BYRON REVIEW: The recommendations for developers

BYRON REVIEW: The recommendations for developers
Michael French

By Michael French

March 27th 2008 at 12:44PM

Result of UK Government study requests 'more dialogue between games developers, educational resource developers and educators'

Earlier today, the UK Government-commissioned Byron Review was published amid a media frenzy talking of a new rating system for games (as previously reported here) and possible 'health warnings' to go on retail boxes.

The report was commissioned by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to investigate the risks posed to children by adult content online and in video games.

The top-line result of Byron's review is that the UK industry better regulate its games with a new rating systems and increased remit of the legally-enforcable British Board of Film Classification

However the author of the report, Dr Tanya Byron, has plenty of recommendations for games developers as well as publishers, retailers, consumers and parents - pointing towards increased involvement in the new proposed ratings systems and increasing the educational value of games as ways studios can positively contribute to raising awareness of content in the games industry.

In the report, available to read in full here, Byron outlines a number of factors that are holding back the education value of games, including: little in-depth analysis of the impact of games on learning, and lack of proven evidence; no materials advising teachers about gaming; resistance from "established institutions to be involved with ‘games’" and 'difficulties in some school stakeholders accepting potential or actual educational benefits of computer games'; and a "lack of financial incentives for industry to develop bespoke software for a specific educational audience which may have no mass market appeal".

"To help overcome these issues, more dialogue between games developers, educational resource developers and educators is needed," says Byron. "This would help identify more benefits and opportunities. Despite the disparity in developmental costs, bespoke educational games could have a longevity that commercial games may not. In addition, there could potentially be considerable benefits from using online games in distance learning."

Byron also says that "consideration should be given to the development of an independent accreditation scheme for game-based learning software".

She adds: "Consideration of games-based learning resources needs to be part of a broader approach to the development and evaluation of digital learning resources. This would ensure consistency in addressing agreed educational outcomes (e.g. numeracy, literacy, and problem solving skills) aligned with Government objectives. This would also enable practitioners to make informed choices about using games in the classroom, and help parents choose games for their children based on positive learning outcomes as well as classification. Evaluation or guidance frameworks may also help games developers who are interested in educational opportunities identify ways in which games may be designed to support learning."

Elsewhere, Byron adds that developer involvement in the rating process is crucial in "getting the balance right between self-assessment on the part of developers and independent scrutiny".

In-depth reporting on the Byron Report and how it impacts the publishing and retail trade can be found at our sister site MCVUK.com.