Reflecting on Robotech Role Playing Games in Primary School - Part 2
I’ve always loved Robotech. In particular, the many role-playing game (RPG) books that Palladium Books produced many years ago in the 80s and 90s. These books are what we used in primary school during our lunch breaks and free time; enabling us to take on multiple roles, functions, responsibilities set in diverse and multiple environments.
Robotech role-playing games, which are based on the popular Japanese-animated, US television series of the same name, have the ability to generate numerous benefits for primary school children. These benefits may include an ability to improve social skills, promote problem-solving and critical thinking, and encouraging creativity and imagination. In this article, we will explore these benefits in more detail and provide evidence from research to support these claims.
There were times where there was conflict with others (in an imaginative way of course!) when playing RPGs. However, these conflicts were not always about competition and battle. Much of it relied on developing trust in an un-trusting environment, and sometimes collaboration and teamwork. One of the most significant benefits of Robotech role-playing games is that they can improve social skills in primary school children. These games require children to work together as a team, communicate effectively, and take on different roles and responsibilities. This can help them learn how to interact with others and resolve conflicts in a positive, constructive and respectful manner.
‘benefits may include an ability to improve social skills, promote problem-solving and critical thinking, and encouraging creativity and imagination’
For example, a study conducted by Kuczaj and Marin (2001) found that children who participated in role-playing games had better social skills and were more likely to display prosocial behaviour, such as sharing and helping others, compared to children who did not play these games. Another study by Skoog and Osterman (2000) found that role-playing games can also help children develop their negotiation skills and learn how to compromise with others.
Reflecting upon a few of my own experiences, Robotech role-playing games also promote problem-solving and critical thinking in primary school children. These games often involve challenges and obstacles that players must overcome, requiring them to think creatively and come up with solutions. In one RPG memory I have (and for those who are well-equipped in the Robotech world), was when I strategically fought an Invid Shock Trooper (Fandom, 2022) by removing the Invid from the cockpit area, making my way inside the Invid hive disguised as an Invid inside the Shock Trooper, to then blow the hive up, escape, saving everyone and therefore completing the game successfully. Such extraordinary thinking and actions of a 10-year old child could be something that can help children develop their problem-solving skills, learning to think creatively and critically about different situations.
A study long ago by Gee (2003) found that role-playing games can help children develop their critical thinking skills, as they must analyse information, evaluate different options, and make decisions based on their observations. Another academic study by Steinkuehler and Duncan (2008) found that children who played role-playing games had higher levels of problem-solving and decision-making skills compared to those who did not play these games.
In addition to improving social skills and promoting problem-solving and critical thinking, Robotech role-playing games also encourage creativity and imagination in primary school children. These games allow children to create and explore different worlds and scenarios, using their imaginations to bring these stories to life.
Denning (2007) found that role-playing games can help children develop their creative writing skills, as they must come up with ideas and descriptions for different characters and settings. Further research by Kim and Kim (2011) found that role-playing games can also help children develop their storytelling skills and enhance their overall creativity. This was highly evident in my own primary school experiences. It was crucial that the game-master had the capabilities to organise, facilitate and manage a complex and thought-provoking game. RPGs can be similar to the game of Monopoly in how it really has no end to it. To sustain the imaginary world and complex systems happening and occurring with the players, a master of delivering a Robotech game is paramount to its success. Not everyone has the ability to be a good game master. I was lucky to have such a facilitator in my primary school experiences with Robotech RPGs in the late 80s and early 90s. Thank you Matthew Redgen of Rigg Street, Woree. Your mastery of facilitating our Robotech games were the best learning experiences of my restricted, Catholic primary school upbringing.
‘It was crucial that the game-master had the capabilities to organise, facilitate and manage a complex and thought-provoking game’
My experiences with Robotech in primary school was a very primitive form of gamification. Gamification is the use of game design elements and mechanics in non-game contexts to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals (Wikipedia, 2022; True Education Partnerships, 2022). It has been used in various fields such as education, marketing, and healthcare to increase participation and motivation.
It is also evident that RPGs are heavily scenario-based experiences. This kind of learning is called Scenario-based learning (Wikipedia, 2022a; Robinson, 2020). It is a type of learning that involves learners in realistic and authentic situations, where they can apply their knowledge and skills to solve problems and make decisions. It is an effective way to teach complex concepts and skills because it allows learners to practice in a simulated environment before applying them in real life. Even though Robotech wasn’t exactly ‘real-life’, but for us in primary school, it was.
There are several ways in which gamification and scenario-based learning can be combined to create engaging and effective learning experiences.
One way is through the use of gamified scenarios, where learners are placed in a game-like environment and are given challenges to complete. For example, in a healthcare training program, learners may be given a virtual patient with a certain condition and be asked to diagnose and treat the patient using their knowledge and skills. The learners are given feedback on their performance and may be rewarded with points or badges for completing the challenges. This not only motivates learners to engage with the material, but also allows them to practice and apply their knowledge in a realistic and authentic setting.
‘learners are placed in a game-like environment and are given challenges to complete’
Another way to combine gamification and scenario-based learning is through the use of game-based simulations. These are interactive games that simulate real-world situations and allow learners to make decisions and see the consequences of their actions. For example, a business training program may use a game-based simulation to teach learners about managing a virtual company. The learners are given the opportunity to make decisions about production, marketing, and finances, and see how their decisions affect the company's performance. This not only helps learners understand the material, but also allows them to practice decision-making skills in a safe and controlled environment.
There are several benefits to using gamification and scenario-based learning in education. For one, it can increase engagement and motivation. Gamification elements such as points, badges, and leader-boards can create a sense of competition and achievement – but for children, these elements are not based or shaped by competition – to motivate learners participation and work towards their goals. Scenario-based learning, on the other hand, can increase relevance and authenticity by placing learners in realistic and authentic situations, which can make the learning experience more meaningful and enjoyable.
‘create a sense of competition and achievement – but for children, these elements are not based or shaped by competition – to motivate learners participation and work towards their goals’
In addition, gamification and scenario-based learning can also improve retention and transfer of learning. By allowing learners to practice and apply their knowledge and skills in a simulated environment, they are more likely to retain the information and be able to transfer it to real-world situations.
There are, however, some potential challenges to using gamification and scenario-based learning. One challenge is the cost and resources required to design and implement these types of learning experiences. Gamification and scenario-based learning can be time-intensive and may require specialized software or equipment. Another challenge is that not all learners may be motivated by gamification elements or may find scenario-based learning too difficult or too easy – design and the role of the game-master is crucially important through possibility, prediction and real knowledge of the learners themselves. It is important to carefully consider the needs and preferences of the learners when designing gamification and scenario-based learning experiences.
‘design and the role of the game-master is crucially important through possibility, prediction and real knowledge of the learners themselves’
It is clear to say that Robotech role-playing games have numerous benefits for primary school children, such as: improving social skills, promoting problem-solving and critical thinking, and encouraging creativity and imagination. These games can be a fun and engaging way for children to learn and develop important life skills, if the educational environment is supportive enough to allow free-play and creativity to happen together.
Gamification and scenario-based learning are powerful tools for creating engaging and effective learning experiences. By combining the benefits of game design elements and mechanics with authentic and realistic learning situations, educators can create learning environments that are both motivating and meaningful for learners. Surely, If I am able to take action in these forms of teaching and learning, you can too.
In a world of education today, these practices can be easily applied in primary school settings. I truly hope that there is a renewal of such concepts in higher education and other forms of teaching and learning, in order to ensure that learners are producing authentic and meaningful assessment and evidence of their developmental processes. Take consideration of John Hunter and his World Peace Game as a starting point for you to begin your transformative journey in your own practices and development. This inspiring account from John Hunter from many years ago, should scare you enough to know that if this was going on back in 2011, what is expected of you by the children in front of you now in 2023?
Author: Michael C. F. Cresswell ± 03 January 2023.
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