This group will be discussing the use of virtual worlds in government. The discussion is related to the National Defense University iCollege's Virtual World's Initiative: The Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds
What's the Difference Between Gaming and Virtual Simulation?
June 7, 2011 at 1:47 pm #132215
I was just reading a post entitled "What Is a Serious Game?" and it made me wonder if there is a distinction between gaming and simulation in virtual worlds?
When I looked up the definition of gaming, it included far more than video games. In-person table top exercises that deal with a particular scenario could be gaming...but I also generally found that kind of activity to be synonymous with simulation. Of course, most video games happen in "virtual worlds."
I also recognize that engagement in virtual worlds does not necessarily have to include a gaming element and could simply involve interaction with other avatars with no accumulation of points or movement toward a specific outcome.
Is there a difference between gaming and virtual simulation...or are they one and the same? Or do each work better when it incorporates an element of the other?
June 7, 2011 at 9:59 pm #132223
You know I am a huge believer in the use of virtual worlds and gaming for learning, collaboration, and engagement. And from what I've seen, it does appear that each works best when elements of both are merged into one.
Virtual worlds or 3D immersive spaces can make a user feel as if they actually experienced what was done or seen in the virtual space. You can feel as if you were actually part of that environment. Many of us using virtual worlds have been surprised to even feel nostalgia when we return to virtual spaces where we previously shared experiences. This nostalgia is on the same level you would feel returning to a physical place where you had a good time like sharing a movie or a dinner or walk in the park.
The fact that virtuality can affect your emotions and brain to that level seems to show how powerful of a tool it really is. Then if you merge that with game elements designed to increase our feelings of achievement and success, you have the potential to create a tool that will leave a significant impression on people.
As for being the same, they each have unique aspects that still make them different enough to be in their own categories. Some virtual spaces have no gaming elements at all. They are more entertainment or display. And I love card games, but I don't get immersed in that type of game - it seems to be more of a math or memory challenge for me.
June 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm #132221
I actually worked in a simulation center while I was on active duty in the Army. Our unit was capable of simulating everything from company-level convoy exercises using a modified first person shooter, to theater-level war gaming that was used to evaluate the command staffs of three and four star generals.
As much as I hate to admit it, theater level exercises reminded me of my darker middle school days spent playing pen and paper RPG's. The planners would write out specific scenarios, with events that would branch out based on the decisions made by the gamers in the exercise (imagine trying to do this for a group of 1500 people). Combine all of that with a bunch of computers that simulate the command and control systems used by commanders in the field, our own multimedia studio used to create fake news broadcasts and red cell (enemy) propaganda, and you have your basic high-level exercise.
For the FPS, they had actually mapped out the area in Iraq in Afghanistan where the Soldiers would deploy and had built them virtually, so that Soldiers would hit the ground with a basic understanding of the terrain. Firefights and convoys drills rapidly became quick, chaotic affairs, while the higher level exercises had more of a deliberate pace as the different staffs debated the best courses of action to fulfill their objectives. It gave me a good appreciation of what war looks like at different levels of command.
So, based on my experience from the military, I'd say that modeling and simulation is definitely the way to go. I know we've starting using simulations to "war game" different border security scenarios at CBP. And yes, it looks like a really souped up tower defense game, but it's extremely useful.
June 9, 2011 at 2:24 am #132219
My short answer is if it has the motivation built in, it's a game; if the motivation is external to the system, it's a simulation.
A realistic program that lets you practice docking the space shuttle to the international space station may be really cool to a lot of people, but only those with a deep interest are likely to spend much time with it. The shuttle mission commander, for one, would have a huge internal motivation. The average sixth grade would probably twiddle the controls a bit then head to Club Penguin. Good game design builds motivating factors into a game - score, achievements, loots, ranking, etc - to hook a players interest.
Classic definitions of games include elements like rules, environmental constraints, an adversarial condition (not necessarily another player, an individual or team can work against the clock or the environment or some other challenge) and a "win state". I put "win state" in quotes because in extended games, especially MMOs, there are successions of victory conditions without an ultimate win or lose condition. A final last condition for something to be a game is that it be low stakes. Once you cross a threshold of consequence, the outcome of engagement becomes to significant to any longer qualify as a game. So checkers is a proper game, but Russian roullette is not. World of Warcraft is a game but WWII (it has rules of engagement, environmental constraints, an adversarial condition and a win state) was not:)
Can we tackle what qualifies as a "virtual world" game next?
June 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm #132217
Good answer! I'm on Second Life (as MimseyBorogove Susanowa), and don't use it for anything even related to gaming. I mostly go to church, libraries, and exhibits, or talk to people. Are these simulations? Difficult to say - I don't think I'm "simulating" church, and I'm certainly not simulating conversation. Maybe we need another category!
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