I’ve been playing Fallout 4 lately. In fact, quite a bit.
What started as a few innocuous late nights has quickly turned into 16-hour benders in between work. I haven’t eaten in days.
It is starting to impact my time at work as well. I found myself trying to pick the ignition of my car with a bobby pin before I went to work. I was caught by colleagues trying to raid a first aid kit in the lunchroom, looking for Stimpaks to replenish my health.
It isn’t all bad though. In fact, it is actually quite brilliant.
To be as involved and as absorbed as I am in Fallout 4 is a testament to the folks who designed this game. To keep someone focused and engaged for hours and hours on end is no mean feat.
For some background, Fallout 4 is an action role-playing video game that places you in the midst of a post-apocalyptic Massachusetts, two centuries after the Earth was engulfed by nuclear warfare. Without giving too much away, the main story is based around the abduction of your child, and your relentless quest to get him back. But in between that, there are hours and hours and hours of side missions that involve, among other things helping out other characters, building new settlements and fighting mutated insects.
It has me hooked in, it really does. I don’t usually tend to become this addicted to something.
It had me thinking; How can we incorporate this into our courses? Then it clicked.
One of my favourite features of the game is the branching conversations that can be had with virtually any character in the game. Your responses in conversations that you have with other characters, by and large, influences the story dramatically. You don’t need mash the A button (or X button, for you PlayStation folk) whenever there is dialogue to continue playing, because in these conversations, you are playing. Various responses can impress, or alternatively disappoint, companions you travel with. Your responses can win you friends, make you enemies, bargain down the price of ammunition and start civil wars. It is an incredibly complex system of branching conversations that includes over 111,000(!!!) lines of different recorded dialogue. For someone who considers themselves as quite a mild gamer, this number is absolutely staggering.
The writing and recording of this dialogue was completed over a number of years and accumulated into making one of the most engaging role-playing video games ever made (of course, this is up for debate).
Another cool feature of this format was that the user doesn’t need to scroll through different options, instead, all options were presented at once and had a different button assigned to them. We mocked up a few ideas of how this would look with the W, A, S and D keys, as well as the arrow keys. We even tried numbers and a different format entirely. It proved to be some handy inspiration for how the final course turned out to be, even though we utilised the mouse function and did away with pressing keys entirely.
By using an interactive and engaging way for learners to communicate with virtual colleagues, we had the opportunity to turn a standard compliance course into something much more engaging. This type of interaction really played into a Harassment and Discrimination course. Because the key theme in that particular course was the impact on the victim, we were able to make the victim (in this case, the virtual colleagues) react to the learner’s choices and emphasise how harassment can be interpreted by different people.
Each time the learner is confronted by a colleague, the user can select one of four responses. Each response influences what the character says, what they feel and what they do next.
The user is in full control of the way the scenario progresses.
Our course didn’t come close to having 111,000 different pieces of dialogue. But for a ten minute compliance course, we were able to create engaging, interactive scenarios that are fully dictated by the learner’s choices. Across four scenarios, we have five characters, 32 possible character responses and nearly 50 possible user responses.
While Pure Learning won’t be making any post-apocalyptic survival eLearning any time (although if the L&D team at Vault-Tec are reading this and are interested in some eLearning, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org) there are certainly many features from different games that can be used to incredible effect. We can use the best bits to create engaging and informative training.
Branching conversations are a fantastic way to give learners feedback; firstly through dialogue to carry ideas across, but also through the way the character acts to your responses. Whether a character is impressed or saddened by your answer, it is a brilliant way to give an indication to the learner about the consequences of their actions.
But for me, now it is back to the nuclear wasteland; dodging mirelurks and making characters fall in love with me.
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