I've been stalled on posting my notes on GDC because it was SO much. Honestly, I think I might learn more in that one week than in all the other conferences I attend combined, and trying to summarize it in a blog post is difficult at best. So let me start with one topic that has me excited, in that I can definitely see the possibilities for experiential and constructivist learning.
ARGs (which is confusingly the abbreviation for both Alternate Reality Games and Augmented Reality Games) was a topic discussed across tracks at GDC (serious games, worlds in motion, mobile technology). I love the idea that technology can be used to drive a storyline that participants play out in the real world. There are a range of ways of designing and developing ARGs and to be honest, I think we've only seen the tip of the iceberg. Up to this point, most ARGs have been developed for entertainment purposes. Here are a list of some ARGs that you can check out:
-i love bees (Halo 2)--also in Wikipedia
-Lost Experience (Lost, ABC)--also in Wikipedia
-Year Zero (Nine Inch Nails)--also in Wikipedia
-Chain Factor (Numb3rs, CBS)
-Sharkrunners (Discovery Channel)
One interesting development in ARGs is the use of mobile devices to play these games. Although camera phones for the most part do not yet have the fidelity to truly realize the potential, its just a matter of time and some devices are already making great strides for use in these types of games. I was interested to hear about Nokia and Tim Kring (creator/exec producer of "Heroes") partnering to develop a new project, code named TEVA, that they are coining a "Mobile Immersive Experience."
Second, learners are motivated by competition and challenges. People like puzzles. Making someone a character in the story line immediately engages them in the learning and motivates them to participate in determining the outcome. Oh, and its probably not a bad thing that ARGs can be fun.
Third, we're always striving to design experiences that mirror real-world experiences. With ARGs, the learning experience is in the real world. I've gotta believe that this would improve retention and application.
So, what would this mean to instructional designers? If you've been reading my blog, its no mystery that I think ID as a practice has in some ways lost its way. What I began to think about at GDC was whether being an instructional designer is enough of a skill set in isolation. How much more powerful is instructional design when paired with a skill like game design?
In order for ARGs to be useful for learning, they have to be designed with equal parts instructional design and game design. The real challenge for this type of experience is truly in the design--as technology becomes less of a limitation, the limitation then becomes the bounds of our own talent, skill, and creativity.