3 Important Questions On Serious Games In Africa
Daniel M Ernst/Shutterstock.com

Key Questions On Serious Gaming In Africa

There are more than 2 billion video game players worldwide, according to market intelligence company, Newzoo. But it is quite difficult to determine exactly the number of video game players in Sub-Saharan Africa where the gaming industry is still emerging. Video games are very popular with many young African people. They can be played on a variety of devices. Handheld machines and mobile phones allow the play to take place in different situations and even when traveling. There are benefits to video game playing in addition to just having fun. Of the most frequent gamers, 75% believe playing video games provides mental stimulation or education. But in Africa, there is still in low interest in the development of educational games. We want to highlight 3 reasons why doing so is important to overcome some of the biggest educational challenges on the continent.

1. What Are Serious Games And Why Are They Important?

Serious games [1] are pedagogical games designed to teach people about a certain subject, expand concepts, reinforce development, or assist them in drilling a skill as they play. In recent years, games have been used as an innovative instructional strategy in order to achieve more effective learning on higher levels in diverse knowledge areas, such as mathematics,  language,  business,  health, computing etc. They are characterized by various elements, such as goals, rules, restrictions, interaction, challenge, feedback, rewards, and competition. They may lead to greater learning motivation and thus to more effective learning when compared with traditional teaching methods.

Video games require the player to be attentive to what he is doing on the screen (visual). The sounds generated also procure some pleasure to the player (auditory) and many games have a collaborative dimension, requesting the player to collaborate with a team to achieve a mission. Video game elements like immediate feedback and rewards can contribute to successful grasp of concepts. And this learning-by-doing gives students a sense of accomplishment when they can demonstrate their knowledge. Well-constructed games also contribute to essential skills such as teamwork (social), problem-solving, and critical thinking.

2. Can We Use A Game In An African Classroom?

Yes!

Learning used to be a fun experience. We can learn more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation, Plato said. Kids learned through play. Children and even adults always have fun playing games. Roger Caillois and Jean Piaget demonstrated that games appeal to the human psychology in a way most other communication tools don’t. They are a universal part of the human experience and have existed across all cultures.

With gamification, there is a core belief that if we can somehow remove all the barriers and bring back games and game-like elements into learning, we will learn more effectively. Nowadays, as an educator, we are constantly challenged to create learning activities that cater to all types of learners. We need to ensure learning is engaging and motivating to meet the needs of the recipient. Technology gives us a tool to meet these various styles through video games.

When words like "video games", "play", "missions" and "fun" are used in front of students, they immediately show more interest and energy for the activity. But to achieve an optimal learning effect, the fun of the game needs to be closely linked to the learning process. Playing and learning should be integrally connected rather than merely alternating during the game. Marc Prensky found that serious game must combine 2 powerful factors for success: one is the key purpose of the game, in which a learner can be pushed into a learning environment unconsciously in the game; the other is the integration of learning methods which enhance the teaching efficiency and reduce boredom from learning at school. The 21st-century education requires the students to engage, recognize their interests, know what to learn and create a self-learner attitude.

3. What Is The State Of Serious Gaming In Sub-Saharan Africa?

The African gaming industry is still emerging. Most of the game development studio has less than a decade. And this is the reason developers and educators are considering to gamify the process of learning through a variety of new techniques using technology. In 2008, several teams took part in the Gamify it! Hackathon! to create applications that involve gamification and develop new ways of learning and sharing; with a particular emphasis on the African context. As the creation of new serious games requires a huge amount of investment and time, we believe African teachers can explore other solutions to gamify learning in their classroom. We can use commercial games in a learning context (serious gaming). A physics teacher could use Angry Birds to explain arcs, projectile motion or velocity.

A deep strategy game like Aurion: The legacy of the Kori-Odan can be used to educate more thoroughly about Senegal and Cameroon history and culture. Obviously, the economic barrier and the educational environment make it hard for teachers to even think about using the above video games. Many public schools don’t have a computer lab, and there is always a plethora of students—an average of 80 in Cameroon—depending on one teacher. In such a context, it is quite impossible to implement serious game activities. Nevertheless, we do not need to invest in hardware or software to be able to immediately gamify classrooms to boost engagement, collaboration, and learning. Gamification is about transforming the classroom environment along with the regular activities into a game through the application of creativity [2].

For instance, they can just make students co-designers of the class syllabus, and work with them to develop the short and long-term goals of the class. Like in video games, students should also be allowed second chances. The same concept can be applied to the classroom, as students should be able to try an assignment, either succeed or fail and try again. In a game setting, feedback is essential for users to know how they are doing in the game. It’s therefore important that students are able to give feedback to each other, with the instructor providing support to those who need it. Finally, they can also make students’ progress visible, create challenges or quests instead of homework, give more voice and choice to students, offer individual rewards, and allow their students to try, fail, and learn, while simultaneously supporting their innate creativity and enhancing the curriculum.

Conclusion

Educational games are an innovative instructional strategy to achieve learning more effectively. And I believe that gamification can transform education in Africa if it’s implemented correctly. Serious games show promise as an effective training method, but such games are sometimes complex. Nevertheless, their potential is huge and educators need to apply games characteristics in their classroom. Mobile serious games are another appropriate solution to enhance the learning and teaching experience. This innovative teaching method cannot be ignored nor be left for tomorrow. The time is now to take it upon us to leverage the power of digital games to create a better world. I’m committed to the cause.

References:

  1. This oxymoron "Serious Games" was first used as the title of a book by Clark Abt in 1970. Since then, the term has been widely studied by experts to define games designed to educate, train, and inform.
  2. The Gamification of Education
Close