someone else play it; one has to play it him or her self. One can’t even begin to evaluate a sim by playing it; one has to measure the results of someone else playing it.

**The Fourth Paradox** is that things that seem simple, narrow, and isolated when “taught” through traditional linear means are deep, complex, and extendable when practiced in simulations.

**The Fifth Paradox** is that when educational simulations are first created, they are heavy on simulation elements, and casual players complain they are too hard. Over iterations, as a result of the complaints, educational simulations are made easier and more fun, and serious players then complain they are not

deep enough.

**The Sixth Paradox** is that vendors and builders of simulations like to describe them as vaguely and mystically as possible:

**The Seventh Paradox** Most deployments of simulation based programs look successful if measured forward from what a student learned, but most simulation deployments look like failures if measured backwards from what percentage of material that the students could have learned, they did learn.

**The Eighth Paradox**, is that things get worse before they get better, even when the transformation is sought after and desired.

**The Ninth Paradox** of Educational Simulations states that a good educational simulation takes traditional linear training just to use.