Author:Aleckson, Jon

THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO SIMULATIONS & SERIOUS GAMES, by Clark Aldrich, Book, 2009, Pfeiffer & Company.

Rating: ****

I am a biased reviewer.

I met Clark Aldrich several years ago at the eLearning Guild's annual gathering. He graciously agreed to sit down for a recorded interview about developing educational games and simulations.


I know Clark and have flirted with working on projects with him. If you have read his blog, you, too, know him and have probably concluded he is an expert: interesting, albeit complex, "good guy." A consummate self-promoter and prolific writer, Clark has attracted a strong group of followers, while garnering guarded animosity from the academics he rarely cites in his writings.

It is this dichotomy that intrigues me personally as it hints at the question of whether one can be simultaneously a practitioner ("to be and do") and an academic ("to know"). By writing The Complete Guide to Simulations & Serious Games, Clark does indeed show his intellectual chops while keeping his eye on the target of assisting those of us in private practice who are designing and developing educational games and simulations. (For a video interview with Clark on simulations, use these links: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

The first and biggest question is: How does a busy professional trainer or HR professional tackle this epic read? How do I write a review that covers a 500+ page reference-coffee table book?

Sensing me as procrastinator, Clark shot off an email saying: "Honestly, I would read the introductions to each section and then to each chapter, read the concluding essays where they exist, and then bounce around for a while. Think of it as a simulation to engage--you don't have to experience every branch in a branching story!"

It is Clark's wit that I appreciate most about him and it often comes through in this book, ("I mean New York Times and 'serious games' should get a room" or "the spread of Starbucks on every corner equals pandemic" is quintessential Clark Aldrich.) This humor and the ample examples make the book an (almost) easier to read than one might think. So I set out to do as he commanded, speed read-scan and ultimately provide you with a quick reaction to what I consider an important book.

The book is organized into five main sections:

  1. Genres

  2. Simulation Elements--Actions and Results

  3. Simulation Elements--Systems

  4. Building Interactive Environments

  5. Formal Learning Program

I think the book...

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