The goal of this assignment is to help you hone your sense for what kinds of educational games are out there and to start to think critically about what makes an educational game good. Throughout the course of the semester you will be asked to select, play, and critique 4 educational games for their potential as educational games. You might consider looking at 4 games from the same developer, or 4 games that target the same content area, or just 4 that you grew up playing. For each one of these games we would like you to make a short blog post or video critiquing the game in terms of the EDGE framework that we have talked about in class.
Periodically (every 3 weeks) throughout the semester you will be asked to submit a post to be graded. You are free to write the posts at any time as long as you have a new one to submit by each deadline. You are also free to write more than 4 posts and choose which ones to submit if you wish.
1. Find a game
To facilitate finding games you can consult the 05-418/818 Big List of Educational Games (http://edugames.design/big-list) that I have been compiling through iterations of this course this course. You may use any of the games on the Big List for your critiques except for the ones that are marked as Locked (highlighted orange). Also any game that is marked with [FRANCHISE] is meant to represent an entire franchise of games where doing multiple critiques within the franchise would not count. For example, there are many titles in the Panjama Sam franchise of games that are all generally similar.
Additionally, at least 1 of your games this semester must be a new addition to the list. For your new addition, you may select any games you like as long as you are able to fill out the fields in the submission form and one of the following is true:
- The game is clearly meant to be educational by its creators
- You can find an example of the game being used in some educational setting for a learning purpose
- You can make a strong argument that the game could be building some transferable knowledge/skill/disposition/etc.
If you need help finding games the second tab of the spreadsheet contains a list of educational game collections you can mine for ideas. If you have any questions if a game is appropriate you can ask me. You are free to add more than one new game to the Big List if you would like but we ask that for every game you add you create a blog post or video. This is mainly to prevent people adding tons of games and making it harder for others to find games that are not already on the list.
2. Critique the game
Spend some time playing the games you selected. Even if you selected a game you know well, playing the game may help to refresh your memory. Also, spend some time exploring relevant info, documentation, and videos. During these activities, take notes with respect to the dimensions below. You might find it useful to take a screen recording of your play through to help with analysis and presentation after the fact.
How you structure your critique is up to you but there are specific elements we will be looking for in grading.
Basic Information - Provide the Game Name, Developer, Platform, and High-level Instructional Goal. This is all the information you need to add a new game anyway but make sure it is included in your critique.
Brief Description - Provide a brief description of a typical player experience. DO NOT copy the description of the game provided on the developer's website or marketing materials. We want you to provide a description of the play experience in your own words from your experience playing the game. It is useful to provide screenshots and or video of game play to support this section, especially if this is a game you are adding to the list as we may not have played it before.
Learning Objectives - Describe (a) the prior knowledge that students need to play the game, (b) what they are likely to learn from playing, and (c) to what new scenarios, situations, or questions the learned skills and knowledge may transfer. For each of these three items, describe the skills/knowledge/strategies in general terms and give an example. This may be somewhat challenging if you do not know the domain really well. Do the best you can, based on the game itself and any supporting documentation you may find. Try to avoid vague terms that get listed in marketing materials like "problem solving" or "21st century skills". These are fine for filling out the spreadsheet but for the critique really consider the experience of playing the game and try to be more specific about what a player is likely to learn from the experience (e.g., a game that claims to teach problem solving probably involves more specific knowledge or skills). Please indicate any additional sources you relied on if any.
Mechanics, Dynamics, & Aesthetics - Describe the game's (a) mechanics, (b) dynamics, and (c) aesthetics, and explain briefly how each relates to the learning objectives of the game. If a game is particularly large or has a lot of mechanics then try to describe the main mechanics that most players are likely to experience. If there are several modes to the game or it is very long then you only have to go into one of them but you should at least mention the existence of others.
Learning Principles - Identify at least three learning principles that are relevant to the game. These may principles that support the game in its learning objectives or relevant principles that the game employs poorly. Explain your reasoning behind how each principle is relevant. You may select principles from any of the lists discussed so far, the Instructional Complexity principles from the course learning principle site (http://www.edugames.design/principles) should be sufficient for most cases.
Synthesis and Critique - Discuss how the three components of the EDGE framework support each other (or don't) in the game you have chosen. From this synthesis make a final judgement about the educational potential of the game. It is perfectly fine to say you think a game is a poor example of an educational game, having some bad examples will help you to understand what makes something good.
Please submit your critique as a link to your blog post or video. Our intention is to collect everyone's blogs and share them with the rest of the class so you can follow each other's critiques.
If you have any questions about any of the policies or grading around the critique assignments please ask them on the Critique FAQ Discussion.