Games and Education

June 8, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Posted in games, me | Leave a comment
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Inspirational article:

http://kotaku.com/5557752/pissed+off-parents-find-math-game-too-violent-for-school

This article got me thinking – educational games?  When was the last time I played a game that was educational?  When was the last time you played a game that was educational?

The game I had in mind was Desktop Dungeons. ( http://www.qcfdesign.com/?cat=20 )  A turn-based dungeon-crawling rogue-like, where all the rules are simple and well-defined, it is one of the few recent games where I have spent significant amounts of time paused in thought (not paused in game, turn-based combat means time doesn’t pass until I make a move).  The attack power, HP and special effects of you and revealed enemies on the map are clearly displayed, meaning that at times I would have notepad and calc open while I calculated the current maximum damage I could deal without dying.  In my mind, I would be thinking – “So I have enough MP to cast fireball three times without the enemy retaliating, each cast dealing damage equal to my character level multiplied by 4 *fiddles with calc*, and then I have enough hp to survive two hits, so my maximum damage output is 72, lemme see which monsters have 72 or less HP”

Unfortunately, this seems to be a much too convoluted method of teaching multiplication or percentages, though I suppose this concept could be simplified and distilled even further to allow the game to guide the player (or student) more smoothly into making such calculations.

On a complete side note, each game only has one level, which is randomly generated every single time.  That should have been rather obvious – “It has randomly generated levels!  Leo will probably like this for it’s replayability.”

My mind then branched out to other games which might potentially be more educational than previously thought.  Failing to find any, I tried to understand why a regular RPG does not exhibit similar educational features.  One major obstacle is the arbitrariness of the numbers, where the attack rating of weapons do not directly correspond to damage dealt and where there are many other factors that affect the final output.  The numbers that you see are cloaked behind so many layers of “game mechanics” that eventually, the only calculation that I end up performing is a comparison of the running averages of damage dealt to various enemies, and all potential of education value is lost in a mass of complicated equations.  Moreover, the mechanics of Plants vs. Zombies (yes, there is DPS data on PvZ plants), or frame data from Street Fighter are much too deep to be approachable by younger children.  More specific uses such as using rollercoasters in rollercoaster tycoon or Mario in Super Mario to demonstrate various aspects of Physics are too specialised. So no, I cannot think of any games which could easily be used to teach basic arithmetic or language skills.

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