Game: I wanna play forever

30 06 2010
Kids hard at learning.Image: sean dreilinger (Creative Commons)

Play-based learning is used in the Early Years to provide children with an intuitive learning environment suited to activities that little kids do best – playing around with stuff.

This tends to be phased out around the end of year 3, as we move into constructive activities and even, ‘oh noes’, direct instruction. This is something one the children I look after lamented now he is in a year 3/4 class at his new school, “We never play anymore”. Boo hoo, little Johnny, boo hoo. You don’t think I don’t not want to not play games too, yeah?

With gaming returning to an acceptable past time for adults – just listen to Kevin Butler¹ at this year’s E3 – shouldn’t this be reflected in our schools and curriculum? Many of the kids I taught respond to questions like “What’s your hobby?” or “What do you do in your spare time?” with some form of console or another. Many child care centres, and even libraries, these days have consoles available for visitors to use. And if you want to get into economics, I’m sure you can go and find your own figures on just how much this industry is worth.

Games in the classroom do present some problems, mostly to do with moral panic. Firstly just about “games” in general – with some of the students I’ve worked with not allowed to complete teacher-set homework on Mathletics at home because carers won’t let them². Others more serious and understandable moral panics about inadequate classification, excess violence, and depictions of sexual and criminal activities. The ethics and other social issues surround video gaming culture and industry is probably enough to design a unit (or three) all on your own – but what I am interested at the moment is what recreational video games are out there that could provide the stimulus material for an entire trans-disciplinary unit on there own.

As this Dueling Analogs strip illustrates games today are becoming more and more complex – not only in gameplay and graphics – but in background stories, character development, dialogue, and even the style or genre of storytelling themselves (also known as interactive fiction). These components should make it easier to take a single game and safely stretch it into multiple learning areas.

Below the fold are just some ideas:

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Inevitable becomes more inevitable

30 05 2010

Last year I got into something called Paranoia.

It is a dystopia-themed sci-fi RPG in which players are not allowed to know the rules (except maybe that one, maybe, oh dear, I’ve probably said too much…) as they try to the bidding of the omnipresent planet-ruling AI, Friend Computer (which mostly involves killing commies, mutants and traitors, which the players invariably are at least guilty of three of those crimes).

You can get a digital dose of Paranoia through Java via the Paranoia-Live community.

Through that network I’ve come into knowledge of a similarly themed boardgame on the precipice of release – Inevitable.

Inevitable is a satirical board game set in a slapstick dystopian future. Every play is designed to provide 2-6 players with hours of quality entertainment, danger, violence, betrayal, mayhem, and laughs. It contains a robust amount of high explosives and dead things. It was designed by people who think Orwell’s 1984 is a comedy and the Necronomicon is a romance.

If you are willing to fork out $75 in the next 48 hours you can get yourself a special print copy of the game, and your name in the credits. The game includes references to The Flying Spaghetti Monster, The Church of the Sub Genius, Kali the Destroyer and more – and that’s just the play money.

Surely a ball of string is cheaper

27 05 2010

I’ve seen some videos circling about the place of children using the iPad but this is just silly.

Actually, you know what I would like to see: those talking/language proficient non-human apes getting a spin on this device. That might actually be some productive. (Not the only one who thought about this apparently).

Drama, drama, drama

17 05 2010

Some classroom dramas I can do without. But classroom drama is another thing entirely.

I’ve been slowly trying out a few theatre-games I’ve found on this website. Some with after-school care and some in the classroom.

I’m finding theatre games can be tricky with younger kids. For one, even the most attention-seeking children can become shy when put on the spot, and secondly, they often have trouble expressing more complex ideas.

I really enjoy the Name Game #2 – very useful in learning students names. I also tried Emotion Party, The Park Bench and You (the last is a little crazy).

I think next I might like to have a go with Open Scenes, which could solve the problem of not being able to come up with dialogue.

Delicious murder

23 11 2008

MAMA KILLS ANIMALS, DELICIOUS YUMMY YUMMY ANIMALSLet’s be clear that PETA are a bunch of ignorant wanker lefties who not only regularly talk out of their ass but are also regular supporters anti-scientific terrorism. Oh and they are hypocritical whiny bitches.

But enjoy this fun game. Shows how much more fun gutting a turkey is then sculpting a dome out of tofu.

COOKING MAMA – MAMA KILLS ANIMALS. (looks like WP won’t let me embed)

Do your eggs at home burst open with feathers and gore? I feel I’m missing out…

The Oh-no-lympics

14 10 2008

The ever reliable Fortean Times has bent over backwards to demonstrate the inanity that can be spawned by the dynamic combination of pessimism and spirituality.

All that effort of numerologists to ensure the success of China’s 08-08-08 Olympics were outdone – because the Beijing marketing team inadvertantly produced five imp-ish mascots that did their best to wreak havoc at the games.

Their powers?

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Diablo III set to WoW noobs

15 09 2008

Will it take away from my l33tz0r status to say I’m not exactly too pumped about Diablo III.

It has little to do with complaints about lightness issues. I swear toning up the colour is probably the best thing you could to do Diablo. Darkness is good for setting the mood in Survival Horror First Person Shooters (like AvP2 or Doom) – but in a point and click adventure RPG it’s plain annoying not being able to see things.

I played Diablo, I played Diablo II, and it is highly likley I will play Diablo III – but I think I will be least satisfied with this offering from Blizzard. The allure of earlier Diablo’s was an interesting storyline (sort of) but I think WoW has shown Blizzard’s inability to show creativity beyond a 4 year old*.

The gameplay videos show the little innovation beyond the random dungeon environment (like supercool!!) has been introducing Warcraft Mobs (sigh), Warcraft skills (sigh) and Warcraft icons (sigh). Why not label the game Warcraft dungeons?

My other gripe is that it all looks way to easy, even for a hack and slash. The Barbarian smashes through without losing any health, the Witchdoctor not too far behind. With mobs dropping helath and mana bonuses everytime they die (which they do a lot) – will the game prove any sort of challenge? Or is it set on baby-easy for the demo video? Or more likely more gaming designed so that every Chuck-Norris-kissing Barrens spambot can join in the fun?

*i.e. creative, crazy, even fascinating, but hardly intelligent or sophisticated – and they were doing so well with WCIII.