Simulations and Games
The use of games and simulations in education is well documented in history and in the recent literature. They have been used in preschool, K-12, the university, the military, business, and by older adults (Dempsey et al., 1997).
But, what exactly do we mean when we say simulation and gaming? First, though computers have certainly allowed the evolution of simulation gaming a quatum leap forward, they are by no means the first use of simulation gaming nor are they the only type of simulation gaming done today. Historically, the word games has been used to connote a pastime of a trivial, if fun, endeavor. It is this connotation that today seems to cause some educators to flinch when they hear the word games and imagine frivolous time wasted play that serves only to entertain and certainly not educate to any significant degree. D.R. Cruickshank, a researcher in this area, defines them this way:
Simulations are the products that result when one creates the appearance or effect of something else. Games are contests in which both players and opponents operate under rules to gain a specified objective. A further distinction can be made between academic and non-academic games (such as table tennis or checkers) that are primarily for fun. Academic games, such as anagrams or war games, are primarily for or based upon learning (Cruickshank, 1980, p. 75 ).
Cruickshank further distinguished between two types of academic games.
There are two types of academic games: simulation games and non-simulation games. Non-simulation games are those in which a player solves problems in a school subject such as spelling or mathematics by making use of principles of that subject or discipline. The other type of academic game is the simulation game in which participants are provided with a simulated environment in which to play. These games are intended to provide students with insight into the process or event from the real world which is being simulated (p. 76).
It is the use of simulation games which holds the most promise as a truly dynamic educational tool.
Dempsey, J.V., Lucassen, B.A., Haynes, L.L, & Casey, M. S. (1997). An exploratory study of forty computer games (COE Technical Report No. 97-2). Mobile, AL: University of South
Cruickshank, D. R. (1980). Classroom Games and Simulations. Theory into practice, 19(1), 75-80.