Way back when, I loved playing the game “operation” or “Dokter Bibber” as it’s known in the Netherlands. And I would class Dokter Bibber as a kind of low fidelity simulator, that’s heavily gamified to encourage the key skills of hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity. Given that it is suitable for all ages, the tasks, removing the funny bone or the heart with your small forceps, become quite easy after time.
The benefit of computerised simulation is that the simulator can work out which elements of a task you are doing great and which you are struggling with and then present you with progressive challenge on the ones you are struggling on most. This is the key to deliberate practice, always practicing at the level that you find toughest, and so simulators afford the opportunity in a totally safe environment to practice the hard things that make you better.
But the problem with simulators is that they conventionally strive to give a one-to-one representation of real life and this “face validity” is a much prized feature “our Sim looks like real life” – and yet I’m pretty sure that when I was attempting to remove small bits of lego from the noses of four year olds that came to the emergency room when I was still practising surgery, I drew on the skills that Dokter Bibber had trained me on. Little face-validity at all, yet the skill was the same, delicately removing something from a slightly awkward hole that went “meep” if you hurt it.
And that’s where Serious Games often have an advantage over simulators, I’ve played Dokter Bibber for way more time in my life than I used the masses of simulators that I have had access to, because the simulators were a dull task, and Dokter Bibber was fun. Serious Games allow you to inject the fun back into the deliberate practice of tasks.