I’m currently taking a course on educational games for learning, which is an undergraduate course with a graduate counterpart. For the most part, undergraduates and graduate students do the exact same work, except at the end of the semester the graduate students connect the class to their own research (or some other personal connection) by writing a paper or giving a presentation. This week, two of the graduate students presented on topics that made me rethink gaming.
Making games for your children
Although David has very limited programming experience, he shared a game that he put together for his two young sons to play. Starting off with the template for a matching game on the Unity platform, David was able to add recordings of his own voice and add pictures of his sons to the game, which gave it a nice personal touch. His kids enjoyed hearing their father’s voice in the game and also learned that games are actually made by people.
Not having any children of my own, I thought it was neat how David took it upon himself to learn how to program so that he could form a deeper connection with his kids.
Another one of my classmates, Patricia, had us playtest a Chinese language-learning game. Players learn different phrases in Chinese by watching interactions between people and then saying the phrases themselves in the correct context. There was a nice story component to the game, which simulated the experience of being in a country and interacting with native speakers. Patricia called this “scaffolded immersion” because students are immersed in different situations, which allow them to use the language, but the specific situations are hand-selected to provide scaffolding. I thought this idea was brilliant because it seemed to draw on the benefits of learning a foreign language by spending time in the country and also by learning new terms in a classroom setting. I also thought it was ingenious to make a game that teaches a foreign language without making assumptions about languages you already know. For instance, in Patricia’s game, you don’t have to speak English in order to learn the Chinese language. This also gets rid of the translation habit that many students fall into when learning new languages (e.g. vocabulary lists translating phrases from English to Chinese). Instead, you train yourself, for example, to say xiè xiè when someone gives you a present.
The semester is coming to a close, and while I do regret not getting to know more of my education classmates more, I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn some useful lessons from their personal perspectives on games.