In his new Gamasutra column
, writer and game designer Ian Bogost asks: Why can't the power of games be used to help retain information in public safety drills and other instructional tasks -- for example, replacing the air safety videos that many travelers barely listen to?
Although air travel is statistically highly safe, the instructional safety videos and demonstrations shown in-flight are a necessary precaution. But according to Bogost, the risk is so low and the ritual so routine that the safety demonstration has become just another part of travel's weary ennui.
And while making instructional material "entertaining" sometimes makes it less effective, Bogost explains that safety instructions and games are inherently not very far apart:
"For some time now, emergency personnel have been using live-action role-play and computer simulation to drill emergency preparedness scenarios. Indeed, first responder simulations for paramedics and firefighters are among the most active area of serious games development.
For example, Virtual Heroes has created HumanSim, a sophisticated medical simulation for health professionals to try out unusual scenarios, including responding to "rare conditions or events."
But these drills are complex and expensive, even if they are less complex and expensive when simulated instead of carried out on real city streets with real equipment. Indeed, cost effectiveness is one of the reasons serious games appeal to the organizations and municipalities that use them for this purpose."
The drill is a concept inherent to games, Bogost argues:
"Drill in games has traditionally been understood as the digitization of skill exercises. Math Blaster, Reader Rabbit, and other edutainment titles are the obvious examples, with their chocolate-covered broccoli approach to arithmetic or phonics.
The seat belt, the life vest, and the emergency exit represent a type of task simpler and less challenging than the emergency response scenario, yet a more complex, less boring sort than kiddie drill and skill. One doesn't really need to practice seat buckling and life vest donning very often. Once might be enough. But that one time sure is useful."
In the full feature, Bogost discusses how game design lends itself to teaching routine tasks
, and how it might even be a more effective method than the ones currently used (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).