Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Changing Paradigms In Gaming: Edutainment The Next Big Thing

There was a time when we played games just for having fun with friends and family. Gaming has had been a peer thing till the time technology didn’t breach in to let people knit their own virtual world in these games. Electronic gaming consoles literally abandoned those backyards and playgrounds at many places. Games, like Super Mario and Contra, danced on the lips of kids for years. And all this exhilaration over gaming received a huge kick with the arrival of immensely popular gaming consoles - PlayStation and Xbox.

Till that era, gaming was primarily a matter of individual engagement and achievements. However, the big vertical shift came in when games got that social flavor added with social platforms especially Facebook. In addition to bringing the multi-player style to the core, social media enriched conventional gaming with a flurry of other networking techniques that were hitherto not explored well.

Competition was sidelined, and on the contrary to the very essence of gaming, social games earmarked “forming associations” as an important tool to attain in-game goals. Zynga pioneered the notion of such collaborative associations with its blockbuster releases Farmville and Cityville. These games encouraged users to network to perform loads of activities and feel a sense of achievement and togetherness.

Gaming stalwarts soon sensed the trend and adapted to the change introduced by Zynga. Established gaming houses started churning out engaging social games and soon it became a highly crowded domain. A recent research conducted by the casual gaming experts Newzoo reported that as many as 39% of the total 215 million hours were spent in online casual or social media gaming, if that gives you any perspective about how colossal this industry has become.

The above discussion might give you an all-well feeling about the social gaming industry, but it’s not as easygoing as it looked. In fact, unlike the erstwhile scenario, a lot depends on the content of a game. Engagement has become a much broader term. Even a simple hit-and-run game today has so much in terms of letting people network through it. And people need more than just fun to remain glued to a game. Something extra, something can give them some value.

Talking about the value part, future games ought to have a design and content flow that impart some learning in addition to all the fun and frolic. Idea here is to empower users with something they can use when they’re not playing the game. To put it in more appropriate words, games that depict both education and entertainment, together dubbed as “Edutainment”, in a proportionate mix.

Edutainment-based games have already making inroads in the social media space. Just a little inquisition will show you a handful of games, such as “Words With Friends”, that have Edutainment as the central theme. But, having said that, these games aren’t huge in numbers, but going by the current, soon you will find companies doing away with barely useful action-packed gaming and hopping into the Edutainment space to capitalize upon the opportunities in this new form of learning.

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