Despite the fact that gamers generally agree that 3D games failed, 3D games are now picking up traction on both the education and training fronts. But why is a gaming innovation generally rejected by hardcore gamers finding a second life with trainers and educators? Today’s post offers an introduction to 3D games and examines what experts in the training and development and education sectors are saying about their potential applications and benefits for learners of all ages.

3D Games are Finally Gaining Traction

2D Versus 3D Games

Back in the 1970s, the game console you plugged into your television set to play Pong was definitely a 2D game experience. Since the 1990s, however, we have had access to various types of 3D games, which are by definition simply 3-dimensional in scale (games that offer depth as opposed to simply a flattened 2D image). While one might have expected 3D games to immediately take off, they were plagued with problems from the onset. Gamers complained about everything from their cost to the look and feel of the 3D glasses one had to acquire and wear to play 3D games to the unpleasant side effects (some gamers experienced nausea and headaches). In the gaming world, most players agreed early on that no one really wanted or needed 3D games, and for this reason, 2D games still dominate the market.

In 2016, however, 3D technology has finally received the bump it needed to put it  back on the fast track. Today, 3D technologies are less costly, look a bit better than they did in the past, and are generally associated with fewer side effects. Much of this has to do with the release of the affordable version of the Oculus in late 2015 and a growing appreciation for and understanding of what virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have to offer not just on an entertainment level but in terms of training and education.

Applications for K-12 and Higher Education

As discussed in several recent eLeap posts, in K-12 and higher education, VR and AR continue to gain traction. This has much to do with younger educators’ openness to exploring these technologies in their classrooms.  While still costly (outfitting an entire class with Oculus visors is by no means an accessible purchase for many public schools), there’s a growing push to explore how the technology may save time and money over time. What if a middle school teachers could take his or her class to visit the ruins of an amphitheater dating back to the antiquity, or transport their class to rain forest or to the Grand Canyon? There is a growing consensus that as VR and AR educational programs evolve, students will be able to visit and even interact with historical and natural phenomenon in game-like environments and that this will enhance the curriculum while also potentially reducing the cost of field trips (e.g., to local museums of historic sites).

Applications for K-12 and Higher Education

Applications for Training

While games may appear to be most suited to children and youth, a majority of U.S. adults (both men and women) now have at least some experience playing video games. There’s also growing evidence that games are an affordable and engaging way to deliver training to employees across many sectors. Key benefits of 3D games include:

  1. The ability to offer realistic training in high-stakes environments (e.g., first responder situations and emergency rooms). With 3D games, for example, trainees can engage in activities that one may not be able to replicate (or easily replicate) in real life (e.g., how to respond to patients in an ER during an Ebola outbreak).
  2. The ability to more effectively illustrate complex concepts (e.g., what happens to materials during an explosion).
  3. The ability to train workers remotely in any location. A key benefit of 3D games is the ability to bring together many “players” regardless of their locations (e.g., experienced trainers working in an urban area can now easily work with trainees living and working in rural and isolated communities).
  4. The ability to make training engaging. One of the main reasons workers do not complete training sessions is lack of engagement.  3D games, by contrast, have the ability to engage employees and even keep them coming back to repeat completed training sessions multiple times.

The ability to make training engaging.