Archive | Uncategorized RSS for this section

Reading Reflection #3

I felt that Henriksen’s paper on Dimensions in Educational Game-Design to be highly interesting and relatable. To be honest, I avoid educational games like a plague as I feel that they are terrible games and they are not even very effective in teaching anything. For this reflection, I will be talking about Transportation Tycoon Deluxe (TTD), a game I played when I was much younger.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_Tycoon

http://play-ttd.com/

The game is essentially a construction-type game. Set in a randomly generated landscape, players learn, by themselves, to build transportation networks in order to facilitate trade and earn money to become a transportation tycoon. I believe it was meant more as a ludic simulation of real transportation planning but I believe it holds, by nature, high educational value. I will discuss the game using the 8 dimensions that Henriksen mentions.

Content – Participation

The content in TTD is quite minimal. Much of the content that can be learnt has to be experienced through participation in the game. Examples of such content are, Pros&Cons of various transportation channels, Economic progress via globalisation, Management of competition and adversity, etc. It is difficult to list out all the lessons that can be learnt as many of these lessons are learnt subtly. It is unlike typical education where students are provided with information and are expected to remember and understand. In the case of TTD, players will learn through practise, trial and error, how they can manage and overcome the challenges of the game, which become content/knowledge that is applicable to reality. It is like learning a skill through a series of tutorial challenges, where students would pick up the skill along the way, without paying very close attention into the content.

The elements Malone & Lepper present are also relevant. In TTD, Challenge, Curiosity, Control and Fantasy are all very well considered and developed into the game. This can be seen in the open-ended nature of the game which has a slowly increasing difficulty rating.

In this respect, I believe that TTD is strong on content but it relies heavily on participation in the game in order for the content to be accessed and learnt well.

Narratology vs Ludology

In TTD, it is very clear that narration is low as the game is set in a simulation environment with little to no tutorial segment at all. It is very true, what Henriksen mentions that the ludological approach, when applied in TTD, allows participants to experience and explore social/technological/economical processes. Through the gameplay mechanics and balance, players are able to slowly see patterns of actions that would serve to improve the way they play, which in turn, teach them what should be done. Much of this learning is heavily dependent on process. Even following online tutorials and guides, one cannot be good at the game and fully understand the concepts and implications of the game until one practises on it.

Henriksen suggests that narratology and ludology be combined together in order to better facilitate learning. In the case of TTD, I agree that this would help motivate players to play the game further. For such an open-ended game, players may find that they lack the motivation to continue at some points due to the lack of a plot and an end. On the other hand, perhaps the current way TTD is works as well, as it allows players to explore and imagine their own narratives. In the interest of education and learning, I think that adding some narrative would be better.

Endogenous vs Exogenous incentive

TTD uses endogenous incentives. It requires no exploration into the outside world and all the learning occurs in-game. The game design is strong enough to accurately simulate real life transportation considerations such that the player can learn about those without needing to rely on external elements. However, it would be interesting to see how one could incorporate exogenous incentives into TTD. Transportation is all around us. In Singapore, we often complain about our transportation system. It would be interesting to see if we could implement a TTD that augments our real world, such that we can simulate a replanning of the Singapore transportation network. With such an implementation, a player could see how his plans and designs would have a better or worse effect on the nation’s transport infrastructure. By hooking this up with LTA, perhaps there may be a possibility to crowd-source the planning of infrastructure through the use of strong simulative games.

Construction-based learning vs Railroading

TTD is a construction-based learning game as it gives the player a high level of control. It requires that the player create their own goals and objectives and find out their own ways to solve the problems they face in the game. Each player makes his own interpretation of how to get better at the game as they construct their own strategies which can be very distinct from each other. It is completely opposite from the railroading approach type of games as TTD does not even provide any tutorial or narrative to the game. Because of this, the player has a very high level of freedom in the way he plays his game. It is not to say that with a very high level of freedom, one cannot learn the intended content from the game. In fact, there is not definite or correct answer in transportation planning. The exploration of different possible ways is actually a good thing in this game as it allows the player to be creative in solving the problems faced in the game. The only problem that arises is if the player is able to find some sort of exploit in the game that allows him to “cheat” and become very successful in the game, in a way that is completely unfeasible in reality.

Analogue vs Digital

Due to the accurate simulative nature of the game, it is inevitable that the game be digital. What Henriksen suggests, combining digital and analogue could work, in the sense that TTD could incorporate a multiplayer type system where players can look at their designs and critique them to explore different possibilities. However, it would still need to be digital-based in order to maintain its biggest feature of being an accurate and good simulator.

Ingame vs Offgame learning

Much of TTD’s learning takes place in-game as players learn to manage challenges within. Off-game learning could be incorporated if there exists some sort of community or classroom where the player is able to reflect and communicate what they learn, while also having mentors/facilitators give them tips and explanations to improving their game while they play.

Simplicity vs Complexity

I agree with Henriksen in his view that complexity should be viewed as a tool for meeting desired educational objectives. In a game like TTD, where it tries to be an accurate simulation of reality, a high level of complexity would make it more realistic. This complexity should arise simply because planning for transport is dependent on countless factors. This indeed makes the game very difficult at some points, which is what makes most casual players stop. However, this would drive the idea that planning transportation is no simple feat, and those that endure and face success would truly have learnt the right knowledge and skills to excel at transportation planning.

Reflection vs Flow

The game is able to maintain a good flow as the adaptive difficulty scales appropriately at the start. At the later phases, the player will begin to find that the old methods they used would no longer work and they need to try something else. I believe this state of sudden spike in difficulty forces players to pause the game and inspect their plan more, resulting in a phase of reflection. This reflection would then allow them to realize certain things that they can do and work towards a better plan. What I described is merely one way a player could play. Some less reflective player could instead choose to use brute force and trial and error in order to improve and learn. Both are possible. But I think that the game does maintain a good balance between creating opportunities for reflection and maintaining flow.

 

 

Reading Reflection #2

For this assignment, I played 2 games. NationStates and Sweatshop. 

I think 2 concepts stood out quite strongly in the reading this week, Paidea and Ludus. My understanding of them right now is that Paidea refers to the learning through reflection and experience, whereas Ludus refers to the Game element, where a sport is made out of an issue. 

In addition to these 2 concepts, it was also mentioned that there are a few approaches a game designer can take in order to turn Games into a tool/platform for learning and critical thinking. One of them is PMO approach that the author tries to explore, giving players the ability to create their own story and Oppressive Simulation in order for others to explore. Another approach which was not as greatly explored is one that adopts a more Forum Theatre-like approach, where players would play multiple times within one given situation. This latter form is much more common in games today as it requires less designing/creating on the part of the players.

Image

NationStates is a browser-based game that allows the player to run his own nation. I feel that there is a very strong Paidea element to it as it allows the player to make many critical choices through the gameplay. The core gameplay lies in how the player, as the government, tries to deal with big political issues like civil rights, economy and military. 

Through the choices made throughout the game, the player will slowly come to see the effects of his actions on the nation and how it affects various factors such as citizen satisfaction and the economy. Through the supporting forum function, players are able to roleplay and communicate in order to simulate a sort of international forum and conference that can further help them to explore international politics.

I believe that these features help to create a strong Paidea element to the game as players are constantly making critical choices and having to consider their impacts. While this may not create great social change or motivate any particular cause, it would certainly be effective to get players aware of the implications of political decisions made by their nation leaders, allowing them to see what the government is trying to achieve. 

On the other hand, there is little to no Ludus involved. The only form of Ludus is a leaderboard where the nations with the top of certain characteristics get featured. But considering there is no losing or winning involved.

Image

On almost the other extreme, Sweatshop has very strong Ludus elements but it has weak Paidea elements. The game is very appealing with its cute graphics and high level of polish. However, the game becomes very immersive for the player, resulting in them focusing on excelling at the game rather than contemplating the issues within. There is little alternate interpretation on the part of the player as he is put through a set of linear challenges with no alternative to the plot and happenings.

I believe that the lack of Paidea can be attributed partly to the strong Ludus elements such as an achievements system, points system, which keep the players so immersed that they stop looking at the issue at hand critically. At some point, the motivation to get a higher score becomes a greater motivation, which then transforms the player into a sweatshop advocate as he tries to achieve a higher score and time.

 

Minecraft House

Surviving first night wasn’t too bad. Gathered some wood and stone and crafted a table, torches, planks and a door so I got a working house. Only lacked wool because no sheep were nearby so I didn’t make a bed.

Outside view. Nice flower too.

Outside view. Nice flower too.

housein

Inside my house. Made the standard table and furnace as a workstation.

Didn’t bother clearing the snow =p

housedoor

Looking out my door waiting for morning.

Minecraft Class on Acceleration

Saw that everyone was making virtual versions of physical classrooms but felt that it was quite pointless as it did not add any value to having lessons over a digital platform. Instead, I thought it would be more meaningful to create a real lesson on a real topic instead, so that the digital context can be fully harnessed.

One way of having a virtual class is to have one teaching the concept of acceleration. Games tend to use realistic physics in order to convey a certain realism in movements and motion. Minecraft is no exception.

Image

Each block in Minecraft is supposed to simulate 1m in real life. I made a high tower of about 190m in the game. At each 10m interval, I made an indicator to show how high the tower is, using roman numerals.

Image

Students should start off on the top of the tower, looking down. In front of him is a 1m gap, along with a tower of red wool. Basically, they should jump into the gap and fall to the ground while left clicking in front of them so as to break the red wool tower. Do ignore the gaps currently there as I only took the screenshot after I tried the thing.

Image

As mentioned, while falling, the student should be breaking the red wool in front of him. This picture is a bad example. The student should face forward instead.

Image

At the end when he is on the ground, he will be allowed to fly upward and see the gaps in the tower of red blocks. Using the indicators, his own counting, and the distance between each gap, he should be able to see that he falls faster near the bottom than near the top.

This essentially shows the effect of acceleration and shows how we do not fall as a constant speed. More can be done to show other forms on Newtonian motion.

3227: AR Game Concept_ Fugitive

Introduction

Fugitive is an Augmented Reality stealth game for a Head-Mounted Display (Such as Google Glasses) that is set in the context of a shopping mall. The player plays as a Fugitive, hiding from agents that are out to catch him while looking for items to disguise himself and escape his pursuers.

Description

When you enter your usual shopping mall, the lights begin to flicker and you feel that you are not alone. As you scan the crowds of people in the mall, you see a few suited Agents wearing shades despite being indoors. You feel this inexplicable need to run, hide and evade their attention as being caught by them would render your HMD useless for 30 minutes.  There are no maps. No indicators. All you have to rely on is pure stealth and wit in order to outsmart and outmaneuver the Agents.

You make use of crowds to break the line of sight. You hide around corners move fast to evade their attention. As you evade your first Agent, a subtle change in lighting occurs, directing you to certain places like Clothes stores and Cosmetics stores, where you can Equip items there to create a disguise. As time goes by, the pursuit gets more intense and culminates in your escape via a number of different possible methods.

Key features

  • The game will incorporate an adaptive difficulty that ensures that players can adjust to their “Stealth Mode” accordingly
  • Agents will be rendered as realistic but ominous humans that behave far too purposeful for being in a mall
  • Agents react realistically to crowds and will not “walk through” people
  • There will be no weapons or fighting, only evasion and trickery
  • The game would be able to access data on the types of shops in the mall and using the HMD, be able to identify items (such as a wig) within the store. These items can be Equipped by trying them on and doing a visual scan of it using the HMD.

Genre

First Person Stealth Thriller (Like Amnesia)

Platform(s)

Head-Mounted Display such as Google Glasses

3227: Ethnographic Study

The place I chose to study was the shopping mall near my home. It has been around for the longest time and I am so familiar with it that I don’t need to go there to know what there is there.

Side entrance

Side entrance of Parkway Parade

I’m aware that even though it is largely the same as years ago, it has been doing renovations and revamping the mall to increase the amount of spaces that shops can rent. There have been some shops that come and go, but there is never anything that made me feel that I HAVE to go there, other than groceries.

As it is approaching Chinese New Year, I found that there was a sort of “carnival” going on at the mall.

 

CNY Structure outside Parkway Parade
CNY Structure outside Parkway Parade
Stalls in the Mall

Stalls in the Mall

This is something that Parkway Parade does every now and then to add more life to the mall. With seasonal “events” happening, they would be better able to attract people to come and patronize the mall.

When people patronize malls, I believe there are 3 main ways they do it:

1. They know what they need and they go to those places to get it

2. They don’t know what they need, they just wander around and see what catches their eye

3. They know what they need, but would take detours to see interesting things that catch their eye

For Number 1, that tends to be how I patronize malls. I tend to know what I need to get, such as a gift, or a haircut, and I go to the appropriate places to get them, and I leave. For people like me, the mall is purely a functional location. There is little incentive to explore and further engage with the place beyond what our purposes are.

For Number 2,  it tends to be people who visit the mall for the first time. This allows them to get a good idea of what the mall offers so that the next time they come back, they know what to expect. For some other people, they may have been here before and know what is offered, but they come to just wander as they are too bored at home or have nothing else to do.

For Number 3, it would reflect the average patron who comes for a purpose but allows for additional detours and time to be spent just looking around for interesting things. It is one way they use to continue to keep up to date with the place and keep themselves entertained by exploring the mall.

I noticed that there were may patrons to the mall checking out the directory.

20130202_135615 20130202_135832

This could be because they are first time patrons. It could also be a case that they are not sure where to go, and wish to look at the directory to have a “menu of things” they can do and choose from.

Thinking around this idea, the concept of “Exploration” strikes me. Exploration is interesting and fun. But for a already visited place, it sort of loses its meaning. For a mall like this with many shops, there are definitely things that an individual does not know about and may be interesting to them.

Perhaps an idea could be built around the fact that there are many items in this mall and there could be some sort of quest system built into this so that when people like myself walk into a mall, we can explore the mall in a very directed way instead of just wandering.

 

 

 

 

Ludification of Life: The Sims

One particular part of the reading this week resonated with me:

The player for example is both part of the ordinary world and immersed in the world of the game: this is where the ludic experience matches the aesthetic experience. When we play we plunge enthusiastically into the world of the game, while at the same time we maintain a certain distance in relation to our own behaviour in play; this is why we can call that behaviour ‘playful’. This duality allows us to maintain less or more critical distance with respect to the rules; it allows us to see those rules as just the rules of the game which are always open to adaptation.

Ludic Experience = Aesthetic Experience

I think The Sims franchise is an extremely good example of ludification of life in a game. The premise of the game is very simple. A simulator of life that injects humor into the everyday activities of the digital people. Since the topic is on life, there is a very strong theme of “normal-ness”, where we are familiar with the elements of the game since we live them out everyday.

The Needs vs Wants mechanic of the game is a very good example of ludification. I picked up a little basic psychology over the years and a pretty common model to think about human motivations is the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Pretty simple but also quite boring.

This is where the genius of The Sims comes in. At every moment of the day, it becomes important to keep a close lookout for your needs. Basically, the needs that must be satisfied in the game is exactly like the needs reflected in Maslow’s bottom 3 levels.

Image

Why should you keep your needs satisfied? So that you can better achieve your wants, reflected in the top 2 levels of Maslow’s. In reality, these higher level needs/wants are things like a good career, a big house, a happy family. Long-term things that grant you greater satisfaction.

Image

 

And this is where the challenge comes in. We are all usually much more excited at fulfilling our greater goals in life, like having a nicer house. However, if we only focus on that while neglecting our basic needs, it becomes very difficult to actually achieve those wants. This becomes a challenge of time management and decision making, trying to balance our needs while trying to work towards our wants. Suddenly, everything in the game seems to make sense. In fact, everything in LIFE itself begins to make much more sense!

Distance in relation to own behaviour

The interactions in The Sims are actually very simplified. The complex intricacies in reality are definitely missing from the game. The avatars in the game also always react in highly exaggerated and humorous way, not like in reality. The portion on going to work is also always skipped. There are many elements of the game that are poking fun at various aspects of our lives. Unlike reality, we can skip the ‘boring parts'(Working and moving things around) and focus on the ‘fun parts'(making decisions about social relationships).

Because of this, there is a great mental distance between reality and and the game world, allowing one to be critical about the experience.

Rules open to interpretation

Mastering the rules and mechanics of the game allows the player to succeed and attain more things in the game. Whether or not one takes these rules into real life really depends on the individual. For me, after spending hours of my youth on this game, I find myself naturally categorizing my feelings and urges into wants and needs. This helps me to make better sense of life and my feelings. For most other people, life probably appears far too complex for them to use the simple mechanics in The Sims.