serious virtual worlds

All posts tagged serious virtual worlds


Oh the tainted “G” word; yes, I said it! Games are great, whether they are played on a board for family game night or on-line such as the perennially popular World of Warcraft. But can a virtual world simulation also be considered a serious game? Well technically, maybe yes. For most outside government training, games are a perfectly acceptable descriptor for some training, but the term of virtual worlds layers in added dimensions (pun intended)… maybe games just does not do justice for what can be achieved in virtual worlds. Games and virtual worlds in the same sentence doesn’t exactly inspire one to think or believe that ‘real’ learning or training value will be realized. Accordingly, we’ve adopted the term “serious virtual world,” kinda works, huh?!

Moving beyond the “game” definition, serious games and serious virtual worlds have much to offer. From elaborate engagement mechanisms such as mini-apps or game elements to questing, all of this begs certain questions: where do you draw the line on what is a game vs. simulation, or can one be both? I say game on!

eLearn Magazine recently posted a feature article on “Knowledge Transfer from Virtual Environments” among the key take-aways from the article was the outline of six requirements of virtual training.

6 Requirements for Virtual Training
Macedonia and Rosenbloom (2001), citing also Michael Zyda, identified six characteristics that simulations must have to create realism and allow for the acquisition of knowledge that can be transferred to real situation.

1. Immersion. Immersion is the impression that a user is participating in a realistic activity. Immersion occurs when the learner, through intellectual, emotional, and normative reactions, has to take meaningful actions in order to influence the state of the virtual environment.

2. Networking and databases.
The distribution of virtual environments enables a large number of users to interact in the same virtual environment. People can collaborate and perform group tasks over networked virtual environments but in order for this to be realistic, databases must be updated frequently in order for the actions of one user, as well as the effects of these actions on the environment, to be visualized by the others.

3. Story. Constructivism learning theory argues that humans generate knowledge and meaning from their experiences. Success of learning within virtual environments would therefore be linked to interactions, which should be designed to provide the learners with challenging experiences in which they will build new or consolidate existing knowledge.

4. Characters. Animated characters can play various roles in a virtual environment. They can facilitate learning by helping learners accomplish their tasks or by challenging them. To be effective, their behavior must be realistic and responsive to the user’s actions. Characters can be automated as part of the scenario, or they can also be instructors or other learners interacting within the virtual environment.

5. Setup. The environment in which the story takes place must be realistic and provide conditions that will foster learning. Not only does the virtual environment need to be properly designed, the physical environment in which learning takes place must also be adequate.

6. Direction. Learners need to be guided and monitored within the virtual environment. They need to be told that what they do is right or wrong, and they need to understand why. This can be accomplished by an instructor observing the learners, or through the use of a virtual coach providing visual or auditory feedback when the learner executes an action or completes a task.

With the outline of these keys to virtual world training- I believe that all are equally important to a creating a compelling training program.

By Ed Heinbockel, President and CEO (Head Heretic), Visual Purple, LLC

I’m witnessing some interesting virtual world developments of late. Not a scientific study to be sure, but a real, on-the-ground reality check. Quite simply: The emperor has no clothes.

Real companies and organizations with real training budgets are making real evals of real VW solutions. What they’re learning is an anathema for many in the VW community.

So here is the deal… Collaboration, since the beginning the holy grail of virtual worlds, is taking a backseat to the realities of building real world training for today’s digital workforce.

It’s not lost on those who have built VW applications as to probably why the collaboration drum has been beat so loud, for so long. Think about it: what else can you do in a virtual world unless you have the technology to embed logics to faithfully drive story, objects, behaviors, experiences, etc???? Well, about all you could do is co-op your friends or colleagues to join in and have a social, I mean, collaborative experience. I know, this is heresy. But then again, I’ve always been a bit of a heretic.

Collaboration has its place to be sure, great examples are what you can accomplish in Qwaq, Forterra and some SL apps by Rivers Run Red. But when it comes to real, high fidelity VW training invoked in a browser being dished up from a remote LMS with demonstrable results, what I’m hearing today is “…collaboration with a fence around it would be fine down the road. But right now, budgets are tight and we like virtual worlds because they cost-effectively deliver a compelling training experience that plays to today’s gamer savvy workforce. And realistically, all my people are very busy, dispersed and scheduling them all to be in world at one time is nearly impossible.” Dovetailing with this is a pervasive non-tech company corporate fear that the training will largely become a social experience. Message received. Get good asynchronous training in the hands of people now and prove the efficacy of VWs for training and learning. THEN walk the collaborative path…baby steps, collaborative baby steps… oh, and don’t forget your emperor’s, er, avatar’s clothes!

1) We are passionate about applying advanced simulation technology in radically innovative and effective ways.
2) Although we have produced dozens of training simulations, only a handful of our ‘first-person thinkers’ are available for public consumption.
3) Contrary to popular belief, we really don’t wear pocket protectors!
4) What Visual Purple stands for… although our mission statement is “Visual Purple’s mission is to provide our clients with world-class, state-of-the-art instructional tools that increase trainee understanding of processes and procedures, reduce training time, and improve overall mission readiness and performance. We take great pride in the creation of each project: we build strong, sincere business relationships, striving to understand your training needs. Our commitment to your vision ensures effective solutions and provides you with a lifetime training partner well versed in your organization’s goals.” Our name actually implies ‘always driven by perspective.’ For instance, our friends in Special Operations Forces immediately equate the name with survival because visual purple—rhodopsin—is a highly light sensitive pigment found in the retina of the eye that enables vision and thus survival in low-light conditions.
5) Our team has been a leader in the interactive computer software industry since 1991 (our founder and CEO is really old and built games at Sierra On-Line in the 80’s), when our products were originally developed as interactive adventure, cinematic and strategy PC games.

Cisco has joined the list of innovative organizations like Visual Purple that will be conducting game, simulation and virtual world case studies at LEEF. Read about all the presenters including ACS Learning Services, Enspire Learning, ExperiencePoint, Humentum, NexLearn, ViaVivo, Visual Purple and others at LEEF.

Register by Monday May 18 to take advantage of the early registration discount!

Join the online discussion on LinkedIn

Learn more at Email, or call 717.901.5167 for more information.

The schedule for the two-day event, set for June 18-19, will include more than a dozen case study presentations that explore and analyze the use of games, simulations, virtual worlds and console games for learning and performance. With titles ranging from Consultative Sales in a Virtual World to Developing Entrepreneurship with Serious Games, each 2-hour case study session will include a high-level overview of the project, hands-on engagement, and group analysis of how to apply the project’s best practices and lessons learned.

Featured Case Studies include:

ACS Learning Services—Consultative Sales in a Virtual World;
Center for Advanced Transportation Technology (CATT Laboratory),
University of Maryland – I-95 Corridor Coalition Virtual Incident Management Training;
Cisco – Cisco Certification Exam Study Games;
US Army War College—Military Global Distribution Game;
ViaVivo, Inc.—Developing Entrepreneurship with Serious Games
University of Maryland University College—Criminal Justice Simulations;
NexLearn, LLC—Essential Leadership Simulation Series;
Visual Purple, LLC—Winning in Wireless, CEO Simulation in a Virtual World;
Deep End Interactive—Winds of Orbis: An Active-Adventure;
Enspire Learning—Celebrity Calamity: Teaching Personal Finance through Games;
ExperiencePoint—Lakeview Change Management Simulation;
Humentum—US Sales and Marketing Policy Simulation;
JPL – Health Education Games;

“As it becomes more apparent that active, engaging and contextual learning solutions result in improved performance; games, simulations and virtual worlds will become more common in corporate learning and K-16 education. It’s all about results and games and simulations are delivering as organizations and individuals look to get the most learning and performance gain out of their training and education investments,” says Andy Petroski, Director of Learning Technologies and Assistant Professor of Learning Technologies at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology and a co-coordinator of the event.

“As organizations move to using games, simulations and virtual worlds for learning they should consider learning from others that have gone ahead of them. Organizations will be able to ease adaptation by learning from the experiences of others, and especially by learning from others that have been achieving positive results with games, simulations and virtual worlds. The case study presenters at LEEF are some of the best!”

He adds, “The LEEF is unlike many other professional development events that provide a high-level overview of a large variety of topics. The two-hour session format will allow participants to gain in-depth knowledge about presenters’ projects and get hands-on experience with the projects.”


Serious Games (otherwise known as “SGs”) are meant to train or otherwise educate players, while being engaging. Serious Games Simulations are designed to have the same look and feel of a game, but include non-game events and/or processes. These types of games are specially targeted to government and business sectors for training purposes. While training segments vary for Serious Game applications, the military, corporate and educational arenas are all adopters of this technology/methodology. This rapidly growing industry originally began within the non-government sector and has continued to expand from there. And now the development of “Serious Virtual Worlds” to support training and learning is on fire. It’s more than a game…

Wikipedia Definition A serious game is a term used to refer to a software or hardware application developed with game technology and game design principles for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. Serious games include games used for educational, persuasive, political, or health purposes.