Comparing Entertainment and Educational Games and their Convergence

4084 words (16 pages) Essay in Video Games

23/09/19 Video Games Reference this

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Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Commercial Flight Simulation Games

Serious Flight Simulation Games

Convergence

Conclusion

References

Bibliography

 

Abstract

The following is an informative report analysing the convergence between games designed for home entertainment and serious games that are meant for training or developing certain skills.

To assess this the report investigates flight simulation games. By looking into the history of the flight simulation and comparing serious games to entertainment games it was found that whilst they affect each other, there is still a difference between the two categories.

Introduction

Learning is not only about memorising isolated facts – it is also about connecting and deploying them.

Games, therefore, present a learner-centered

approach to learning, whereas traditional education

presents a teacher-centered approach.  To use a

metaphor, if learning is understood as a journey, a

learner-centered approach is where a learner is in charge

of driving a vehicle, and a teacher-centered approach is

like catching public transport, with the teacher being the

Games, therefore, present a learner-centered

approach to learning, whereas traditional education

presents a teacher-centered approach.  To use a

metaphor, if learning is understood as a journey, a

learner-centered approach is where a learner is in charge

of driving a vehicle, and a teacher-centered approach is

like catching public transport, with the teacher being the

Games, therefore, present a learner-centered

approach to learning, whereas traditional education

presents a teacher-centered approach.  To use a

metaphor, if learning is understood as a journey, a

learner-centered approach is where a learner is in charge

of driving a vehicle, and a teacher-centered approach is

like catching public transport, with the teacher being the

“The secret of a videogame as a teaching machine isn’t its immersive 3-D graphics, but its underlying architecture. Each level dances around the outer limits of the player’s abilities, seeking at every point to be hard enough to be just doable. In cognitive science, this is referred to as the regime of competence principle, which results in a feeling of simultaneous pleasure and frustration.” (Gee, 2003)

This report will look into the history of flight simulators to analyse the convergence between serious and entertainment games.

Commercial Flight Simulation Games

Flight simulators have been around for many decades as traditional arcade type games. Over time, with the growth of processing power and graphics, the gaming companies started to make more realistic flight simulation games.

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In 1980 subLOGIC released its Flight Simulator FS1 for Apple II and TRS-80 (Byte Magazine, 1980). The flight simulator program was revolutionary, and its later version known as Microsoft Flight Simulator sold millions of copies and was updated many times until the final version was released in 2006. The 1980 release did not possess a user-friendly interface and was very simplistic in graphics and resolution. With only 16K of memory, the flight simulator provided a simulation with a 3D view out of the windscreen at 182 by 48 resolution rendered at 3 to 6 frames per second. The simulation also included an overhead view with the plane being in centre. (Reed, n.d.)

Figure 1 – subLOGIC Flight Simulator FS1 (Reed, n.d.)

In 1987, when entertainment systems like NES were having an explosion around the world, one of the more successful flight simulator games Top Gun was released by Konami Corporation. The game was solely for entertainment purposes and gained huge popularity following its release. Top Gun, a pseudo 3D flight simulator, with its linear game mechanics is a classic arcade game style flight simulator, where the focus in creating the game was shifted to provide better graphics and a more stimulating gaming experience, over the freedom of movement, effects of realism and 3 dimensions (NesWorld, n.d.).

Figure 2 – Konami Corp. Top Gun 1987 (Gameshelf, n.d.)

With the arrival of inventions such as the magneto-optical disks in 1990, the Intel Pentium Microprocessor in 1993 and continuous releases of increasingly sophisticated graphics cards, memory modules and processors both flight simulation industry branches -commercial and entertainment – were able to start working towards realism in its visuals. (Computer History Museum, n.d.)

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In 1998 an entertainment flight simulator titled F22 Total Air War developed by Digital Image Design Ltd had a more realistic feel to it, with its detailed Heads Up Display and wide range of accessible in-cockpit control panels. The developers of the game paid a lot more attention to capturing realism with its game mechanics and in game physics. However, to keep the game more entertaining, the game physics were not as realistic as they were in actual pilot training simulators (Eron., 1998).

There have also been commercial failures when the developers pushed for ultra-realism like in 1999, when SEGA released Airline Pilots (see Figure 3) for Sega NAOMI hardware. The game simulates flying a Boeing 777 aircraft and was developed with the help of engineers and pilots from Japan Airlines to create a more realistic simulation in game physics and pacing, for entertainment purposes. Two models were manufactured – the standard type sit down cabin with one monitor, and the DX type cabin with three monitors to provide an ultra-realistic cockpit feel. The difficulty of the game and the gamers lack of interest in flying a commercial airliner left Sega to scramble. They produced a conversion kit which let the owners of the game to convert it to the vastly more popular and less realistic Sega Strike Fighter. (SegaRetro, n.d.)

This provided information to developers of that era that when creating games for home users, the gaming experience must take priority over ultra-realism that they had been striving for. Making the games more entertaining and not too difficult, helps game developers reach a wider market and therefore generate more profit.

However, in flight simulators developed for training purposes, the game physics is one of the most important factors. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) relies on such simulators in post plane crash scenarios, where they take flight data from the flight recorder retrieved from a crash site and feed it into a simulation in order to accurately recreate the events leading up to the incident to get a clear picture of what occurred. (Kevin Bonsor, n.d.)

Figure 3 – Airline Pilots SEGA (SegaRetro, n.d.)

In the early 2000s home flight simulators had become so realistic that experts speculated after the September 11, 2001 events that hijackers might have practiced on Microsoft Flight Simulator on how to fly passenger planes. Although Microsoft refuted those claims, they delayed the release of the new version of the game and deleted World Trade Centre skyscrapers from the New York scenery (New World Encyclopedia, 2017).

Figure 4 – Microsoft Flight Simulator X 2006 (SimCatalog, n.d.)

There are now hundreds of different flight simulation games for home users. From civilian games, where commercial aircrafts are used, to combat games where different war scenarios can be played.

Serious Flight Simulation Games

Major developments in computer flight simulation games and visual graphics capabilities have also led to the increased use of serious flight simulation training devices in aviation.

Flight simulation has many different uses, for example flight training (primarily of pilots), research into aircraft features and control handling abilities, and the design and development of the aircraft itself (e-CFR, 2018).

“Almost 50% of flights in the French Army Light Aviation (FALA) are done on simulators. Military helicopter pilots train for the qualification instrument flight rules with Microsoft Flight Simulator.” (Lépinard, 2014)

The simulators are classified as levels 1 to 7 for flight training devices (FTD) or levels A to D for full flight simulators (FFS) with Level D full flight simulator being the highest capable device and used for both airline and military training. These simulators recreate actual world scenarios based on generalised physics and aerodynamic principles and come with a data packages installed by an airframer which uses their developmental models along with actual flight test data. Motion bases are incorporated to deliver the most realistic simulation possible. (New World Encyclopedia, 2017)

Serious flight simulators are heavily regulated as lives can depend on them. In serious flight simulation, National Aviation Authorities (NAA) for civil aircraft such as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) must certify simulators that are used to train pilots. (U.S. Department of Transportation FAA, 2014)

The cost for FAA qualified Level D flight training devices can range from 500,000 to 3.5 million pounds but the price of operating them is still considerably less than if regular aircrafts were used for training purposes.

“Level D simulators recreate reality so closely, the FAA allows their use for Zero Flight Time Training (ZFTT), meaning a pilot can achieve a type rating in an aircraft and fly it without ever being on board the actual aircraft beforehand.” (AMC Staff, 2018)

When the development of the previously mentioned Microsoft Flight Simulator was stopped in 2009 as part of austerity measures at Microsoft, American arms company Lockheed Martin acquired the licence and all source code to Microsoft ESP. On that foundation the first version of Prepar3D (see Figure 5) was released in 2010. Prepar3D is a simulation software, which is mainly used as a flight simulator, but unlike Microsoft Flight Simulator it is only available as a serious game. Private pilots, commercial organisations, militaries, and academia use Prepar3D for immersive, experimental learning. (Prepar3D, n.d.)

Figure 5 – Prepar3D (Prepar3D, n.d.)

X-Plane (see Figure 6) is a flight simulator produced by Laminar Research that can be used professionally with the correct license and hardware that can cost up to 450,000 pounds or used personally with limited capabilities (XPlanePro, n.d.).

Figure 6 – X Plane 11 (Steam, n.d.)

“In the past, full motion flight simulators had been limited to multi-million-dollar hydraulic devices used at large training centres such as Flight Safety International, CAE and Alteon (a Boeing company). Recent advances in electric motion simulation bases have permitted full motion simulation to be utilized economically for much smaller aircraft including single-engine piston aircraft at training centres such as Flight Level Aviation.” (New World Encyclopedia, 2017)

Convergence

The fact that a game released in 1980 ended up eventually being purchased decades later by an arms company solely for training purposes, seems to suggest that home flight simulation was the driving force of flight simulation gaming. Major corporations recognised the importance of simulation games and the potentials they held for their future training possibilities. Scenarios that otherwise would end up with casualties could safely be simulated by computers without financial loss and risk to human life.

X Plane flight simulator delivers very realistic experience for serious flight sim fans by letting users negotiate thousands of airports, immersive landscapes and realistic cities.

Nowadays tickets are available for purchase for relatively advanced pilot training flight simulators (Virgin Experiences, n.d.), so lines are getting blurred between serious and entertainment games, but based on my research and understanding of the genres, the simulation differs in a variety of factors.

While the two genres meet on grounds of realism in terms of looks, they differ in game physics and game mechanics.

Conclusion

This report has analysed the convergence between games that are made purely for entertainment and those with a more serious aspect.

By looking into the world of commercial and serious flight simulators, it was noted that every major step in gaming was followed by an advancement in serious games as well, whilst both were being driven by technological advancements.

It was found that although there are similarities between the two genres, there is still a difference between them – in price, user experience, cost of development and government regulation.

While video gamers like the idea of playing a realistic game, it would not have the same entertainment value and the price level would be substantially higher.

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