When designing games for learning, most design starts with the learner playing the main character in the game, making decisions and experiencing the consequences within the game world. This makes sense…designing games for practice means that the learner needs to actually DO something, repeatedly, to gain experience and improve performance with repeated exposure and application of knowledge and skills.
Are there good design rationales for NOT putting the learner in first person perspective within the game? Absolutely.
One game that we designed from a third-person perspective was The Change Game. The organizational problem was employee resistance to change and the game was designed as a reflection on resilience factors that, when missing, would contribute to change resistance. Putting the learner in a first-person role ran the risk of making the game too personal…instead, the learner observed other character interactions from a third-person perspective, then identified which of the seven resilience factors the characters were not exhibiting. After observing the character scenarios, learners were asked to reflect on similar situations they had experienced and how they responded, encouraging them to learn about resistance and resilience from the game scenarios and then apply that knowledge in thinking about their own behavior. In this way, the third-person perspective allowed the game to achieve the learning goals without making learners feel defensive or accused of bad behavior.
Recently, discussions with organizations who are looking at games to address the subject of mental health within the workplace have led to similar proposed game structures. Because mental health topics sometimes carry negative stigmas, approaching them in less personal or less potentially confrontational ways is important.
Whenever a topic has the potential for the learners’ emotional response to get in the way of achieving the learning goals, changing the player perspective within the game can distance the learner from feeling the game is about him or her and allow for better insight and perspective on the information and learning you are ultimately designing the game to convey.
About the Author
Koreen Olbrish, Ayogo VP of Learning Design, creates games that demonstrate the untapped potential of immersive learning design.