Computer Games Praised as Adventist Church’s Next Learning Tool

Organizations such as Adventist World Radio, Loma Linda University, and the White Estate are testing the viability of games.

Computer Games Praised as Adventist Church’s Next Learning Tool

, ANN, and

Radio might sound outdated to a generation enamored with smartphones and similar gadgets, but Adventist World Radio is determined to showcase the medium’s significance through a game that can be played on such devices.

Adventist World Radio is developing a game that offers a crash course about its operations and engineering by enlisting players to send programming from the network’s mega station in Guam to countries throughout Asia.

Players must bounce radio signals off the Earth’s ionosphere to win.

"Heroes the Game" is the first and perhaps best-known Adventist game app. Photo: ANN

Sound like fun? Seventh-day Adventist technology specialists hope so.

“Our challenge as educators is to create a learning experience that is engaging, challenging and achievable,” said David P. Harris, vice president for information systems at Loma Linda University. “Games are now on the forefront of reaching people all over the world.”

Harris was speaking at the final day of the Adventist Church’s annual GAiN conference, where he and other specialists promoted the development of computer games for education and evangelism outreach.

The conference, live-steamed to 3,800 participants in more than 100 countries from the Adventist world church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, also discussed on Sunday how to operate an information technology department on a budget and the increasing popularity and uses of virtual currency such as Bitcoin.

Harris told a panel discussion that he saw a major difference between “gaming” and “gamification.”

“‘Gaming’ is when it’s designed to be fun and I try to sneak in teaching,” he said. “‘Gamfication’ is when it’s designed to teach and I try to sneak in fun.”

He said games for educational purposes must have strong elements of fun or risk being ignored.

Daryl Gungadoo, research and development engineer for Adventist World Radio, said the church could learn from game makers’ past mistakes. He noted that the popular geography game “Where in the World Is Carmen San Diego?” was purchased by an educational company that overhauled the game with more overt learning objectives. The re-launch was met with disastrous results.

“The kids smelled education a mile away and lost interest,” Gungadoo said.

He expressed hope that players would see the fun factor in the Adventist World Radio game, whose release date has not been announced.

Adventist World Radio is the official radio arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It uses AM/FM, shortwave, satellite, and web broadcasts to carry the gospel to difficult-to-reach people around the world, according to its website.

Harris said Loma Linda University recently hosted a “game-storming” session in which officials invited high school students to create games promoting healthful living. The university is also developing games for the continuing education of medical students and physicians at the university hospital.

The Ellen G. White Estate also has joined the mix, rolling out the computer game “Pitcairn” in phases in the second half of 2014 and preparing for the launch of the app on Apple IOS and Android shortly. The game teaches Pathfinders about prophecy and Adventist Church co-founder Ellen White through an interactive map, and winners qualify for a “God’s Messenger” honor badge.

Play “Pitcairn” here

The first and perhaps best-known Adventist-sponsored game is “Heroes the Game,” a time-based app that quizzes players about Bible heroes. It was released in 2013.

Gungadoo, who is involved in the development of “Heroes,” said three Adventist universities currently offer at least one class on game development: Andrews University and Southern Adventist University in the United States, and Montemorelos University in Mexico.

Videos from the GAiN conference, including a behind-the-scenes look at how it was produced, will be posted on the website