Want to see something amazing and learn about quality game design at the same time? Take one of today’s popular video game titles or even a title marketed as an educational game and have an non-gamer or digital immigrant give it a spin. It’s a pretty fascinating experience.
I had just such an experience today as I worked with a lady who will be teaching a course called Virtual Math at one of our district middle schools. In this course we’ll be using the game, Dimension-M, by Tabula Digita, to provide students with an immersive and exciting instructional, game-oriented experience. The lady who is teaching the course has had little experience with first-person video games. Well, obviously she wanted to play the games to see what the students will be doing in the class and to see how the game will support student learning.
We sat together in the computer lab where she’ll be teaching the course and began playing the game. It wasn’t long before I quit playing on my computer and simply watched her as she began learning the game’s controls and adapted to Dimension-M’s environment. To my knowledge she’d never played a first-person shooter game before. By the time she was halfway through the game’s first mission (and following the game’s tutorial), she had quickly adapted. She began to naturally move the mouse about to “look around” in the game environment, she was using the WASD keys to move about, and was even beginning to get the hang of using the spacebar to jump from one location to the next. It was fascinating to watch her skills so quickly adapt and improve.
The point is, again, that games today are much more complex than they were in the early days of electronic gaming. And as Jim Gee says, all games are ultimately about problem-solving. The best games quickly “teach” you how their world works and integrate that learning and assessment into the game play.