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I was privileged to be invited by the annoyingly intelligent but equally evil Mark Oehlert to partake in the ‘Great ILS…that spells Serious Games challenge’ at the E-Learning Guild Annual Gathering in Orlando last week.

The session took the format of providing us (I and two other presenters) with a fictional learning scenario for which we had to conceive of a suitably clever and (hopefully) amusing Immersive Learning Simulation/game design. The underlying objective was to illustrate to the audience how one would approach the business and learning problem with a view to designing an appropriate and effective game/sim solution.

The challenge was thus…..

A large, North American corporation that you are either already employed by or hired by, wants you to develop something (we know it will be an ILS) to help them integrate two recent acquisitions, one a company in Africa and the other a company located in Korea. These two new divisions directly impact your production capability and so alignment and a shared culture between all three entities is critical. Design an ILS that will foster this shared culture and common understanding. Challenges include a mix of languages, religious backgrounds, socio-economic differences, and educational levels not to mention time zones. Oh, and the big shareholder meeting is coming up too. Go.

The solution???

Download the PowerPoint here (3.6 Mb)

The result?? A lot of fun to create and it seemed to go down well with the hundred or so conference delegates.


I See Dumb People (in the eLearning industry)

We (Richard Smith, PIXELearning’s Sales Director and I) attended the E-Learning Guild’s Annual Gathering in Orlando last week (w/c 14th April) where we exhibited and where I delivered two talks.


On the first day I took a break from the back to back conference calls and 1000’s of ‘important’ emails to find Richard being lectured to by a vendor of a very well known freeware eLearning system.


This vendor had just been shown one of our Immersive Learning sims and was now busy educating Richard on how we should rebuild it. This learned gentleman had decided that a simulation like this (aimed at older teens and new hires) was to complex and should be broken down into small ‘byte sized chunks’. He then uttered the words; “…this is modern instructional design theory”.


Apparently modern day learners are too stupid and simple-minded to grasp complex systems and concepts. Instead of trying to help people learn (for example) how business concepts such as marketing, sales, finance and operations are intricately related and affect each other in many ways (a.k.a. ‘real life’), ‘modern instructional design theory’ dictates that we should have instead….


Stripped out each screen (“like this one you have here about marketing promotions”), removed the choices, actions and consequences, added in ‘definitions of terms’, then turned it into a 2 minute ‘flash video’ and, the best bit, “bolted on a short quiz to check understanding”.


Get the frack out of here!


Is this truly “modern instructional design theory” or is, perhaps, the gentleman in question confusing modern object-orientated software engineering processes with “Gardner’s theory of multiple ways to patronise people”? OK, I made the last bit up (and apologies to Howard Gardner) but are you for real Mister?


It is attitudes like this that propelled me to abandon ‘conventional eLearning design practice’ and go off in search of something a little more engaging, rewarding and…erm….effective!  It is the same exact reason that enlightened Learning and Development professionals at organisations like KPMG, Fifth Third Bank, Global Lead, HP, Shell and Comcast have engaged PIXELearning to create complex simulations and serious games.


My message to ‘Mr Modern ID theory’; stop basing learning design decisions around ‘standards’ like SCORM (Stupidly Complex Over Reviled Monolith) and try finding out what your learning audience actually needs and actually wants!


You might be surprised.

Film DVD cover - The Number 23

“The psychological thriller “The Number 23” stars Jim Carrey as a man whose life unravels after he comes into contact with an obscure book titled The Number 23. As he reads the book, he becomes increasingly convinced that it is based on his own life. His obsession with the number 23 starts to consume him, and he begins to realize the book forecasts far graver consequences for his life than he could have ever imagined.”





OK, so I was a little unnerved when I saw the trailer for this film. It’s about a madman (well, a man who eventually finds out he is mad….and…er….a murderer) who gets totally obsessed by a number (23, obviously!). Given the title of my blog site one could easily see a close resemblance between myself and the character played by Jim Carey; tattoos, messy hair…mumbling frequently about a number pre-occupation. So I saw the film last weekend and here is my conclusion:


The number 23 (as opposed to the film entitled The Number 23) is clearly not all that important. Granted there were a few meaningful ‘23s’ in evidence but I found the majority of references more than a little tenuous and insignificant.  So 23 is not nearly as significant as 27….c’mon its obvious. Not convinced? Here’s why…..


  1. When Carey’s character (Walter Sparrow) goes to rent a room in a seedy hotel the room number that the hotelier first gives him is not 23 but…hey, you guessed it….27!
  2. When Sparrow’s wife Agatha (played by actress Virginia Madsen) attempts to convince him that his rapidly escalating numeric obsession is hokum she utters the line (or something close to it): “The number 23 is no more significant than 150…or 27”.

So, evidence indeed that Carey’s character (whilst clearly mad) is gripped by a number that has no real meaning, the film itself clearly demonstrates that I am obsessed (albeit mildly I’d argue) with a number that is, indeed, frequently and inexplicably used to indicate randomness and that I am, in fact, not mad at all………ha ha ha ha (evil laugh noises)!!!!




P.s. Some recent ’27 sightings’ not connected to silly (but well executed) filmic frivolity:


[1] Whilst on a brief sojourn to Oman I wore my ‘The Evil Number 27’ T-shirt and was asked to explain what it meant to a few of my fellow serious gamers and virtual…’worlder’ colleagues. I explained the rationale behind my thinking which was of course greeted by a mix of laughter (at me) and ‘you are a fruitloop’ style facial explanations. Literally a few minutes later the tour guide announces that the Sultanate has 27 ministers which I thought clearly proved my point. Actually the stat may not have involved ‘ministers’ but I clearly remember that it was some group of people who eat at the very top of the buffet chain.


BTW – did you know that 27% of the Oman population is expatriate??


[2] Whilst in a similar conversation with several partners on a EU-funded serious games project, one elderly partner listened with obvious amusement whilst others mocked me (in a nice way it has to be said). He opened his wallet and drew out a clearly ancient scrap of paper and then proceeded to explain.


The chap had, many years ago (in 1970, the year of my birth I believe) been to China and was given a fortune cookie style lucky dip which involved drawing a stick out of a pile of hundreds of identical-looking sticks. The stick he choose had a very positive and personally meaningful message which the chap had kept to this (that) day because of it’s significant to him. Out of the hundreds of sticks he had chosen that one and the number on the piece of paper? Number 27…..of course!


[3] “From the screenwriter of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’; “27 Dresses”…jeesh…not exactly top of my wish list but c’mon people…..27 dresses????



Serious eGames in Muscat

Phew! Having won a bundle of new projects in the last few weeks (all with end May/start June deadlines) my ‘blog time’ has been seriously limited thanks to 80+ hour weeks and an in-box that seems to be simply breeding email and mucho time in the air. If our growth is anything to go by then the Serious Games…er…Immersive Learning Simulation sector is really taking off.

I have just got back from a 3 day stint in Muscat (Oman) where I presented a session on Serious Games and Enterprise at the ‘Serious eGames’ conference at the Knowledge Oasis Muscat. If you ever get the chance to visit Oman I heavily recommend going – I was shamefully ignorant of this wonderful country’s geography, history and culture and very much hope to get a chance to return very soon. The event, although quite small, was attended by several senior figures of the Omani government and attracted a lot of press coverage.

Anyway….in the interest of reducing my stupidly long weeks we (PIXELearning) are on the look out for a Project Manager and a Technical Architect to join our team. More info is available on the seriousgames.ning portal at the following links:

Technical Architect (Serious Games) // Project Manager (Serious Games)

I’m delivering two sessions at the E-Learning Guild’s Annual Gathering in Orlando, FL (14th to 17th April) – one session is Mark Oehlerts’ “The Great ILS Challenge” where I shall be delivering a walk through of a design for a fictional corporate training session, followed by a joint session about out forthcoming sci-fi themed online simulation aimed at improving the delivery of diversity awareness and inclusion training (with Global Lead and Fifth Third Bank). I hope to see you in Orlando.

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