An interesting comment made by Dr. Rubuen Puentedura in his podcast Game and Learn was that game design principles could be transposed into a context to make an effective educational environment. One principle was well adjusted challenges. Challenges that are appropriately leveled will keep users engaged. Players learn and use new skills which will allow them to further progress into a game. This principle originates from Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development which essentially states that learning activities requires scaffolding. Activities that are too easy will bore learners and those that are too difficult will frustrate them. In a learning context it would be important to assess learner’s current understanding and skills. From there teachers can examine the end goal of a lesson or module and separate these into their constituting skills and concepts.
Puentedura said that games need various patterns to make the game less predictable and keep players engaged. The example he gave was the game Pitfall. In the game game designers used variations such as different obstacle type, size, those that were static or moving, and using a combo such as a swamp with and without crocodiles. In learning the idea of using variation is important because mastering a skill or concept requires continuous practice. Having variation will drive motivation to continue practicing. When applying this for learning new words for language acquisition, a variety of activities can be used which include activities that allow users to experience the words and design activities to make connections that are personally meaningful. Game are very good at making a repetitive task interesting.
But getting back to game, if a game gets progressively harder, the rewards should create a distinction between players. If everyone wins and gets the same points, players lose interest in the game. Game designers implement this concept by awarding more points for defeating harder bosses, bonuses for doing something special, and having different ranks to emphasize a player’s level and progression. Finally games should provide enjoyment, excitement or satisfaction. This could be from solving a challenge, achieving a final goal, breaking a new record, etc.
One game that I’ve enjoyed playing is Modern Combat 5. It’s a first person shooting game that cleverly adds interesting variations. One is that it uses the computer’s camera technology to allow players to play from different angles during missions such as traditional, close up, upside down, and in slow motion. The movement of the terrorist uses variation. Their movements are not always predictable if one replays a mission, which adds difficulty but also makes the game more interesting.
These are some other game principles which could also be applied to activities to promote learning.
Good: Variety of challenges; challenges that are sequenced from easy to hard; progressively requires more skills to be successful; Allows for planning, strategizing, decision making; Need various patterns; Variable feedback or rewards: this means skilled player should have more rewards than newbie; Cannot be a everybody can win game, Different stages, levels; interesting game layout, maze; Multiple lives; Course with Opportunities for discovery; hidden courses, surprises; Giving choices; Different kinds of enemies/challenges/problems requiring different skills and knowledge to beat; Variables or manipulating variables; Emotion: exciting, achievement.
Bad: Too difficult or too easy; unclear objective; activity seems pointless (and yes there are games like this ex. E.T.).
Game Design Notes using Sploder:
Game: Help Your Father: Likes: having different stages and variations, quest, teleport, appropriately leveled challenges, maze layout, having multiple lives. Dislikes: awkward mobility of character, sound effects.
Game: Pirate: Likes: vast game world, opportunities for discovery, variety of enemies, teleport, choices in weapons, challenging. Dislikes: plain graphics, no music, having only one life, only one stage, one of the routes is too easy to accomplish mission and doesn’t make sense without additional stages.
Game: Haskell’s Test Game: Likes: graphic design used in the playable portion of the game and the background, well-balanced color scheme, interesting sound efx, variation of music at each stage, hidden course above, appropriately challenging (not too easy or difficult), instruction integrated with play. Dislikes: having more stages would be great, no option to skip the first stage
Game: Defend the Emprium 2 Extreeme: Likes: choices of weapons and bonus weapons, choices in route, teleport, weapons refill. Dislikes: lack of health refills, lack of various kinds of enemies, no music, graphic design was plain and boring. Overall: fun game, interesting variations and add ons
Game: Sploder Physics Olympics by darkthunderhero: This would be a fun game to make. The game is simple and yet challenging and fun. It only uses four keys to move and jump. It’s challenging because the movement has to incorporate momentum to avoid deadly objects. The look is similar to Mario Brothers. These are some of the ways I would adjust this game:
- Incorporate the stationary objects only at the beginning. This would help users get a feel for the controls and momentum and could serve as the introductory level.
- Level 1 seems to go in a vertical direction and so with level 2 I would focus more on the horizontal direction.
- I would also add other shapes such as triangles and rectangles.
- I would add bonuses such immunity from damage for a certain about of time
Game: Sky High II: An action game similar to Mario Brothers but the goal is to get your character to the highest floor of the platform while fighting enemies. The most interesting thing about the game was the tension and excitement created from possibility of falling after progressing quite of bit. Tension increased the further I progressed. The negative thing about the game was it was easy and there were no additional levels. Killing the big boss took the same amount of strength and effort as killing regular enemies.
Game: Temple Quest by pixelface: Similar to Sky High II but more difficult. The first character seems like a big boss and challenging to win.
Game: Duck by tookewl: Not sure what the point of the game is. Your character is a robot with nice weapons but no enemies to destroy within a very limited game space which looks to be confined. Without a sense of purpose or meaning, I found the game frustrating.
Game: The One by obeliskos: A shooting game with a mission to destroy enemy ships and weapons. It starts out peaceful and then all of sudden you are bombarded with enemy fire. Getting past the first attack provides a brief relief because a moment a second wave of attack begins. The challenge and knowing the goal keeps the game engaging. But without additional health packs it’s very hard to get past the second wave.
Game: White by neopolitan: Game is similar to The One. I noticed had a bug which caused ship to get stuck in the border.
Game: Swine Flu Injection by drag04000: This game was in the category Hall of Fame but from what I can tell pointless. You press start and immediately it says – mission accomplished.
Game: My Intro by knee: Not really a game; seems more like a demonstration. This was a challenge (one of the features in Sploder) from another gamer.
Game: Adventures of Betty by stylishspider: Adventure game where character must reach a teleport while fighting bats and a ninja. I liked the hidden technique the game designer added into the game. The technique was to jump over a wall which was higher than the jumper’s ability. The trick was to use the sword as a pole vault.