Well folks, my brief stint as an occasional blogger at Games Can Teach is coming to an end. I’ll be starting a postdoctoral teaching fellowship at Luther College in the fall, and thus leaving GCT in the able hands of my soon-to-be-former co-workers and co-bloggers.
Before I go, however, I’m happy to be able to introduce Virulent, an exciting new game from the Morgridge Institute for Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The game is available as a free app for the iPad through the iTunes Store, or through the game website.
Anthony currently works as Head of Developer Relations at Kongregate.com and has been long been an aspiring game designer, though had only casually dabbled in Flash games prior to his work on CellCraft. He studied mathematics and computer science in undergrad and graduate school at Wake Forest University. He's also a band geek, avid bowler, and shows a canine-like love of catching Frisbees.
Can you give us a brief history on how and why CellCraft was created?
Andy, Joe and I seldom tout our own work. However our team at Web Courseworks has been developing educational games for the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin since 2004. In my post on my Managing eLearning Blog I interview Dr. Schafer about his research on our middle school ATOD prevention curriculum call Its Up 2U.
Egenfeldt-Nielsen, S. (2007). Third generation educational use of computer games. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 16(3), 263-281.
Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen’s article divides game-based learning practice into three periods, offering a manifesto for educational computer games as a mature, independent genre.
Math is the driving force behind most arcade-style games. The process of programming a game with a ship that can rotate and fire in a 360 degree arc, with missiles that accelerate and explode when they reach a target coordinate, expanding into a radius derived from the missiles power level, damaging nearby ships, and pushing them at the correct angle with a force that drops off exponentially from the distance of the center of the explosion, has given me more practice with trigonometry than all of the math homework I've ever done, and it certainly was more relevant and interesting to me.
Robertson, J., & Howells, C. (2008). Computer game design: Opportunities for successful learning. Computers & Education, 50(2), 559-578. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2005.11.026
From this article, I gleaned some insight on what adult (university-level) learners are looking for in a game that constitutes part of their professional education: in addition to ease of use and playability, which are essential for almost all gamers, the article suggests that professional learners seek a "meta-educational" explanation of how the game is a worthwhile part of their professional preparation, and remediation that helps them identify exactly what lessons they should draw from the gameplay.
Questionaut is a simply gorgeously drawn and animated educational game in the same vein as Samarost. The game was created for the BBC's Bitesize series by Samarost creator Amanita Design. The intent of the Bitesize series is to combine grade school quizzes with online games, and that's what Questionaut is. Your character has a balloon that is fueled by knowledge. In each level, there is a clever point-and-click puzzle that you must solve in order to get the attention of a character, who will then ask you a series of multiple choice questions. Answering a question correctly adds to your fuel, and an incorrect question subtracts from it. Once you have five bubbles of fuel, your balloon has enough fuel to move on to the next challenge. Questions and the levels are thematically related. There is an owl who asks you questions about animals, an old man who questions you on writing, and an ice-skater who lives near a giant bunsen burner quizzes your knowledge of chemistry. Arithmetic, probability, geometry, physics and English are also tested.
Dondlinger, M. J. (2007). Educational video game design: A review of the literature. Journal of Applied Educational Technology, 4(1), 21-31.
Currently accessible at http://www.eduquery.com/jaet/JAET4-1_Dondlinger.pdf .
This article is more than just a categorized bibliography: Dondlinger succinctly pulls out theoretical findings from key sources and highlights areas of scholarly debate (such as sources of motivation in games).
Clark Aldrich once said that about educational games that:
"Game elements are the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down." (“Learning by Doing”, p. 85)
This is the attitude that learning is boring, and that we need to add the game elements to an educational game in order to make it bearable. I fundamentally disagree with this approach to educational game design. One of the central themes of Raph Koster's A Theory of Fun for Game Design, is that fun comes from learning new skills. Games get boring once we master the skills needed to play them, and they get frustrating when we aren't able to gain enough competency. That's why it's important to make sure your games difficulty curve is optimized to constantly be just challenging enough.
This is a list of the ten most-cited articles on game-based learning according to the Web of Knowledge database.
The abstracts you see are also from the database. I've arranged the articles chronologically, from most-recent to least-recent. Where free versions are available online, I've included a link. If you're interested in reading any of the others, you'll either have to pay or go to a university library (either online or in person) to get a copy.