How do you teach playing a game? Beginning Lessons in Okami

This reflection is geared towards the introductory part of the game, where the user learns how to use the controls, interacts with the environment for the first time, and learns from the non-playable characters(NPC’s) who act as guides and teachers for the game.

The teaching of how to use a joystick as a brush is especially interesting, because using the sketch metaphor on a joystick is one that isn’t used often, and needs special attention in teaching. In terms of using the sketch mechanics, it was a little bit difficult at first. The first example was to draw a star, and visually, it looked like drawing a dot would be sufficient. But they ere looking for more of a * formation. Generally however, the game was rather forviging in my drawings. The game let me draw a diamond as a circle, though that may be a technological limitation. It’s easier to draw smooth surfaces freehand than a joystick, I have observed, so the game designers may have observed this and became more forgiving.

There’s a flea that hops onto my character and acts as an NPC guide, who teaches me some moves and guides me through the game’s goals. He taught me a move, and given my newfound power, I wanted to explore using it.

Developing the teacher NPC can sometimes be tricky, because the NPC must be helpful enough yet not annoying or intrusive enough to interrupt my interaction into the world. My helpful flea NPC proved to sometimes e helpful and annoying. For example, we came across a village, where its inhabitants seemed to be turned into stone. The kind of player I am is one who explores everything first before wanted to progress in the story, so I’m the kind of gamer that will take the wrong way, attempt to travel to an unintended area, and generally be more exploratory. So my flea friend constantly telling me to stop goofing off while I intrude in people’s houses searching for power-ups and interesting items proved to be intrusive in my exploration of the space.

The theme of medieval Japan is really seen throughout the game, even in the menu user interface. The menu is actually a fan that pops up. It was nice to see a sake brewer in the game. Not only does it add to the cultural immersion, but it wasn’t censored.

Every time I interacted with an item I could pick up, a prompt would appear telling me about the object, giving ideas for interesting educational uses. For example, when I picked up the rice ball, it told me how good it tasted, what it was made of, and a few other facts. I had to go through 2 screen of text right after touching the rice ball, where I had to press the action button twice to go through it all. While this may lag my enjoyment of the game, the two-button delay may encourage learners to pay attention to the text for future use. While I don’t think the riceball information could help me later, it’s still an interesting mechanic.

I also gained an unintended power that I’m hesitant to use. First, I gave birds some bird  seeds, received a reward, and after I approached the birds, who had hearts above their heads, a “bite” option came to mind.

Posted in Digital Game-Based Learning, Gameplay Reflections

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