Edge Online has an excellent animated lecture about tangential learning in games. It discusses one powerful way in which games can support learning. And in this instance, that means all games, not just the educational ones. Here’s the video:
The clip was made by James Portnow and Daniel Floyd.
Tangential learning is something that game-based learning can and should take advantage of in addition to other strategies of supporting learning. Good, solid hooks to interesting stuff in an engaging game motivate the players to find more information on their own. If that information can help them do better in the game, the motivation is even higher.
The video itself presents multiple propositions on how to implement this in a game:
- Introduce (and recycle) real world terms and references in the game’s fiction, make them significant (like Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII)
- Use loading screens and other free space to include quotes and facts
- Lead the players with self-evident references to search for less evident ones
- Make an in-game index or help file with real-world information (like Civilization’s Civilopedia)
- Using Wikipedia for a civilopedia-like encyclopedia inside the game
Another good point in the video is that overdoing the educational aspect of a game is usually a turn-off, especially if there’s a switcheroo of good times promised and a sermon given instead involved. It is important to keep in mind that game-based learning has the game word in the front and games are supposed to be about entertainment or at least meaningful and motivational experiences.