February 26, 2010

Game theory in game–based learning?

When people knew that I am doing research about game-based learning (GBL), they asked me whether game-based learning has anything to do with game theory. If I see this query from social science perspective, the short answer that I would give is “yes”. But this will prompt other questions like how do they relate to each other.

I define GBL as a form of learner-centred learning that uses electronic games for educational purposes. So it is a study of learning, while learning is a study of education, and education is a study falls under social sciences. In a word, I see GBL as a study of social sciences. My GBL study is about how subject matter experts and game experts can collaborate to design and develop games for use in formal education contexts. In other words, this is a study about collaboration between two groups of human being—another form of social study. Therefore GBL collaboration is seen as a study of social science.

Game theory is a branch of applied maths that was originated in economics, which is a study of social sciences. It attempts to mathematically capture behaviour in strategic situations, in which an individual’s success in making choices depends on the choices of others. If game theory is to be used in the study of GBL collaboration, i.e. treating each group of human being as a player in the game, then the decisions they both made in the collaboration might be predicted mathematically. The fundamental assumption is that their success in making choices depends on the choices of others. Figure 1 is just a normal form game. However, there are many other options and factors that affects the success of a GBL practice. This normal form matrix game is just a demonstration that game theory and GBL can relate to each other.

SME chooses collaboration method A

SME chooses collaboration method B

Game expert chooses collaboration method X

4, 3

-1, -1

Game expert chooses collaboration method Y

0, 0

3, 4

Figure 1: Normal form or payoff matrix of a 2-expert, 2-method game.

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