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.

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:

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.

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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What Makes a Good Game?

There are many different games out there and players naturally like some better than others. So what are the elements of a game that make it good? What are the elements of a game that make it a bad game?

I like games that have an element of increased challenge. Not too easy and not too hard, plus you have a feeling of progression throughout the game. The controls of the game should be comfortable. There should be a good story with a sense of adventure and fun characters. If you are not into the story or the characters the game could become tedious after awhile. I like games that have checkpoints or save points. This fits in with the sense of accomplishment, if I have played for an hour but then lose a life and have to start the entire game over again that would be frustrating. The game should be fun – if I am not getting any enjoyment out of playing what is the point? Also depending on the context of the game I like the idea of relate-able elements or nostalgia. Playing Super Mario Odyssey I really enjoy the components that draw back to the feel of the original Super Mario Bros.

Naturally these are somewhat subjective and different people enjoy different things in their games. However, there are some components that seem to define a good game versus a bad game. Dr. Ruben Puentedura (the S.A.M.R. guy) published a podcast about this very topic in which he discussed his research findings about what makes a game successful and what makes a bad game.

Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64 would be an example of a good game. It contains:
– Memorable characters
– Story that you are introduced to at the beginning of the game
– Controls – the game gives you the info you need to navigate through the game
– Tutorial elements to teach you how to play the game and learn new skills
– The overall challenge of the game is explained to the player

Superman 64 for the Nintendo 64 is an example of a BAD game.
– The Demo on the start screen shows you mistakes in gameplay and the character gets stuck at one point
– What is the story? There is one, but you have to go out of your way to click on the menu to find it
– Repeated stages of rings, some of which later in the game can last up to 10 minutes. Very repetitive
– Lack of variety
– There are mini games at the end of each ring stage, but if you are unsucessful, you have to start the entire stage over again
– Poor combat for enemy battles

This knowledge is very helpful to have as I begin to construct my own game.

Dr. Puentedura has done a series of podcasts on educational gaming called “Game and Learn” You can listen to them via iTunes here.

Super Mario 64

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