In the world of military and civilian training, simulations are used for 3 primary reasons. They are used to provide experiences for people who might not otherwise have them because 1- they don’t happen enough, 2- they are too expensive, and 3- they are too dangerous. Those 3 reasons are also why we used games in learning and training when we want to provide students with experiences. At my day gig, we use games and simulations primarily to provide students with context related to abstract and policy related content. Many organizations and certainly the DoD insist that learning be situated in realistic contexts with the hope that by teaching learners in an application based setting, they will have the highest probability of being able to perform within that context. Unfortunately, that is not possible for us as we provide education and training to students who work in a myriad of different types of contexts. The educational experiences we are providing might be applied to all of the branches of military service and endless types of civilian offices making it difficult to situate that content in a meaningful way.
Of course we don’t have the budget to build a different version for each application of our content, so instead we use cognitive fidelity. Cognitive fidelity is using an intact process instead of physical or superficial fidelity. For example, in a recent Buy American Statutes game, we used a fictional content of Area 41 as a play on the concept of alien invasion. By leveraging cognitive fidelity, students should be able to apply the Buy American Statutes in any context instead of a single context. By providing situational agnostisism, I contend that I have instead increased the applicability and transfer of that content across many domains by training core competencies this way. This allows us to do several things simultaneously.
1- It allows us to make our games more interesting which could lead to replay!
2- It helps us make our games more Memorable! More on memories in learning in a later longer post.
3- It allows us to train a process that is applicable to many contexts in a single game.
When games like Area 41 are implemented, we make sure we frame the experience for students explaining the intact and highly relative process we are providing, to break down any initial barriers to their desire to ingest the content. But by and large, students usually are perceptive enough to understand how this approach works, so give it a try!! Let me know how it goes for you!