1 - New Perspectives
Do you know the famous Indian fable “The Blind Men and the Elephant”? Six blind men come across different parts of an elephant in their life journeys and, since they cannot see the whole animal, each one imagines it as something else - one touches the teeth and pictures a spear, another one touches the trunk and thinks of a snake, and so on. sustainablegame2Obviously each person thinks only he pictures the animal in the right way and, in fact, none of them is wrong - they look at the same animal, just from different perspectives. Transferring this story to real-world situations basically means that everyone creates their own version of reality from one’s limited experience and perspective. No wonder that it is usually very hard to put yourself in the shoes of another person, especially in tense situations. Games for learning have the potential to help seeing and understanding other perspectives and points of view. There are various role-playing games, such as World Climate or Nexus Game, that allow players to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes and to step back from their own role. By temporarily switching from their own point of view to another, they are suddenly able to think about the bigger picture when facing a problem and to understand new perspectives better.
2 - Better Decisions Real world situations involve complex realities. You face them everyday and are forced to make quick but precise decisions. How to do it without losing objectivity and long-term perspective? Trying unfamiliar strategies, whether in classrooms or in multinational organizations, may bring about unexpected consequences. Potential conflicts and aftereffects of mistakes may be painful, but also minimized if you learn strategic thinking. One of the best environments to practise these skills are games. Serious Games for learning let players experience real-world complexity in an environment that allows them to fail - but in a safe way. This includes testing and understanding different approaches, techniques and decisions - players explore the dynamic consequences of their assumptions and actions, but without real risk. With immediate feedback, they can learn, improve their skills and get a feel for making better decisions, which ultimately results in designing more effective policies and strategies.
A good example of such a game for learning is a mobile online simulation Lords of the Valley. It can be used as a laboratory for practicing skills like teamwork, leadership and communication. During the game, players attempt to achieve their own goals while facing many challenges arising from the decisions of other players and the unpredictability of the environment. By doing that, they learn that lack of cooperation and communication between them makes it impossible to find optimal solutions. During the debriefing session after the game, they analyze the decisions they made and their consequences, which leads to conclusions about how to apply the lessons learned to real life situations.
3 - Sustainable Thoughts
Although sustainable development increasingly becomes a mainstream concept, there is still a great need to apply it in practice. Decision paths are often confined simply by the constraints of imperfect knowledge about important sustainable aspects - those of environmental, social, cultural and economic nature. Nothing will change if only the environmentalists focus on biodiversity. Many business people perceive green areas in terms of wasted development potential. The goal is to create a balanced connection between ecology and economy. But this is what makes the challenge - and again, serious games for learning may help!
When tailored for a specific situation, games for learning give players direct experience of the challenges in solving a difficult social-ecological problem. The approach offers opportunities to practice sustainable thinking and acting and to become aware of the interdependencies between economic, social and ecological issues.
About our guest writer
Sarah is a 21 years old International Business undergraduate with a passion for educational training. She currently completes an internship at the Centre for Systems Solutions for her final semester at the University of Applied Sciences in Dresden, Germany.