In the world of Web-based and computer-based training, there is a prevalent feeling of blandness and sameness. It often seems that everyone’s product was designed by the same person—or by a staff that designed the product to fit the lowest common denominator. This week’s site provides an alternative to this common complaint about Web-based courses. The answer? Games! This week we review games2train.

The goal of gaming
According to the company Web site, games2train developers have put together “…a training concept that marries computer games and serious business content into a new ‘Nintendo Generation’ approach to training: Digital Game-Based Learning (DGBL). The range of our game interfaces runs from Solitaire, to board games, to arcade-style games, to TV quiz games, to fast-moving 3D videogames. Games2train’s Game-Based Learning approach is effective with employees of all generations and ages.” The company offers training games in Web and CD-ROM formats as well as game-based learning templates. The site also offers training plans that can be customized.

What do you want to play?
There are a variety of sample games for visitors to try, including “Learning CubeDude.” Click on the floating briefcase on the games2train home page, and you can play the CubeDude game. Based on PacMan, you guide the dude through a maze of cubicles, avoiding the bosses and searching for blue computers. Once the dude arrives at a computer, the game player has to answer a question based on the topic you select before you start. On the Web site, the topics included: sexual harassment, ethics, or technology.

The site claims that, “The generation that grew up chasing yellow balls around a maze is cheering for the introduction of Learning CubeDude.” But the graphics of this game are even less sophisticated than the ones from the early arcade classic. The strength of the game is in the instructional design. If you answer a question incorrectly, a new screen pops up with an explanation of the question and the reasoning behind the answer. The player also can scroll through tutorials on the subject. The concept is good, even if the design and execution of the game itself are a little shaky.

The company’s business model is to take your content and put it into their games. Most of the Web-based games allow you to play with more than one type of content already there. In fact, there is a sizable amount of content on sexual harassment. (If you have a small staff and need some basic training, this site could take care of that for you—and what a great price!)

The company offers three types of games in their Product Arcade:

  • Internet/intranet games
  • Classroom games
  • Videogame tutorials

The Internet/intranet games are interesting adaptations of well-known games that encourage studying and integrate learning. I played two of the 10 games available, Solitaire and Downward (a Tetris-like game). Both played well and had good instructional design. I liked the blend of content and fun.

The games for enhanced classroom learning looked promising, but the demos were too short for me to really get a good feel for how I would use them or to assess their strengths and weaknesses. If you are looking for computer-assisted games to use in your classroom, you may want to consider these games.

The videogame tutorials are the flashiest and most technically impressive. The games, Straight Shooter and The Monkey Wrench Conspiracy, are videogames with content in them. The Monkey Wrench Conspiracy tutorial puts the student in the role of an intergalactic secret agent sent to deep space to rescue a space station from alien hijackers. This game was designed to teach industrial engineers how to use 3-D design software. I was impressed that both of these games offer nongame options for people who want to learn the material but don’t want to play the game.

What else?
Of course, the site has information about the company, pricing, client list, and more. All of these options are available across the top of the home page. Once you select one of those “business areas,” the company information is presented effectively as questions, linked to the answers. Investigation finds a great question, “What is games-based learning?” This page offers an explanation and a link to a white paper on the topic.

Final impressions
This is a site with useful and interesting content. You also can spend a lot of time playing here! From a design standpoint, it would help if the site had a more consistent look. And although some of the pages load slowly, games2train may have a valid excuse because games typically take longer to load than just-for-show graphics.

If you would like to try using games as part of your training program, this is a site for you. If you aren’t sure about the concept, this site is worth a visit to learn about this training technique.

Here is Kevin’s review of

Kevin Eikenberry is president ofthe Discian Group,a learning consulting company in Indianapolis.

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