Simulation Games as a Safe Environment: What can Game Designers and Facilitators do to Guard the Psychological Security of Participants?
STUDIES IN SIMULATION AND GAMING
Simulation games are often promoted as tools that offer a safe environment for participants to experiment with new behavior or new routines. Hijmans et al. (2008) have investigated the phenomenon of safe environment and they have made the distinction between two aspects of this concept. In the first place, there is safety, referring to the systems safety: wrong choices while playing the game will not directly affect the real life situation. So participants can learn from poor decisions or
... gments, without having to bother about consequences for the actual situation. The second aspect they distinguish is the psychological safety, or security as they call this aspect. Participants have to perform in a simulation game, i.e. a situation they are unfamiliar with, and they have to learn from their performance. But there are many possible factors that may make participants feel uncomfortable in this learning situation, ranging from the time pressure in the game, the behavior of other participants. the confrontation with their own lack of competences, to (expectations of) the consequences for their performance in the real life situation. And although a certain level of unbalance or discomfort is required for an effective learning process, it becomes a problem if these feelings of discomfort or insecurity become large and dysfunctional. In this paper we will investigate a number of elements that may influence this psychological security, ranging from the game design, the game in action, to the debriefing phase. We will look at tools and mechanisms a game designer, a facilitator or a debriefer may use to handle the aspect of the psychological security of the participants.