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Saturday, January 14, 2017

EDTECH 532- Diversity In Gaming Experiences: Reflections on the different types of games

In pursuit of my Action Games quest, I will be reflecting on different gaming experiences.

The first genre of games I tackled were "Shoot-em up Games".  I tried three of the games out for size.  First was a version of the 1980's classic Galaga.  I have to admit I became a little nostalgic.  I remember playing the original arcade machine version growing up. I also tried out two other shooter games through my Steam account.  Specifically I played Relic Hunter and Tera Blaster which would considered "Top down" shooter games.

All of the Shooters had similar qualities.  Basic graphics, simple controls and the most basic of concepts, shoot everything you see.  These games had similarities in their design.  As on advanced, the game got harder but the rewards became greater.  The game that held my attention the longest was Relic Hunter.  In addition to the shooting aspect, I was given specific tasks to complete as well.  Despite having the most simplistic graphics, I kept wanting to play and try and complete my task.  This seems consistent with the rewarding aspects of gaming that we have talked about in these early days of the course.  To motivate the user and retain their attention, the game needs to offer periodic rewards.

  Sims have always been a big part of my gaming experience.  I have owned several versions of Civilization, Sim City, etc.  They are a perfect way to pass some time immersed in a different time and place.In regards to Simulation Games, I tried out Tropico on Steam.  I chose this particular game because of my Social Studies background. In this game you assume the role of a leader of a small island nation and have to retain power by keeping citizens content or by using force.  This would be really good resource in a classroom setting as students can see the results of making decisions on domestic and foreign policy.  Furthermore, students become more aware of all of the things leaders have to consider.  I also liked that the identity choices available were real life Latin American leaders which could naturally lead to some sort of research assignment.  Like all good SIMS, Tropico allows you to experience first hand a specific scenario.  The potential for Simulation Games such as this is limitless in an educational setting.

Interactive Fiction games have been around since the early days of personal computing.  In fact I remember playing such games on my Apple IIe in junior high school.  For this quest I tried my hand at Zork and To Burn in Memory.  I have to admit, when I was 14 this type of game held my attention but I had a hard time focusing.  I actually had to think too much.  I had to keep track of where I was using a pad of paper and focus alot on the fine details of the script.  It's kind of sad  that I had difficulty with this which makes me think this could actually be a good format to help students with their literacy skills.

There are also a series of Other Games that don't really fall into the above categories but may have value in the educational setting.  Games such as Poker and Yahtzee can be used in lessons on probability very easily. In fact teachers have been using card and dice games do to this years before the introduction of video games.  Other traditional games that have found new life in the digital realm such as Chinese Checkers can help with critical thinking skills as it demands the player develop a strategy.  I have to admit it has been a long time since I played Yahtzee and it took me a few games to remember exactly what I was supposed to do.  I kind of felt I should have a small pad of paper and a golf pencil but I did pretty well without those.  These games were popular for a reason, they make you think and they are fun.  I'm glad to see them finding new life in the online world . Now that I am nostalgic for the board games of my youth,  I think I may have to do a search for Parcheesi.

Adventure Games take a page out of interactive fiction but add much needed graphics to enhance the experience.  I took a few turns at Peasants quest and Heroes Must Die.  Although both were rather simple games they did capture the imagination and I felt like I lost track of time while playing them.  The graphics and actions enhanced the storyline and I could see how an English teacher could use games like this to teach the different parts of the story.

Playing a classic adventure game such as Zelda, players will find that many of the above game features combine.  Players immerse themselves in a story line, collect information while reading text and combat a variety of dangerous creatures all while seeking to finding the Princess Zelda.  This formula of quest, increasing difficulty, action and fiction combine to create a enjoyable experience for the player. I think it is safe to say that this design format influenced many of the educational games of today.  It's actually pretty hard to believe that I had never played Zelda before in my life.  I somehow missed that trend during my first years at University.  I must have beens spending my time "studying".

Video games have evolved in ARG's or Alternative Reality Games.  Players in these games, accept that they are in an alternative realm to their reality and immerse themselves in this knew reality.  Recently I played 39 Clues which serves as a good example of the genre.  First you assume an identity which belongs to one of the "houses" of the powerful Cahill family.  The player is then tasked to solve a family mystery centered around the sinking of the Titanic.  My first quest took me on a virtual tour of Halifax, Georgia and Scotland.  I quickly saw the educational value of this game.  I had to use several different competencies such as critical thinking to solve puzzles while at the same time learning bits of information about the Titanic, different locations, etc and there were aspects of interactive fiction games where I had to ask questions to people I came across.  Also, this game possess many of the motivational aspects of games design.  I received positive reinforcement throughout and once I solved one puzzle, I was often to another that was a bit more difficult.  I can certainly see how such games can hold one's attention for a long time while at the same time, educating them.  This is a very powerful genre of gaming.