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.
A Little Bit of Sim-Game History
Though simulation gaming has been used for a long time, notably by the 19th century Prussians in their war games prior to their successful stomping of France in the Franco-Prussian war, it was the 1960’s and 1970’s that saw the heyday of educational simulations and games. It was in the social sciences that simulation and gaming first took root and took off. In 1974 Richard D. Duke, a guru of the early days of education simulation-gaming, saw gaming as a developing, and in many instances superior, form of understanding: a new language. He wrote, "As the true character of gaming as a unique communication form becomes clear, its use as a Future's Language will become pervasive (Duke, 1974, p. xi). Gaming, then, was thought of as a new language with which to educate. It was the new way to educate. Simulations and games were developed that taught social systems, communication, politics, ecology, health, history, relationships, marketing, business, language skills, economics, geography, and mathematics. Games were used to help make decisions on marriage, career exploration, hiring decisions, or deciding admission into college (Ifill, 1994). Some even thought that gaming would eventually replace the lecture as the main way of teaching (Dukes, 1994).
Though gaming did not replace the lecture as the main form of knowledge dispersal in the classroom, and the heady simulation gaming days of the 60’s and 70’s have died down considerably, "the future’s language" as an educational and training tool is still used today to great effect. Business, especially, leads the way in simulation/gaming and has expanded the use of simulation and games for training, now made even more flexible with the use of personal computers.
Business Use of Games
Sivasailam Thiagarajan, president of Workshops by Thaigi, an organization that works...