Planet Mechanic – Game Evaluation

Game Evaluation Report

Introduction

Games have gradually moved into classrooms of all levels over the past few decades and are gaining acceptance in situations as vastly different as early childhood settings, universities and workplace learning environments.  This article will explain why games belong in the classroom and evaluate a serious game, Planet Mechanic, as evidence of this value.

Before discussing the benefits of games in education, and evaluating their worth, the concept of what a game is must first be defined.  McGonigal (2012) defines a game according to four key traits; a goal, rules, a feedback system and voluntary participation. This definition is useful, and can be applied to nearly all games, as diverse as billiards and bridge.  Serious games, otherwise known as games for learning or educational games, are games that have been designed with a specific audience and specific learning outcomes in mind (Rodríguez-Aflecht, Hannula-Sormunen, McMullen, Jaakkola, & Lehtinen, 2017).  

Voluntary participation is a difficult concept in educational settings, however recent research shows that the voluntary participation aspect has little impact on learning (Rodríguez-Aflecht, et al., 2017).  Therefore, for the purposes of this evaluation, the voluntary participation aspect of games will be eliminated, which leaves the operational definition of a game, for this paper, to be an activity that contains a goal, rules and a feedback system.  

Game Based Learning

Raph Koster (2013) says that all games require learning and, in fact, the fun is in the learning and therefore games being brought into the educational environment should not be surprising.  Koster says that players play the game to learn how to play the game better, and when the learning stops, the enjoyment stops. In fact, research has shown that playing a game and failing is actually just as enjoyable as winning the game, possibly even more so (McGonigal, 2012).  

Game Based Learning (GBL) should not supplant traditional teaching methods, but rather support them as a valuable way to teach and reinforce learning (Koster, 2013) and GBL has many benefits for students.  GBL improves knowledge acquisition for students (Perrotta, Featherstone, Aston, & Houghton, 2013),  improves problem-solving skills in both global and topic-specific senses (Tsekleves, Cosmas, & Aggoun, 2016) and aids in memory retention and retrieval (Jean, 2019). Some studies have shown that GBL increases learner motivation (Woo, 2014; Pereira de Aguiar, Winn, Cezarotto, Battaiola, & Varella Gomes, 2018), although this claim has been disputed (Rodríguez-Aflecht, et al., 2017). Students playing games based on subject content are able to see the concepts with fresh eyes (Johnson, Adams, Cummins, Estrada, Freeman, & Ludgate, 2012).  Additionally, GBL that requires students to work in teams fosters the Twenty-First Century skills of teamwork and communication (Boikou, 2019).  Game Based Learning is undoubtedly beneficial for students.

Serious Game Design Assessment Framework

The Serious Game Design Assessment Framework (SGDA Framework) was developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab to fill a perceived gap in the market of evaluative methods used when assessing the worth of serious games (Mitgutsch & Alvarado, 2012).  They reviewed the few existing models of evaluation and found them lacking due to either a narrow focus on the design aspect of the game, or the absence of evaluation regarding the game’s purpose and whether it is achieved.  Subsequently the SGDA Framework was developed, which assesses a game on seven aspects: purpose, content, fiction and narrative, mechanics, aesthetics and graphics, framing and the game system.  

Game Evaluation

Planet Mechanic

Planet Mechanic (Filament Games, 2015) is an educational game designed to teach students in middle school about earth and space sciences.  It contains fifteen levels of increasing difficulty, and takes about 30 mins to play, with the potential to extend, as the final level is free play.  It is available on iOS and Android tablets as a standalone game and is available on iOS and Android tablets and web browsers in the education edition (Filament Games, n.d.) and therefore should be accessible to all schools, although the $2.99USD per student fee may put this app out of budgetary reach for some schools. These factors are important as technological requirements and finances are significant obstacles to teachers implementing game based learning (Katmada, Mavridis, & Tsiatsos, 2013).

For this evaluation, the standalone edition for iOS was tested on an iPad running iOS 12.1.1. 

Purpose

Planet Mechanic is a goal oriented game (Hickey, North & Nagy, 2019) that aims to teach students about earth and space sciences, specifically how a planet’s lunar cycles, atmosphere, revolutions, tilt and rotation impact temperature, time and seasons (Filament Learning, 2015).  It aligns with the Australian Curriculum Year Seven Science program in the area of Earth and Space Sciences and Science Inquiry Skills (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2018).  The gameplay involves the student as the planet mechanic with a control panel to adjust the settings of the planet on the screen, with a non-playing character (NPC) of an alien who makes requests on adjustments required to the planet in question.  Clear learning outcomes, like the ones Planet Mechanic targets, are an important factor in ensuring the game meets its learning objectives (Doney, 2019), and a logical integration of the content into the gameplay makes the GBL meaningful (Perrotta, Featherstone, Aston, & Houghton, 2013). 

The first level involves a planet with no moon, and the alien requesting that the planet be given tides so that a chocolate-bearing shipwreck may be retrieved. The solution is to give the planet a moon, reinforcing the learning that the moon controls the earths tides.  Subsequent levels involve making the year shorter so that birthdays will happen more frequently, or creating a planet with specific climactic conditions.

Content and Information

The content and information aspect involves all in-game text, and data that appears on the screen (Mitgutsch & Alvarado, 2012). Planet Mechanic provides data on the alien’s latest requirements, and includes a heads up display (HUD) with the current settings of the planet and the impact those settings has on the climate (in displays for temperature, seasons, the length of days and years and so on, labelled “planetary details”). In addition, it provides factual information throughout the course of the game as to the “settings” that would apply to Earth.  (Pereira de Aguiar, Winn, Cezarotto, Battaiola, & Varella Gomes, 2018). 

The information on screen is easy to understand, factual and relevant to the task at hand, while providing information ‘just in time’, which helps students to understand and apply the new information well (Gee, 2005).  It also provides a voice over (which can be switched off) that would enable students with poorer literacy to still participate in this GBL experience.  The information could be improved, however, by including factual information about other planets in our solar system, and how their “settings” impact their climate.  That said, it teaches everything it can before the player has a chance to be bored and stop playing and so is a good game, as defined by Koster (2013). 

Game Mechanics

 

Game mechanics are the actions a player takes to have an impact on the game environment and, as such, are described using verbs (Sicart, 2008).  It can also refer to the challenges faced, and the win state of the game (Pereira de Aguiar, Winn, Cezarotto, Battaiola, & Varella Gomes, 2018).

The game mechanics in Planet Mechanic are simple, most actions are completed by making adjustments to planet settings, via either a slider or an on-off switch and then submitting your planet for assessment.  The other action taken is positioning the moon in the correct place to cause an eclipse. 

The complexity of the game comes from the sometimes unexpected impact the changing settings have on the “planetary details”, enabling students to understand how these factors interact.  

Fiction and Narrative

 

The story in Planet Mechanic is a short and simple linear narrative (Pereira de Aguiar, et al., 2018), but engaging enough to give the tasks meaning.  A fantasy setting, such as Planet Mechanic’s space theme, can create deeper learning engagement and player immersion in the game experience (Doney, 2019).  While the narrative is relatively shallow, it is sufficient for this game that could be completed in one or two lessons, as a more engaging narrative would take more time to develop.  A longer game may then consume too much classroom time, and may not be seen as a suitable investment of time for teaching to a relatively small number of science outcomes.

Aesthetics and Graphics

Planet Mechanic has two dimensional cartoon-like graphics, with a simple graphical representation of a planet orbiting a sun, surrounded by sliders and the “planetary details” HUD. The cartoon-like images allow students to more easily put themselves in the shoes of the Planet Mechanic and suspend disbelief, something that would be hindered with more realistic graphics (McCloud, 1994).  The simpler images also allow students to focus on the content and learning as complex animations can increase cognitive load (Woo, 2014). The music, an ambient track that evokes a sense of vast empty spaces, complements the theme of the game without being distracting

(Pereira de Aguiar, Winn, Cezarotto, Battaiola, & Varella Gomes, 2018).

Framing

Framing refers to the way that the game has been designed for a particular target group, in this case students in year 7, and whether the game and the play literacy required, are suitable for this type of student (Mitgutsch & Alvarado, 2012).  The game is well designed for 11-13 year olds (although early levels could be played by younger players) and the learning curve for learning to play is minimal, as students do not require any prior experience with video games to quickly learn this game.

The framing aspect also includes whether the game is responsive to the players by increasing the difficulty as the game progresses, as this progression in difficulty enhances learner engagement (Djelil, et al. 2014). The game begins with the aforementioned tide challenge (see the section on Purpose), which can be completed in under a minute, but gets progressively more difficult over the fourteen key game levels. 

 

In the instance of an incorrect response the game replies “this planet is broken” and the player is prompted to try again.  This repeated predictable fail outcome does not meet the criteria for a good learning game, which requires a variable feedback system and a cost for failure (Koster, 2013).  Fail states that are relevant but less predictable and boring enhance enjoyment of the game and encourage players to persevere even when they are struggling (McGonigal, 2012).

Each of these incorrect responses is counted and is viewable to the teacher (in the education edition) (Filament Learning, n.d.), and by the player themselves at the end of the game, but does not have an impact on gameplay.  Failure to complete a level does not preclude a student from completing subsequent levels, although a player must return to the home screen to select a different level if they are not progressing through the levels sequentially.  

After completion of each level, there is a multiple choice question generally relating to the changes made in that level to ascertain that the student understands what changes were necessary and why, rather than simply clicking everything until something worked.  This second possible fail state encourages students to grasp the underlying knowledge rather than simply guess, and their results of these challenge questions are recorded. 

Due to the format requiring a single correct answer, this game does not easily lend itself to replayability, although the free play level included at the end of the game allows room for experimentation and perhaps teacher- or student-set challenges for the class.

One way the framing in Planet Mechanic could be improved is by allowing teachers to customise the game for the benefit of their specific cohort of students, to better suit their prior learning and needs (Ak, 2012). Adding further advanced levels, including those with multiple solutions, would improve the learning benefits by helping students to feel like they have agency and their choices make a difference to the gameplay (Gee, 2005).  

Coherence and cohesiveness

This aspect the evaluation examines how well the previous elements of the game work together to achieve the purpose of the game (Mitgutsch & Alvarado, 2012).  Planet Mechanic is fairly simple in gameplay but it effectively demonstrates the principle of the Goldilocks Zone (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, n.d.) by allowing students to make adjustments to the planet that ultimately affect its liveability. The game is developed from a constructivism learning theory foundation (Pereira de Aguiar, et al., 2018) which allows students to experiment in a safe space to build their own learning. It shows the interconnectedness of planetary systems which teaches students the complex notion of systems thinking, the understanding that small actions in one area can have broad implications across multiple other areas (Molderez, & Ceulemans, 2018).

Overall Evaluation

Overall, Planet Mechanic is sufficiently engaging and detailed for a game played across one to two classroom lessons.  It quickly teaches students about the climactic impact that atmosphere, tilt, rotation, revolution and lunar cycles have on planets in a way that encourages systems thinking. It also has a minimal learning curve for teacher and student alike, allowing reluctant teachers to investigate Game Based Learning on a small scale. Improvements could be made in allowing further teacher customisation and having advanced levels with more variables and multiple solutions that would help students to feel they were active agents in the game.  Additional work on the fail state of the game being less predictable (such as the planet wobbling off its axis, or the alien being upset that the snow has melted) would increase enjoyment and consequences for failing would encourage students to work hard to produce the right answer.

Conclusion

Game based learning is a valuable teaching method and should be incorporated into classrooms, bringing student benefits in not only content learning but transferrable skills such as systems thinking and team work.  Planet Mechanic represents a low-investment game that allows teachers to experiment with incorporating game based learning into their classrooms. References

Ak, O. (2012). A game scale to evaluate educational computer games. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 46, 2477-2481.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (2018) Australian Curriculum: Science. Version 8.4. Retrieved from https://australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/science/

Boikou, Α.G. (2019). Game based learning’s impact in learning achievement: a systematic review. Retrieved from https://dspace.lib.uom.gr/bitstream/2159/22815/4/BoikouAndromachiMsc2019.pdf

Djelil, F., Sanchez, E., Albouy-Kissi, B., Lavest, J., & Albouy-Kissi, A. (2014). Towards a learning game evaluation methodology in a training context: A literature review. Reading: Academic Conferences International Limited. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/1674246431?accountid=10344

Doney, I. (2019). Research into effective gamification features to inform e-learning design. Research in Learning Technology, 27.

Gee, J. P. (2005). Learning by design: Good video games as learning machines. E-learning and Digital Media, 2(1), 5-16.

Hickey, S., North, C & Nagy, G. (2019) Games and Learner Engagement: Gamification, eLearning, and Virtual Reality. Participant Resources (AECT) [pdf file] Games and Learner Engagement webinar series, AECT Learner Engagement Division. Retrieved from https://osu.app.box.com/s/pf64cn3mmxal01tukw3fhx3g0pcxlvv7/file/430086752454

Jean, P. H. (2019). Brain-based and learning theories: Application of theories in the classroom. European Journal of Education Studies. 5(12). Retrieved from https://oapub.org/edu/index.php/ejes/index

Johnson, L., Adams, S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., & Ludgate, H. (2012). The NMC horizon report: 2012 K-12. The New Media Consortium, Austin, Texas. Retrieved from https://www.nmc.org/publication/nmccosn-horizon-report-2017-k-12-edition/

Katmada, A., Mavridis, A., & Tsiatsos, T. (2013). Game based learning in mathematics: Teachers’ support by a flexible tool. Reading: Academic Conferences International Limited. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/1549957118?accountid=10344

Koster, R. (2013). Theory of fun for game design. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

McCloud, S. (1994) Understanding comics: The invisible art. New York: Harper Perennial.

McGonigal, J. (2012). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. Vintage: London.

Mitgutsch, K., & Alvarado, N. (2012, May). Purposeful by design?: a serious game design assessment framework. In Proceedings of the International Conference on the foundations of digital games (pp. 121-128). ACM.

Molderez, I., & Ceulemans, K. (2018). The power of art to foster systems thinking, one of the key competencies of education for sustainable development. Journal of Cleaner Production, 186, 758-770.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (n.d.) The Goldilocks Zone. Retrieved from https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/resources/323/goldilocks-zone/

Pereira de Aguiar M., Winn B., Cezarotto M., Battaiola A.L., Varella Gomes P. (2018) Educational Digital Games: A Theoretical Framework About Design Models, Learning Theories and User Experience. In: Marcus A., Wang W. (eds) Design, User Experience, and Usability: Theory and Practice. DUXU 2018. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 10918. Springer, Cham

Perrotta, C., Featherstone, G., Aston, H., & Houghton, E. (2013). Game-based learning: Latest evidence and future directions. Slough: NFER. Retrieved from https://www.nfer.ac.uk/nfer/publications/GAME01/GAME01.pdf

Rodríguez-Aflecht, G., Hannula-Sormunen, M., McMullen, J., Jaakkola, T., & Lehtinen, E. (2017). Voluntary vs Compulsory Playing Contexts: Motivational, Cognitive, and Game Experience Effects. Simulation & Gaming, 48(1), 36–55. https://doi.org/10.1177/1046878116673679

Sicart, M. (2008). Defining game mechanics. Game Studies, 8(2). Retrieved from http://gamestudies.org/

Tsekleves, E., Cosmas, J., & Aggoun, A. (2016). Benefits, barriers and guideline recommendations for the implementation of serious games in education for stakeholders and policymakers. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(1), 164-183.

Woo, J. C. (2014). Digital game-based learning supports student motivation, cognitive success, and performance outcomes. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 17(3), 291-307.

INF541: Module 5

5.1 Teaching and Learning Inside Games

What do you think to O’Brien’s attempt to align genre’s of educational games with Gagne, Bloom and Jonassen’s theories and models? How useful do these appear in attempting to evaluate games and game-like approaches?

I think the alignment of games with educational theories is helpful, to a point, but I fear it puts games into “boxes” too easily.  I also question the usefulness of holding up RPGs as the best example of high level thinking, problem solving etc because the time investment made into an RPG for it to have those impacts is quite large and not suitable for time-pressed classrooms.

How do these children see Minecraft? Do they see it as playing to win or something else?

Minecraft is about creation, building and experimentation.  It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about the experience.

This video and its creator are part of the the popular culture emerging from games, drawing heavily upon game-culture and presentation styles. Consider the presentation and audience for this ‘game’ and their media habits.

  • What audience is the host aiming to attract?
  • What is the assumed knowledge needed to follow the presenters narrative?
  • How niche is this audience and what tacit knowledge is shared among the viewers?

I don’t have to watch this video to tell you about it – I am well acquainted with StampyLonghead (and DanTDM amongst others).  My kids love to watch Stampy videos.  Stampy is generally out to attract children and young adults to watch him (and his friends) play Minecraft. Stampy assumes that the viewers are familiar with Minecraft, Super Mario and Hunger Games and the jargon associated with them.  I don’t feel like it’s a niche audience because I know so many people whose children watch his videos but, who knows?  There is also some serious remediation going on here, with the game Minecraft being used to tell the story The Hunger Games, in a Super Mario themed environment.

5.2 Teaching and Learning With Games

Who is the audience for this video. What is the pedagogical approach being used?

The audience for the video is educators and parents, to convince them to use the program for students in years 3 and 4.  It uses the pedagogical approach of self directed learning and exploration through play.

Although digital games may be capable of providing activities which are intrinsically motivating in their own right, it is critical to consider the effect of adding learning content to an intrinsically motivating game. Game designers have come to recognize the role of learning in good game design. This is not about commercial games containing educational content, but how the enjoyment of games derives from the process of learning itself.

It seems that adding educational content to an existing OTS game, can create confusion, a lack of flow, and a disconnection between the learning activity and the gameplay.

5.3 Virtual worlds and simulations

These are three videos, taken over a 5 year period which advocate, illustrate and attempt to embody the potential of virtual worlds (and games) for learning. What changes do you think have occurred in the last five years, how relevant are these videos to your context today?

To be honest, if the EPIC video was last, it seems really lame.  Is it that different to have training but give you badges and call them quests?  It looks like gamification to me rather than true game based learning, but it’s hard to tell from the promo video. To be honest, I still can’t see how World of Warcraft is a good use of classroom time 🤷🏻‍♀️

5.4 Pedagogical methods and approaches to game-based learning

In this module we have engaged with pedagogical affordances of digital games, building on what you have been learning in Modules so far.  As you bring this information together in your preparations for your project, highlight questions, considerations, or emergent ideas that have inspired your work and thinking so far?

I don’t know if I am missing something (I think I need to review 5.1 again as there has been a long break between starting this module and finishing it) but I don’t feel like this module has delved any deeper… maybe that’s also due to my own reading and learning while studying this course?

Reality Is Broken and Masters of Doom

Reality is Broken

So, I bought Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. She has a PhD, created the game “SuperBetter” (which is gamification of taking steps to be healthy) and speaks a lot on how games can transform society.

Reality is Broken cover

Chapter One

In the opening chapter of the book she tackles the question of “what is a game?” and suggests four defining traits of a game.  All games have: “a goal, rules, a feedback system and voluntary participation”. (p 21) I like this simple definition and I might use it in my assignment.

Chapter Two

McGonigal quoting Csíkszentmihályi “Alienated children in the suburbs and bored housewives in the home need to experience flow”.  Can I say as a housewife (who admittedly is now working casually and studying) I was and still am in the uni breaks at times, incredibly bored.  The mental stimulation that uni and work give me were so absent from my life for so long.  I didn’t escape into games, though, I escaped into forums and then later social media.

Chapter Three

This chapter made me think about how I make busy-work more enjoyable.  Usually this is by listening to music, a podcast or audiobook and/or setting a timer and just getting done what I can in that time before having a break (similar to the pomodoro method). It also got me thinking about how I can make those tasks, and other tasks, more gamified and enjoyable.  I’m wondering about timing myself and then trying to beat that time in the future.  Or using a countdown timer and seeing how many plates I can thoroughly wash in 1 minute… or whatever.  Or give myself XP and level up? I’ve done something like that before when I was building up fitness many years ago.

Beyond

After chapter three I started reading the book in places-other-than-home and so I didn’t have my computer readily accessible to take short notes on each chapter.

In short, the book outlines how games can change people’s lives and the world.  The book is a little old now and given that technology moves so quickly, a little out of date.  The website for the book doesn’t even exist anymore so I can’t see if there are any updates or new initiatives.  That was the hardest thing, reading about great stuff that’s happened in the past and no way to get involved with it now, and no way to find out about new stuff coming up.

To be honest, the best part about this book (well the most helpful anyway) was Appendix 2, Practical Advice for Gamers.  It hones into how to use your gaming to make your life better, and is also evidence of why McGonigal’s dreams are a little optimistic.  To make the most of your gaming, you should play games for 7-21 hours a week (28 hours in situations that are extremely stressful), you should play with friends and family you see IRL, you should play face to face when possible, cooperatively when possible and play as many creative games as you can.  Most gamers I know don’t play with other real people they can see and touch, they play online or solo on computers/consoles.  Tabletop games would do a better job of most, if not all, of those criteria.  Not all of McGonigal’s games are electronic but they all have a part that is based in a digital game, even if the actions happen in real life.

Masters of Doom

Masters of Doom - Audible

Masters of Doom (Kushner, 2012) chronicles the backstory of the people and company behind the 1990s groundbreaking first person shooter, Doom.  I have it in audiobook format, read by Will Wheaton.  I thoroughly recommend it for anyone 35 to 50 who would likely remember these games, and remember the era in which they were made.  It’s fascinating and a bit of a trip down memory lane.  I was born too late to be around for the arcade game craze, but the game consoles at home and PC gaming I well remember.  The ID software games have been rereleased on Steam (but unfortunately only for Windows, so I can’t buy them). While I don’t think it’s directly helpful to my game based learning studies, it is interesting and relevant.

References

Kushner, D. (2012) Masters of Doom: How two guys created an empire and transformed pop culture. [audiobook]. Novel Audio.

McGonigal, J. (2011) Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. London: Penguin Random House.

INF541, Assessment 3: Game Proposal

A scratchy map of my escape roomOverview and Rationale

My game will be a digital escape room for students in stage 4 history, focusing on identifying bias and perspective in historical documents and distinguishing between primary and secondary source documents.  This will cover the history skills outcomes ACSSH207, ACSSH208, ACSSH209, ACSSH210, ACSSH211, ACSSH212, ACSSH214 in the year seven curriculum (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2018a) and the equivalent, identically expressed history skills outcomes in the year eight history curriculum.  It also touches on the ICT Capability where students learn to critically analyse the information they find (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2018b). With the recent phenomenon of fake news, information literacy and digital literacy are even more important than ever, but recent research suggests that students do not know how to critically evaluate information they read (Breakstone, McGrew, Smith, Ortega & Wineburg, 2018). Presenting this learning in a game format, increases learner engagement (Hickey, North, & Nagy, 2019) and enables players to enter a flow state, as described by Csíkszentmihályi (1975, cited in McGonigal, 2012) giving the learner a sense of accomplishment and higher functioning.  The game will be played in small groups of 2-6 players, depending on the computer capabilities of the school and classroom, although it is ideally suited to groups of 3-4 players. 

Tool

The primary tool used will be Google Sites, along with a guide to creating a digital escape room (Crouch, 2018). Other resources utilised will be Trove, local history collection at Penrith City Library and possibly other online tools, although the students will only need to access the Google Site.

Reward System

As it is built on an escape room model, the reward system is based on beating the clock, with as much time left as possible.  As such, the reward is a natural part of the game play (McGonigal, 2012).  Students are encouraged to experiment and fail in a safe environment, and no penalties are given for making mistakes which Karl Kapp says is important for learning (Learning News, 2019).

Scaffolding

Scaffolding is used in learning environments to stretch students beyond their current capabilities into the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978). The game will include hard scaffolding, that is preplanned scaffolding, in the form of hints available to students, and will also include soft scaffolding with peers in the team and the teacher available to provide assistance (Donglinger & McCloud, 2015).

Scenario

The basic scenario is that the player is working in a local history museum when a box of artefacts is dropped off an hour from closing, right before the Christmas break.  There is a mystery involved, regarding finding the owner and next of kin of war medals, and the hour before closing provides a sense of urgency.  While there is some linearity to the game play, as some tasks will depend on other tasks to be completed first, there is a sense of agency as the players have options as to which items they examine in what order.  I aim to have an optional side quest also.  The students will examine some genuine primary source documents (from Trove), some documents prepared for the purposes of the game, and some websites (most likely situated with the game environment – so pretend websites within the game website).

Evaluation

Successfully escaping the digital escape room within the timeframe will be seen as evidence of understanding these concepts.  The escape room environment is formative assessment, as feedback is given throughout the game (Harrison & Black, 2015).

Collaboration

I asked for feedback from my husband (a web designer), a fellow student not taking INF541, on the subject forums and on Twitter.

References

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (2018a) Australian Curriculum: History. Version 8.4. Retrieved from https://australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/history/ 

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (2018b) Australian Curriculum: Information and Communication Technology. Version 8.4. Retrieved from https://australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/general-capabilities/information-and-communication-technology-ict-capability/

Breakstone, J., McGrew, S., Smith, M., Ortega, T., & Wineburg, S. (2018) Why we need a new approach to teaching digital literacy. Phi Delta Kappan.Retrieved from: http://www.kappanonline.org/breakstone-need-new-approach-teaching-digital-literacy/

Crouch, K. (2018) Creating a digital escape room manual. [pdf file] Retrieved from https://englishohmy.com/product/escape-room-manual-learn-how-to-create-your-own-digital-escape-room/

Dondlinger, M. J., & McLeod, J. K. (2015). Solving Real World Problems With Alternate Reality Gaming: Student Experiences in the Global Village Playground Capstone Course Design. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 9(2), 12–35. https://doi-org.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/10.7771/1541-5015.1488

Harrison, C., Black, P. (Academic). (2015). Formative assessment(Secondary assessment) [Streaming video]. Retrieved from SAGE Video.

Hickey, S., North, C & Nagy, G. (2019) Games and Learner Engagement: Gamification, eLearning, and Virtual Reality. Participant Resources (AECT)[pdf file] Games and Learner Engagement webinar series, AECT Learner Engagement Division. Retrieved from https://osu.app.box.com/s/pf64cn3mmxal01tukw3fhx3g0pcxlvv7/file/430086752454

Learning News (2019, April) ‘Stop thinking like an instructional designer – start thinking like a game designer’ – Karl Kapp, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, explains how learning can benefit from the techniques used in game design in an in-depth interview with Learning News at LT19uk. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6522506428660408320/

McGonigal, J. (2012). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. Vintage: London.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). The role of play in development. Mind in society (pp. 92–104). Harvard: Harvard University Press.

INF541: Module 4 Information behaviour and knowledge construction in game environments

Introduction

Argh, personal bugbear – why do we flick through the slides of a presentation?  They lack appropriate context (the presentation) and it’s generally a waste of time.

4.1 Information behaviour

So, our first reading is an advertising brochure for an Elsevier product… yes it was informative in the first half or so but I have ethical concerns about Elsevier…

I’m really tired today and there are so many long readings about information behaviours… and I can’t help but feeling they are not all that relevant. I don’t know.  Maybe it’s just me.

4.2 Games as information systems

If an information system can employ a gameful design, what conditions or situations might benefit from such an approach? Which dimensions appear more challenging for educators wishing to create gameful information systems?

I think a big challenge is making the gaming meaningful to the learning.  And then there’s the time factor in actually creating the Gameful learning environment.  You also want the game play to be engaging and interesting but not have the game play be more important than the learning.

Honestly, between Reality is Broken (which I’m still reading) and the module content I’m considering trying out World of Warcraft… But I’m not so good with games in first person perspective as they give me a sort of travel sickness that can lead to migraines. From my reading of Reality is Broken I’ve opened up a new Chore Wars account to use in the holidays – we often have a points system for bonus work done in the holidays, we are just gamifying it a bit more.

4.3 Constructing Knowledge

It’s a new day! I’m hoping my brain stays focused better today.

We start off with talk of games in libraries and this immediately came to mind – yesterday my local library posted that they have Dungeons and Dragons sets to borrow for use within the library.  They also have Chess sets available for in-library use also.

What aspects of this game are appropriate to your context? How dependent on the R&D team was the project? How difficult would this be to achieve in your situation and why?

As a casual early-childhood/primary school teacher, this tertiary level information literacy game is not relevant to my context.  The game was quite flawed in its first iteration and without the cash incentives from the R&D team, and their agility in responding to feedback and criticism, this game would be a failure.  I don’t have a “situation” that is consistent, where I see the same students with any sort of regularity, or know ahead of time what sort of tech I have access to, so this is not possible to achieve in my situation.

I tried to have a look and try out BiblioBouts myself, but the website no longer exists.

When considering prior learning experiences or preferences towards learning, what taxonomies from gaming would help shape the design of learning? What conditions would require these taxonomies to be revised?

When thinking about the Westwood reading, it implies that not every style of game will appeal to every gamer and that while competition is important to some people, it’s unimportant to others.  Some value the social aspect while to some it’s unimportant. And some value the game play more than visuals and the like whereas other players dislike a game without high quality graphics.  How do we factor this into the educational environment?  I think its important to have a variety of games used across the year, in different styles (some competitive, some cooperative), and also games where competition/leaderboards exist but aren’t essential for game play.

Digital Identity

Super Librarian Avatar made in Lego Life

While the module content focuses on our digital identity as avatars in games, it got me thinking about our digital identity more broadly.  The above Super Librarian “Avatar” was created in the Lego Life app, where there are a lot of variables, although you are confined to creating a Lego person.  Below is my avatar from Chore Wars, where there is a limited selection of about 40 avatars to choose from.Chore Wars AvatarOther than that, I don’t really play games that require avatars.  My “Mii” on the Wii U is just a random one my kids created.  If I dug out Guitar Hero I would have an avatar there…

But it got me thinking about how we present ourselves to the world digitally.  My profile pictures on social media platforms are of myself, and I don’t use filters to touch myself up or anything.

To be a gamer was to signal a great many things, not all of which are about the actual playing of videogames. – Dan Golding

The whole gamergate saga was rebooted with the new Star Wars franchise featuring a female Jedi.  The actress was driven off Twitter and other social media platforms due to the harassment she received from the Star Wars “fandom” who couldn’t cope with their beloved Empire being taken in a different direction.  Mostly, it’s just Toxic Masculinity rearing its head.  Again.

How might controversies around gamers impact self-identity in the workplace or classroom. For example: Is being a ‘gamer’ now seen with misogynistic overtones. Is it something you want to activate as part of your digital identity? How are you going to incorporate games into your digital identity?

I’m never going to be a “Gamer” in the traditional sense. I have a life, children, husband, responsibilities.  I cannot afford to spend hours and hours every day playing games, and neglect my responsibilities.  It’s just not doable.  Am I someone who plays games? Yes! We have an extensive collection of board games, we have a Wii-U and my husband owns a Nintendo Switch, we have iPhones, iPads and Steam on the Macs.  We play games.  But I’m not a “gamer”.

Since my primary focus is primary school, students aren’t really as impacted by stereotypes of who a gamer is and what that means, and so I don’t think it would colour their experience of games in the classroom.

In Conclusion

The question many are trying to resolve is not what games are or do, but what exactly does education want from games?

What does education want from games?  That is a really good question and I think the answer is going to vary according to circumstance, but I think education wants games to provide an engaging, safe learning environment that encourages lifelong learning.

Game Design Thoughts #1

My final assignment for INF541 involves designing and creating a game.

My plan is to create a digital escape room game for high school history students, to teach, or reinforce some of the history skills:

Identify a range of questions about the past to inform a historical inquiry (ACHHS207)

Identify and locate relevant sources, using ICT and other methods (ACHHS208)

Identify the origin and purpose of primary and secondary sources (ACHHS209)

Locate, compare, select and use information from a range of sources as evidence(ACHHS210)

Draw conclusions about the usefulness of sources (ACHHS211)

Identify and describe points of view, attitudes and values in primary and secondary sources (ACHHS212)

These particular outcomes and codes are taken from the Year 7 History curriculum, but they are virtually identical to the ones in year 8 and a lot of these skills are carried over into year nine and beyond.

My scenario is this:

You are working/volunteering in a local history museum.  It’s the last day the museum is open before closing for a few weeks over Christmas.  You are looking forward to the break, and you have less than an hour until the museum closes, and no one is here.

The door chime rings, and you see a woman walk in carrying a box about the size of a shoe box.  She says “My mum died a few weeks ago, and we found these in with her things.  I think they might be things you want to keep here.”  You take the box from her and peer inside.

In the box, there is a diary, a small album with black and white photos, letters, some loose postcards, some newspaper clippings and a small box.  Inside the box, you discover a war medal, and a little slip of paper inside the box that says “David’s medal”.   You ask her “Who is David?”. She says “I don’t really know.  We don’t have anyone in our family called David.  I think maybe she went to school with a boy named David?”

You get some contact details in case you or the curator have some questions, and she leaves.

Now you have a mystery on your hands, you want to find out who this medal belonged to and ideally find the descendants of the recipient, and you know that if you don’t solve this mystery before the museum closes for Christmas, it’s going to annoy you the whole time.

So now I have a scenario, a degree of urgency and a time frame.  This will give students 45 mins to complete the escape room and solve the mystery.

The documentation I have about digital escape rooms suggests I should have 6-8 puzzles for that sort of time frame.  An additional challenge is I would ideally like the gameplay to not be strictly linear but have some genuine options for students to choose, and possibly also some bonus side quests they can complete.  I also need to decide whether I want students to actually use research tools like local history websites, Trove, National Archives etc or if I want to just give them the documents they need, and/or make fake websites for them to search.  I’m thinking I’ll have six main puzzles the students need to solve to successfully “escape” the room and two bonus tasks that are a side quest (one side quest per puzzle? or two puzzles that complete a single side quest? What are the benefits of completing a side quest?).  Should there be options for students that are dead ends?  I have lots of things to think about and lots of planning to do.

INF541: Characteristics of Games Survey

I recently asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers to complete a 2 min survey for me, relating to my game-based learning subject.  I have some preliminary results!  I have had 20 people complete the short survey already, and I can show you graphs of the results in the first two questions (the third being a open-text box) – being what characteristics their favourite game has, and what parts of a game are most important to them.

image

Social interaction was the least popular aspect of their favourite game, as was competing against others.

Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 1.59.57 pm

The most important part of a game was the ability to manipulate and control the game, save their progress etc, whereas the least important part was the social interaction.

It seems my survey respondents like playing games alone!

INF541: Module 3 Part 1

3.1 The Characteristics of Digital Games

Based on my own limited game playing, I know that in game purchasing and in game advertising are big turn offs, and that while special events can be fun, many games seem to have some sort of limited event running constantly or near-constantly and it reduces the appeal.  I have stopped playing games over all three things.  Other games I have stopped playing were turn based, where you could take a turn every fifteen minutes (and an automatic turn taken each hour), and some aspects at the game basically required you to be active the whole time, changing settings in response to what happened each turn (including automatic ones) and being tied to my computer or phone 24/7 is not something that I want.

What is appealing to me – gameplay that is simple to learn, progress is saved regularly and it is something that I am not feeling compelled to be playing all the time.

I’ve created a survey and I’m hoping to get some of my friends/followers to respond to it. I hope to get 10-20 responses, and I’ll report back on the blog when I do.

3.2 Popular Commentary

I found the photorealism video really interesting, partly because my BIL worked on LA Noire.  The comment about true photo realism basically being a version of The Matrix really got me thinking.

The Extra Credits video on Gamifying Education got me inspired and I created a challenge amongst my fellow students to follow links from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the Magna Carta in the fewest number of jumps.  I managed to do it more easily than I anticipated.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Renaissance

Middle Ages

Magna Carta

Next we have the Game Theory video about Link and Majora’s Mask.  My husband plays Zelda games so I’ll chat with him later about the game and this theory – Update: he started playing this through an emulator many years ago but didn’t enjoy it.  He has, on the other hand, played Breath of the Wild which Snoman Gaming raved about.

Good Game Design by Snoman Gaming got me thinking about games that teach you how to play without giving you instructions. I’ve just recently started playing Limbo, which is a side-scroller game with no text, no instructions, nothing.  The gestures (on a touch screen) are fairly intuitive (although I still have trouble executing them at times).

A poster with Link and Zelda
I offer up this poster, on the back of our bedroom door, as evidence of my husband’s avid gaming.

Overall, I think that game design is really easy to get wrong, and a lot of thought and effort goes into making a good game.  And when we are thinking about the budgets talked about in the photorealism video, it’s easy to see why there aren’t a lot of really great educational games available.

 

2019 Session 1, Week 3 – Plans

So, setting out my (mostly uni related) plans for the week used to be something I did each week, and I realised last night that I haven’t been doing that.

So, obviously, it’s already Tuesday.  I worked yesterday so I didn’t get to even touch uni stuff yesterday.  This year I’ve added casual work to my very busy schedule, although I’m keeping it to no more than one day a week.  Then this morning I took myself out to see Captain Marvel, so I’ve only gotten to look at uni stuff since lunchtime today.

My goals for this week are:

  • Visit at least three blogs from my #INF541 cohort and comment on relevant posts.
  • Spend some time researching FRBR tasks and how they connect with the RDA elements
  • Begin Module 3 of #INF541 and complete 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3
  • Begin Module 4 of #ETL505 and complete 4.1 and 4.2
  • Reread Subject Outlines, especially information for Assignment 1 (ETL505) and Assessment 2 (INF541)
  • Explore some games for game based learning
  • Read at least one chapter of Reality is Broken
  • Post about my experiences with the catalogue at the State Library NSW last week
  • Have a chat with #ETL505 fellow student Marika about the coming assignment
  • Look at my upcoming ETL507 assignments and consider portfolio topics
  • Possibly post about the events in Christchurch last week and the subsequent media coverage

A koala comforts a kiwi

INF541 Assessment 1 – Blog Post

Impact of games on education and learning

There is an increasing amount of evidence showing that electronic gaming can be beneficial to students in some subject areas (Lieberoth, 2017; Smith, 2016) however, more study needs to be done in this area.  One area of study that could be explored is the optimal amount of time for a student to spend on video gaming, as excessive time spent in front of a screen can impact on sleep (Zajac, 2019) – and we know that lack of sleep is detrimental to learning.  As Wilcox (2016) points out, recreational video gaming won’t have a positive impact if gaming time is taking away from learning time.

 

Online Gaming can boost my school performance - Cathy Wilcox cartoon
(Wilcox, 2016)

Cooperative gaming (whether an electronic game or a traditional, tabletop game) builds twenty-first century skills of cooperation, communication and critical thinking as players work together and negotiate conditions and gameplay (Miller, 2012).  Furthermore, following the consequences of choices is part of systems thinking, and systems thinking in games helps students think about systems outside games (Farber, 2019a). Electronic games have research-proven benefits that tabletop or traditional games do not.  Some benefits to electronic games in the classroom include immediate feedback, the ability of games to adjust difficulty based on achievements or levelling up, no need to wait for someone to play (unlike most traditional games),  and there is not one skilled player dominating the game (Turkay, Hoffman, Kinzer, Chantes, & Vicari, 2014).

Challenges to Incorporating Gaming

While many teachers believe that the fun aspect of serious gaming enhances learning outcomes, research on the topic doesn’t support that (Iten & Petko, 2016), showing that perceived fun and engagement had minimal effect on test scores.  Incorporating electronic gaming into the classroom requires technological knowledge and a thorough grasp of the curriculum (Share, 2009) and many teachers lack that knowledge.  Share (2009) also examines how the interviewed teachers, who were part of a pilot program for incorporating media literacy across the curriculum, have decreased their teaching of media literacy after the grant for the pilot program ran out, citing lack of time and money as major factors.

Technology in its early days is notoriously unreliable.  We know that devices may no be charged, they may need updates or, for whatever reason, may not “behave” in the way we expect them to.  What if the technology doesn’t work? I’ve noted in other blog posts about my experience in an educational technology workshop where a lot of time was wasted on technology that just didn’t cooperate.  These sort of experiences make teachers reluctant to implement technology in the classroom.

My goals for this subject

I have some questions that I would like to answer for myself, over the course of the subject.  I would like to answer:

  • What if someone doesn’t want to play? Does it cease to be voluntary, and they have to “play”? Or should we provide them with an alternate activity? Thanks to June Wall (Wall, 2019) for the inspiration for this question.
  • Where is the line between games and not-games?  Jordan Shapiro, author of The New Childhood, doesn’t see Minecraft and Scratch as games but rather “digital play” (Farber, 2019b, para. 4.). Is Minecraft a game?  Is it sometimes a game and sometimes not?  Does it matter?  Can Scratch and Minecraft be a part of Game Based Learning?
  • Are games an effective use of classroom time? It takes time to learn the game, play the game often enough to learn from it and synthesise ideas to other areas – is that a time-effective way to teach? (Becker, 2011)

References

Becker, K. (2011). Distinctions between games and learning: A review of current literature on games in education. In I. Management Association (Ed.), Gaming and Simulations: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools and Applications(pp. 75-107). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-60960-195-9.ch105

Farber, M. (2019a, January 24) The benefits of constructionist gaming. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/benefits-constructionist-gaming

Farber, M (2019b, February 8) Digital play for serious learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/digital-play-serious-learning

Iten, N., & Petko, D. (2016). Learning with serious games: Is fun playing the game a predictor of learning success?. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(1), 151-163.

Lieberoth, A. (2017, October 18) Are computer games a teacher’s friend or enemy? Science Nordic. Retrieved from http://sciencenordic.com/are-computer-games-teacher’s-friend-or-enemy

Miller, A. (2012, June 25) Game based learning to teach and assess 21st century skills. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/game-learning-21st-century-skills-andrew-miller

Share, J. (2009) Voices from the trenches: Elementary school teachers speak about implementing media literacy. In Tyner, K. (Ed.). (2009). Media literacy : New agendas in communication. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Smith, B. (2016, August 8) Computer games have an edge in the classroom: Study. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/technology/computer-gamers-have-an-edge-in-the-classroom-study-20160808-gqnbhc.html

Turkay, S., Hoffman, D., Kinzer, C. K., Chantes, P., & Vicari, C. (2014). Toward Understanding the Potential of Games for Learning: Learning Theory, Game Design Characteristics, and Situating Video Games in Classrooms. Computers in the Schools, 31(1/2), 2–22. https://doi-org.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/10.1080/07380569.2014.890879

Wall, J. [junewall] (March 4, 2019) Q1. What do you do about those who don’t like games? #INF541 [Tweet] Retrieved from https://twitter.com/junewall/status/1102494568224714752

Wilcox, C. (2016, August 8). Untitled Illustration. Sydney Morning Herald.  Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/technology/computer-gamers-have-an-edge-in-the-classroom-study-20160808-gqnbhc.html

Zajac, B. (Producer) (2019, March 1)Devices and LED globes are more damaging for our sleep than we first thought (podcast). ABC Radio National. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/sleep-and-blue-light/

 

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