Yesterday I wrote about examples as stories. And I received a comment that prompted some reflection. The comment suggested that scenarios were stories too. And I agree! They’re not examples, but they are stories. With a twist.
So, as I’ve said many times, simulations are just a manipulable model of the world. And a motivated, self-capable learner can learn from them. But motivated and self-capable isn’t always a safe bet. So, instead, we put the simulation in an initial state, and ask the learner to take it to a goal state, and we choose those such that they can’t get there until they learn the relationships we want them to understand. That’s what I call a scenario. And we can tune those into a game. (Yes, we turn them into games by tuning; making the setting compelling, adjusting the challenge, etc.)
Now, a scenario needs a number of things. It needs a context, a setting. It needs a goal, a situation to be achieved. And, I’ll suggest, it should also have a reason for that goal to make sense. If you see the alignment that says why games should be hard fun, you’ll see that making it meaningful is one of the elements. And that, I say, is a story. Or, at least, the beginning of one.
In short, a story has a setting, a goal, and a path to get there. We remove boring details, highlight the tension, etc. We flesh out a setting that the learner cares about, provide a sense of urgency, and enable the goal achievement. But it’s not all done.
The reason this isn’t a complete story is we don’t know the path the protagonist uses to accomplish the goal, or ultimately doesn’t. We’ve provided tools for that to happen, but we, as designers, don’t control the protagonist. The learner, really, is the the protagonist!
What I’m talking about is that the story, certainly for the learner, is co-created between the world we’ve developed, and their use of the options or choices we provide. Together, a story is written for them by us and them. And, their decisions and the feedback are the story and the learning! It’s, voilà, a learning experience.
Learning is powerful. Creating experiences that facilitate learning are creative hard fun for the designer, and valuable hard fun for the learner. Learning is about stories, some told, some c0-created, but all valuable.