Today’s New York Times has a nice article on how games are being used to help people learn about real-world issues like the Middle-East Conflict.
The article does a really nice job of reviewing the "serious games" movement, including the passion of the developers and the thin research support for effectiveness (as of yet).
I’m inclined to think these serious games can have profound learning benefits, but that measurements of effectiveness are probably difficult to get right.
Also design difficulties include:
- Insuring the correctness of the cause-and-effect relationships in the game.
- Insuring that the design doesn’t distract from the main points.
- Insuring that the game itself generates attention to the most important points.
- Being sure that other methods aren’t more efficient and/or effective.