As noted in Squire’s work “From content to context: Videogames as designed experience”, one way to look at a game’s meaning is through the game’s actions. Pretty much this time involved using my newfound powers and tidying up the area. My new power was to make flowers bloom, so for the most part, I’ve been planting flowers everywhere. If I plant flowers in dead trees, I receive praise, which is another word for power ups. So this gaming session felt more like I was cleaning up the area, which became a bit tedious at times.
Do games lend itself to be an educational snack or an educational dinner?
While I was cleaning up, I was interrupted by emails to answer. I was easily able to go back and forth, given how relaxed my task in the game was. So if Okami really were transferred into an educational game, should I be able to just go between different tasks, or even, dare I say, multi-task playing with some other activity? In an ideal classroom, teachers don’t want their students to multi-task between paying attention in class and going on facebook ad chatting with their friends.
But games are designed to at least take a break every once in a while. Providing multiple save points in a game gives players a sense of relief and allows the player to stop and resume the game. That sense of relief can attribute to the player doing more in a virtual world, encouraging the player to run around, die accidentally, try beating the boss first, and do other exploratory, experimental tasks that may fail. So in this sense, games can be an educational snack.
At the same time, games can otherwise be designed to be educational dinners. Some in our class noted how easily games can suck a player in, causing hours and hours of time to be dedicated to a game. Stories exist of players literally dying because they couldn’t get off a game. Games can be designed to be addicting. When you were younger, did your mother ever tell you to come to the dinner table for dinner, yet you were preoccupied in playing games/internet/movie that you lost track of time? So if designed skillfully, games can be an educational dinner.
It seems then that it’s easier to make games as an educational snack than a dinner, but with some design enticing gamers to stay, gamers may pull hours of dedicated gameplay that enable for rich, deep educational experiences.
Embedding Knowledge in the Environment
In previous discussions in class, we proposed adding little bits of information throughout the environment, and users interested in that information can be redirected to more information. One example that came up was that a species of animal recently became extinct, and a proposed idea was to make the corresponding model of that animal disappear from a nature-based game. Gamers who are further interested may check out information as to why this animal suddenly vanished from the virtual and real environment.
This action of scattering information was reminiscent in okami, though not very obvious to me at first. Every time my character gained a new ability, or received praise from doing good deeds, Japanese kanji would appear, representing either the praise or the new ability. I’ve toyed around with using games to learn languages, and the kanji popping up, and having no idea what they mean, reminded me of this idea. It would be even more promising if secret levels or power ups can be gained if the player knows the kanji’s meaning.
I sent the following to Dr. Tatar regarding a Science Friday podcast about the educational value of gaming. It might also be interesting to you, so here it is:
I was listening to NPR’s Science Friday podcast the other day when I heard a segment titled “Could Gaming Be Good For You?” The host interviews Jane McGonigal about her book “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World” (Penguin, 2011). If you are interested, I think you can listen to the ~18 minute interview by using the embedded audio player on the left side of Science Friday’s homepage: http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/201102181 .
I was just attending the Penny Arcade Expo where Jane McGonigal was the keynote speaker! Will forward this to the gaming class group. Thanks for putting this up, I’m listening to it right now.