Puzzle Games

Puzzle games are like exercise for the brain and take on many forms, from a tabletop puzzle to a crossword and more modern physics based games. To solve a puzzle you need to assess the situation and in some cases think quickly and figure out the best way to solve the puzzle. Some require background knowledge and others quick reflexes.

This type of game has good application in the classroom for free play as well as setting the stage for building with materials, coding applications and programming things like robots.

Below is some gameplay from two puzzle games: Tetris and Construction Fall.

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Action Games

There are several different types of games that would be considered “Action games” and we will explore this genre in this post.

Platformer Games:

Platform Games are a type of action game in which the player controls a character and the action usually involves moving through a world, jumping and perhaps some other actions. These games usually involved scrolling action from left to right and sometimes up and down. This type of game was quite popular in the 80’s and early 90’s and has evolved as different types of video graphics became available.

For this quest I played three games from the Disney Afternoon Collection on my Xbox One – Chip N’ Dale Rescue Rangers 1 & 2 and Darkwing Duck. Each of these games started with an intro screen that introduced the plot for the game. The character moved from left to right and had to jump on platforms (hence the name) and navigate through different obstacles, collect rewards and defeat enemies. RR had the ability to walk and jump and you had to pick up objects and throw them to defeat the enemies. There was also a moving on a tire to get across spikes on the floor scene. DW Duck gave the player a shooter object to defeat the enemies and you had to grab hold of hooks and jump as part of the navigation. In neither game could you jump on top of an enemy (which is standard procedure in Super Mario Bros.)

I played many of these types of games as a kid and am probably just out of practice with this type of game. Another feature that was common in platformers was having limited HP and needing to start at the beginning of the level unless you reached a checkpoint, and in some cases needing to play through the entire game with limited lives and continue opportunities. Modern reincarnations of these classics have added the ability to save your progress which is nice. These games reminded me of our Sploder quests and are basic enough that they are something that could be recreated by students as they are learning game design. Bloxels is an excellent tool where students can use blocks to design their own platform game and is a good implementation into a classroom environment.

Fighting Games:

Fighting games came to prominence in the early 1990’s with the release of Street Fighter II. This game was so successful and popular, that over the next several years many copycat versions of fighting games with every imaginable context was created. These games were popular both on consoles and in the arcades.

These games were all action and controls included a lot of button mashing and mastering combinations of buttons to perform advanced moves. The goal is to defeat your opponents in best two out of three matches and advance through either a story mode or tournament mode in certain games.

Some of these fighting games, like Mortal Kombat series, can be somewhat violent and graphic. For this quest, I chose to play Clayfighter for the Super Nintendo. Clayfighter had fun characters made out of clay and cool backgrounds and you got the similar experience as a player. I played as Bad Frosty and won a couple rounds before losing to the muscle guy.

First Person Shooter (FPS) Games:

FPS games are video games typically centered around gunplay or war type games that are in the perspective of the first-person, meaning you are experiencing the game through the eyes of the protagonist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-person_shooter).

I played around with a couple of the earlier games in this genre, Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, both of which were released on the Super Nintendo around 1992. The games involved you moving throughout a maze, collecting some items and opening doors along the way while facing enemies. The controls were pretty basic, although the rotating and shooting on the keyboard while an enemy is coming at you takes some getting used to. These types of games have evolved over the years and grown in popularity as well as online play is a major component. Modern games in this genre include the Call of Duty and Far Cry series.

These games are not my cup of tea but immensley popular so lots of gamers do like playing them. The first person perspective is different but I enjoy games when you can see more of the background of what is going on around you. Also with the incredible graphics in today’s games the shooter aspect becomes a bit too lifelike and violent I would imagine (we’ve come a long way from playing Contra in the 80’s where you are shooting aliens with 8 bit sprite characters). I might be interested in checking out a World War II or similar type game for the historical perspective, as a simulation. I do not see the educational value of these types of games, especially at the K-12 level.

Racing Games:

Racing games are a type of action game in which the player is participating in a racing competition by controlling a vehicle, common ones being a car, boat or space vehicle. The games involve the player racing against other vehicles, controlled by other players or cpu, and sometimes racing against the clock to finish by a certain time. As these types of games evolved, more obstacles were added in your way and more options for multiplayer became available.

These games can be challenging as you have to combine your speed with making turns and trying to not fall off the track which usually slows you down or you could crash into an obstacle. For this quest, I played Rad Racer for the NES and R.C. Pro Am for the NES. Rad Racer the biggest element working against me was the clock. There are checkpoints along the way in which you can earn more time towards finishing the course. There are trees and signs all along the shoulder of the track so if you veer off course you may hit one and flip your car over which affects your time as you get reset. In RC, you are controlling a 4×4 truck against 4 others and there are power-ups along the way as well as slick spots. The driving controls were much more challenging with the keyboard than they might be with a game controller and the turns were very difficult.

The success of these games as they have grown I think is in the controlability of the driving and the multiplayer aspect. I have really enjoyed playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch with friends and family members as it is just a fun game to play and various components to choose a driver and types of karts to drive. Classroom aspect I can see if there was a game in this context that you added elements like solving math problems or vocabulary/spelling exercises that gave you boosts during the race.

Rhythm Games:

Rhythm games are games that require players to make quick inputs to make things happen and are typically musically themed. This type of game is unique in while a controller or keyboard can be used for the inputs, this genre has seen more creative types of input devices such as a dance mat or guitar. The games require concentration and quick reflexes to be successful.

Just Dance and Guitar Hero are popular commercial games in the genre. For this quest, I went a different direction and explored a couple of games you might find in the classroom as the focus is using the keyboard for letter inputs and locating keys on the keyboard.

Cup Stack Keyboarding is a Rhythm game where you play the game Cup Stacking within the context of typing the correct keys on the keyboard to stack the cups and then unstack them. It takes place in the setting of a picnic with bird chirping sounds when you get one right. There are 4 levels and this game is re-playable with the goal of topping your previous high score.

Typing Rocket is a similar but more challenging game where the goal is to type the letters on the rockets as they appear to make them explode. As you progress the game gets more challenging as more rockets appear more frequently. The rockets do make different sounds and you get a different sound when making a mistake, so a side quest could be strategically choosing the order of the letters you type to make some music as you play. This all happens very fast though so that component is for a more advanced typer. There is a time limit so replay value to beat your previous score applies here too.

Modern Adventure Games

These days, more modern adventure games are seen in the form of MMORPG’s and Augmented Reality Games.

MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, and is a massively popular game where lots of people play online together. These types of games are typically set in a fantasy world and each player plays the role of their character and there are usually different types of characters working together to accomplish a goal.

These types of games are different from other RPG’s by the sheer number of players and that the world is online in a continuous manner (the game still goes on even when your player is offline) hosted by a server. While I would consider Zelda: Breath of the Wild to be a massive modern adventure game, it is a single player game so would not fit into the MMORPG category.

Huge list of MMO games: https://www.mmorpg.com/gamelist.cfm

I wonder if some of the bigger sports games like Madden Ultimate Team or FIFA Ultimate Team or MLB The Show would be considered MMORPG’s as they seem to contain some of these elements?

ARG’s or Alternate/Augmented Reality games are those you would consider a more modern version of the text narrative games from the 1970’s and 80’s. There is some interaction with real events while taking place in the form of a game. These types of games take several formats – I think of Pokemon Go and Geocaching as two popular examples, and games that can be interactive with text like 39 Clues or Flat Stanley are great ways to bring some interactivity and fun into your language arts class and have kids go on an adventure.

Where would card games like Pokemon or Magic the Gathering fit into these narrative game categories?

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Action Adventure Games

Action Adventure Games are a level up of the genre of narrative games that we had looked at previously, combining the elements of an action game and an adventure game. These types of games have some more advanced navigation than your point and click or text based adventures we had explored previously, includes puzzles and adventure and we still have the dialogue and story from those types of games. They also include elements from action games like combat and player movement and skill sets to some degree.

One difference from the narrative games explored earlier is that there is still text-based story, but the input from the player is usually by pushing a button to make a choice rather than typing text to have something happen.

Games that fall into this category like Tomb Raider, Metroid, Castlevania and one of my favorites, the Legend of Zelda series. The storytelling, navigation, collection of clues and unlocking items to make your character stronger and action make these great games to play.

This genre of game has grown throughout the years and newer games include better graphics, voice acting and deeper stories, but still contain the basic elements of the action-adventure game.

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Ted Talk

Jane Mcgonical gave an excellent TED Talk several years ago where she discussed the power of games and how we can harness their power and create game environments to help create a better world.

Watching this led me to think about the question, “What role does acknowledging progress play in successful gaming and is their transfer to education?”

Another term used to describe progress play is feedback loops. This is important in games and in education. You put the effort and time in to accomplish a task, and feedback is important so the player/learner knows how they are doing and whether to keep going or make some changes along the way so they can be more successful at the end goal, whether it be defeating a boss or turning in a final paper.

Having loops of feedback where the learner shares their work, the teacher or peer reviews it and provides timely feedback is so important. Waiting for feedback for something I wrote on Monday for a few days or even longer can be so deflating, plus it takes you out of the moment. Taking home 30 notebooks over the weekend to read and provide feedback to your students is so time consuming for the teacher. None of these things need to happen anymore and shouldn’t. Teachers need to tap into this element of “progress play” and make use of tools such as Microsoft Office and Google Docs to take advantage of the opportunity to provide their students with feedback in real time. It is much more useful to get that feedback while there is still class time left and I can keep writing and make those changes in real time. Just like in a game if you are away from it for several days there is probably some re-learning time before progressing, the same thing happens if you go several days without receiving feedback on your work, especially for a 10 year old.

If you enjoyed Jane’s TED Talk and want to learn more about her work, you can visit her website.

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Important Ideas about Gamifying Education

Watched this video below which discussed opportunities for bridging the gap between games for learning and games for entertainment. The author stressed that the developers have the easiest opportunity at no cost to them to incorporate some learning opportunities throughout their games. Things such as putting quotations or information on loading screens, creating character names related to the topic you want them to study, in-game indexes or links to Wikipedia throughout PC games.

The most important idea I got from this video was that of Tangential Learning, which means being exposed to things in a context you are already interested in. So, from the classroom standpoint, find those things that students are already interested in (games, for example) and find a way to use that context to structure the things you want them to learn. Games should be able to expand the player’s horizons and enrich their life.

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Play the Game, Learn Things

In this post I will be reflecting on my learning from reading the digital ebook, Play This, Learn That, written by Dr. Chris Haskell from Boise State University.

There are different types of game-based learning. Three of those are serious games, commercial games and gamification. Serious games are those with a specific learning objective in mind, such as The Oregon Trail. Commercial games are those designed for player enjoyment that you might pick up at Gamestop or Toys R Us (not for much longer 🙁 ) Use of these games in education would require some research and changing some things about the game in order to create the educational context. Gamification is the idea of taking the mechanics of a game, such as experience points, levels or quests, and applying them to classroom experiences. In Super Mario 64, there are different levels and your goal is to collect the stars, some of which are easier to find then others. Why not adapt your Math curriculum and have students earn stars and unlock future levels of the course to make it more engaging for the students?

Contextual Transposition is the process of taking a tool that is typically used for one purpose, and using it for a different purpose or adding a new context to the utilization of said tool. In this case we might be talking about taking a commercial video game and using it for education. A couple of examples of this are The Oregon Trail and Minecraft. Minecraft, because of its open world structure, has tremendous potential for use in education. Most recently, I have utilized the City World template within Minecraft: Education Edition for a project with my students. They had to work as a team and spent time researching, brainstorming and sharing ideas on how we would design our own city. We then assigned roles and plots of land and they built their structures within the Minecraft World.

My rationale for using a commercial game in the classroom has to do with knowledge of our students. If there is a game that our students are playing outside of school that gives them enjoyment and focus, then we need to tap into that knowledge and enjoyment. We need to research why this game is so popular and what educational context we can create to have the learn within that environment that is familiar and enjoyable for them.

Play This, Learn That can be downloaded from the iTunes store and read in the iBooks app. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/play-this-learn-that/id1000085917?mt=13

Chapter 1 – Minecraft

So, you are riding an elevator with a skeptical teacher or administrator who doesn’t quite get why Minecraft should be a tool used in the classroom. What do you tell them in response?

I would start by explaining the virtues of what this tool offers and sharing the stories of a couple creative educators who have already been successful using this tool for education. Glen Irvin from Minnesota is a Spanish language educator who was looking for a way to provide his students with a meaningful experience around the curriculum. He designed lessons and provided a learning space using Minecraft and allowed enough flexibility so students could be creative and contribute to the learning process as well.

Jim Pike is an educator from California who used Minecraft to introduce his students to multiplication by teaching them Area and Perimeter. His students learned about the content while learning to design and build a house. They are able to visualize these concepts in an engaging way and perhaps more effective than Base 10 blocks because the blocks in Minecraft are infinite and you don’t have to clean up afterwards.

Perhaps the most important reason to make use of this tool is that the kids already play this game on their own outside of school. Bringing Minecraft into the classroom with a specific educational purpose and they will buy in and the learning can take place because they are engaged.

Gamification in Education


Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

This is an excellent graphic that not only illustrates the various components of gamification but also a timeline of gamified learning over the past 30 years.

My own timeline with gamified learning started sometime in the mid-late 1980’s. I recall playing games like Reader Rabbit on the computer and had other games like Double Dribble and Double Dare on floppy disks. I had a Nintendo and played games such as Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. Not mentioned on the timeline, but I also remember prior to this we had a Texas Instruments computer at home and playing games on the Commodore 64 at school. Most of my gameplay was console based during the 90’s until it tailed off for awhile until a few years ago when my son’s own interest in video games along with trying to figure out ways to incorporate games into learning in the classroom has reinvigorated this interest in games for learning.

I’d like to create some type of quest based role playing game where students will complete a quest to gather information and learn and apply that learning in some way. Minecraft is another great tool as it is an open world that can be modified and has endless possibilities for learning and creating for the students.

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