Two stars in e-learning, both based around the interface of a house, clearly demonstrate the importance of gamified e-learning, and its potential impact in the real world.
The first, Virtual Reality House by Train4Trade Skills is a gamified training program that allows apprentices such as trainee plumbers, or electricians, to run through potentially hazardous, or even life threatening real world scenarios, e.g. re-wiring a house or installing an electric water heater, within a full simulation virtual environment.
Trainees move step by step through a job – starting with planning a course of action, working through costing’s, and then go step by step through the actual installation or work involved. Then, when they have gained skills and confidence, they move onto the workshop part of their course under skilled supervision. Virtual Reality House has already won two gold medals at the E-Learning Awards.
The second, Power House, is a free game on Facebook developed by researchers from Stanford University in conjunction with the US Department of Energy, who wanted to investigate whether gamification had the potential to change behavior, and reduce energy consumption in the real world. In Power House, the player is challenged is to move a family of four through a house, completing their daily routine and tasks, for example making coffee and doing the washing, but using as little energy as possible in the process. Rules are that family members are not allowed to move through a room if it is dark so the light has to be turned on or the blinds need to be opened, and, if too much power is used, the circuit shorts out. The game, which is reported to be highly addictive, grows increasingly complex as more family members enter the house. Interestingly, Power House uses actual data about power consumption from the player’s own home.
To investigate whether Power House had the ability to modify behaviour in the real world, the Stanford researchers invited forty test participants into a laboratory. Half of the participants played Power House, while the other half played Diner Dash, another popular Facebook game. After playing for half an hour the participants were asked to finish up and leave the lab. Prior to the experiment, the lab had been set up so that several electrical items were running including two overhead lights, a computer and a desk lamp. On leaving the lab, the test participants who had played Power House turned off an average of 2.55 of the items consuming electricity, whilst the participants from the group playing Diner Dash only turned off an average of 0.55. This result shows that the Power House players not only had an increased awareness of energy consumption but had also actually modified their real world behavior, after playing the game, to reduce energy consumption in the lab and also in their own homes.
Virtual Reality House and Power House show the potential for gamified e-learning to affect the real world as it can be used as a tool to help prevent hazardous real world training situations, and also used to help modify ecologically unsustainable behaviour.