Archive for the 'Games' Category

Smart Games! Better Reasoning and Speed

December 6th, 2010

There’s a lot of FUD surrounding the use of games. Here’s a report of some research out of Berkeley on the effectiveness of games.

From the Bunge Lab, computer and non-computer-based game training using ‘smart’ commercially available games resulted in dramatic improvements in reasoning and processing speed scores (or both) as measured on the TONI-3 (Test of Non Verbal Intelligence) or WISC-IV Coding.

via Eide Neurolearning Blog: Smart Games! Better Reasoning and Speed – PC, Board, and Nintendo DS.

Are there any problems in the method? Any alternative conclusions?

Tip of the Chapeau to the Eide Neurolearning Blog. I love following these people because the look at learning at the brain level!

School as Video Game

September 16th, 2010

Go see what the questions are and visit for awhile.

The best thing about “Learning by Playing,” the most excellent feature in this week’s New York Times magazine, is not that it gives a fairly fair and balanced look at the potentials of learning games in the classroom. No, instead, it’s the willingness to ask big questions in a big, hairy mainstream publication that lots of people read:

via Weblogg-ed » School as Video Game.

If you haven’t already added his blog into your feed readers, go back and do it now.

What if we DID turn school into a video game? I’m looking at you, Mr. Walker! 🙂

New online Monopoly

September 10th, 2009

I remember Monopoly from my youth. We called it Monotony because of the interminable length of game play and how long it took to actually make it around to where you could move. In spite of that, we had a great time playing with all the little pieces. Here’s an interesting bit of news and I think the “Wednesday” referenced was yesterday!

But when I played the new online version this morning I was free from such a driven competitor. Monopoly City Streets, a link up between game owners Hasbro and Google Maps, launches on Wednesday for a four-month period. It enables one, in theory, to buy any street in the world.

via New online Monopoly game is streets ahead | Technology |

Go read the whole piece and maybe I’ll see you in the game.

The game site appears to be overwhelmed. Gee, I wonder why?

The Average Gamer?

August 25th, 2009

The link to this article came across in the Twitterverse this morning and I thought it was worth looking at:

Debunking videogame stereotypes, but not necessarily in a good way, a new study into gaming habits has revealed that today’s average games player is not a pallid skinned, socially backward teenager but rather a 35-year-old couch potato prone to bouts of depression when not submerged in the escapism of virtual game worlds.
Via The Tech Herald

As we begin examining some of the so-called findings, it’s often important to look critically at primary sources. The title of this article is catchy, but not exactly accurate. Read the whole story to find out where the mis-leading bit is. And given the red-flag on credibility, one has to wonder what the original study has to say. The article itself doesn’t have a link to the primary … Wonder why.

Compare that story with this one from Yahoo. There’s still no link to the original story, but there’s a very different feel to reporting and even offering ancillary links to amplifying information.

It’s important to keep in mind that most research does not impute causal relationships, merely correlated factors. Do games make you depressed or do you turn to games to fight depression? Weight and depression are often linked but which came first?

Keep a critical eye on this kind of reporting. It’s seldom what it really appears to be.

Life in the MUD

November 3rd, 2008

Time flies when you’re having fun. Some of you have noticed that I’ve been in-world at Last Outpost for the last couple of weeks. Teaching in a multiuser environment — especially one so foreign — is a challenge. In this case, literally teaching in the (virtual) town square.

Playing in the MUD requires much more skill and attention than might be guessed from the initial simple introduction. Because it’s text based, there are several advantages to the environment.

First, it’s accessible to almost anybody with a computer and a connection. Even people who are blind or visually impaired can play. People on dialup can play. People with really old, slow computers can play. The barriers to entry are very low and for an educational environment, that’s key. Not just important. Key.

Second, it’s interactive. What you do has an effect in the game. Whether it’s picking up a weapon, donning your armor, learning a spell, or saving your companions, it’s reflected in the game. This is real interaction, not the pseudo-interaction “click here to advance” or “pick the answer that most closely agrees” level of question response. From the time you first stand in Town Square, everything you do has an effect on your character in the game.

Third, it’s multiuser. You are not there alone. One of the earliest computer games was “Adventure in the Colossal Cave” which is actually the antecedent of all modern MUDs. In that, the adventurer solved puzzles, slayed monsters, and explored the cave. From “Adventure” a whole series of single player games called Zork came on the scene and evolved in the early days of personal computers. Dialup networks gave access to similar single player “bbs games” and finally the MUD-engines were developed to provide a full multiuser, persistent game space.

Fourth, all the characteristics of an educational game are in play, except – perhaps – core content. Personally, I maintain that this is an artificial contrivance to make educators feel better about using games but that it cripples their ability to use them effectively — Grendler, notwithstanding. While many things that happen in the game are generated by random number selection, the reality is that the actual game play is almost entirely within the player’s control. If you make a mistake, the game will punish you. If you play well, the game rewards you. The occasional dispute between players — and the occasional interference from ‘pkillers’ who delight in messing up the game play of others — is certainly not random, any more than a fistfight in the back of the playground is random.

Fifth, it’s horribly time consuming. Going through the same instructions for everybody take time as each new player comes up to speed in their own way. Other players in the game are excellent sources of information and more advanced students regularly help those just starting out.

Lessons learned so far:
It doesn’t matter how much instruction, how many resources, or how well the ground is prepared, students don’t pay any attention to it. Several people have asked for more instructions on how to play the game, only to find out that the instructions existed already and they’d ignored them.

A corollary to that is that the game is, in fact, an instantiation of “exploratory learning.” You’re supposed to learn to play the game by playing the game.

One piece of instruction was missing. When following another, the screen goes into a “compact/brief” mode to cut down on the amount of information flowing. This is not necessarily a good thing for somebody trying to learn their way around. It’s easily reversed by typing “compact” to turn it off, and “brief” to reestablish the view.

The reflection papers from 688 were due last night, but the rubric wasn’t available until the evening. I’m looking forward to reading them.

Frustration Outpost

October 16th, 2008

I’m seeing “I’m so frustrated I want to scream” posts on various blogs. This is unfortunate and avoidable. Here are some FAQ’s:

Q. Where are the pictures?
A. This is a text based game. It was designed for low bandwidth/low power gaming. The kinds of situations most teachers face when dealing with populations that are (1) rural, (2) poor, (3) both.

Q. How do I talk?
A. Type “say whatever it is you want to say.” Almost all commands are in the form “verb object” so “say” (the command to the game to repeat what follows to the room) and “whatever you want to say.” will be echoed. You will see the word “Ok.” and not what it is you say.

Q. How do I talk to somebody not in the room with me?
A. Type “tell whoever whatever it is you want to say.” The stipulation is that “whoever” must be logged in and visible to you at the time you “tell.” To find out who is on and visible, use the command “who” to see.

Q. Where am I?
A. Use the command “look” and read the room description. It starts with the room’s name, followed by a description of what the room looks like, a list of people and objects in the room. By using the command “exits” you can see which open doors lead out of the room.

Q. It keeps telling me I’m hungry and thirsty! What do I do?
A. Eat and drink. The MUD is going to demand that you have food and water. Water is available at the well in Town Square, but you’ll need a cup. Food is available in the General Store in the form of iron rations, altho newbies are encouraged to slay the herds in the grasslands and eat the food provided there in the form of mutton, chops, steaks, etc. Clerics can create food and water for people who get caught short.

Q. Are there other commands I should know?
A. Yes. Informational commands like “score,” “inventory,” and “equipment” are critical for keeping track of where you are in terms of score and gear. For a relatively comprehensive list of game commands, use “help” in world to get a list.

Q. I have to log off! What do I do?
A. Go to the Last Resort Inn. Go up to where the Receptionist waits. Type “rent” and take the 0 option from the following menu. This will save your equipment and log you out safely. When you come back in, you’ll start in the reception and be ready to go with everything you had when you left. People who drop link or quit to leave run the risk of coming back naked and unequipped.

The following links have articles that explain more about the environment:

  1. Tips on creating a character
  2. Some background on resources
  3. Some ideas about how the game is controlled in time
  4. Map of the town
  5. Map of the grasslands just outside the gate

Superstruct: The Final Threat

October 7th, 2008

Here’s a little game for you to consider. I’m filling out my GEAS Profile now.

Superstruct: The Final Threat.

Can we save the world?

Podcasts about Gaming

September 12th, 2008

There’s a lot of interesting podcasting and these five podcasts were the finalists for the 2008 Parsec Awards this year. If you’re interested in seeing what podcasting can do for learning, try learning about gaming from one of these.

Nominees for best Gaming Podcasts in the 2008 Parsec Awards

I’ve cross posted this for both my 685 and 688 sections because the gaming is of interest in 688 while the technology as a tool is important to 685’s discussion on “exotic tools” coming next week.

Game on!

Gaming : MUDs

August 26th, 2008

I’m a sucker for MUD.

If you’re not up on the acronyms, MUD is a “Multi User Dungeon” or a “Multi User Domain.” It has its roots firmly in the old “Adventure in the Colossal Cave” .. one of the very first computer games in the genre (c. 1975). It’s a text based adventure game where words paint the scene and control the action. MUDs are the precursors to the whole MMORPG movement. They’re the Neanderthals of the multi-player world, but unlike Neaderthals, they’re far from extinct.

There’s a unit in this course where you’ll be playing in the MUD and we’ll talk more about it later, but I wanted to bring it up now because one of this week’s readings is Gredler’s “Games and Simulations and Their Relationships to Learning” wherein she lays out five criteria for “educational games.”

  1. Winning should be based on knowledge or skills, not random factors
  2. The game should address important content, not trivia.
  3. The dynamics of the game should be easy to understand and interesting for the players but not obstruct or distort learning.
  4. Students should not lose points for wrong answers.
  5. Games should not be zero sum exercises.

These factors go a long way to explaining why “educational games” suck. By sucking the “fun” and the “game” out of “educational games” the value of games as instructional tools is greatly reduced.

Winning based on skill and knowledge is ok, but without random factors, some of which might be “game ending” there’s no risk. No risk means no emotional investment. No emotional investment means the game means nothing to the player. There’s no incentive to keep playing.

Games should address important concepts. I’m not convinced that a useful game needs to present useful content. There’s an exercise we use in our teacher prep programs at UNCo that uses the game Oregon Trail as an example of anchored instruction to teach the use of basic computer tools — word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. The students play the game and then use those tools to do specific tasks based on what happened in the game. The *game* — a simulation of a passage to Oregon — has nothing to do with how to make a header in a Word document, but has everything to do with providing grist for the instructional mill. It adds interest, and flavor to what would be another “how I spent my summer vacation” assignment otherwise. I believe that MUDs would be terrific for remedial reading. But that doesn’t mean that the MUD has to be an adventure about how to break down phonemes and construct meaning.

As for the dynamics of the game, I’m sorry but with the exception of a very few games I can think of (Othello, Chess) the “simple games” are the “stupid games.” They’re the games you teach people to get them used to *real* games. I understand that time constraints in classrooms make complex games problematic for instructional purposes. That’s a classroom problem and not a game problem.

Students should not lose points for wrong answers?? Why not? Shouldn’t that depend, maybe, on the game? Is your score on game is your grade for the class? Is there no “let’s play again” button? This is just silly. No risk, no reward. And *maybe* there’s a reason in the game for the student not to lose points but — really — if it’s an instructional game, we’re bound by some arbitrary PC ruleset?

The last qualification rules out every instance of jeopardy and quiz games. Spelling bees, not allowed. You can’t have zero sum — every student has to be able to win the game at the same time. I’m sorry. There are very few games that have this stipulation or function. It’s the nature of the game. While it’s possible for the student to play solitare — giving everybody the opportunity to ‘win’ their own game (or not) — the ability to play in a social environment is just so much more powerful that they seem to be natural for educational applications.

There’s some interesting ideas in this article, but I’m reading it with a very critical eye. It only takes one counter-example to derail a theoretical foundation, and this foundation is pretty shaky. I think there are plenty of games that can be used for educational purposes that are not, themselves, instructional.

Which brings me back to MUDs.

Just my opinion.


August 21st, 2008

A couple years ago, Jenova Chen began working on some “different” kinds of games. One of those games is FlOw. It can be played online but needs a flash player. The game play is simple, the graphics are almost geometric, and the soundscape is almost mesmerizing.

There’s a link to Chen’s site at the bottom of the wikipedia entry. A fascinating place to visit.