The goal of this series of assignments is to expose you to the broader landscape of existing educational games and to start to think critically about what works and what doesn't in their designs. Throughout the semester we encourage you to seek out different educational games, play them, and post about your observations on a blog, or vlog. In your posts, consider each game from the different lenses we've talked about in class (Instructional Design, Game Design, and Learning Science) and make an ultimate determination about whether you think the game succeeds as a game and/or an educational experience.
Periodically (every 3 weeks) throughout the semester there will be a deadline where you can submit a blog post for grading. We will only keep the top 3 (of a possible 5) scores for your final critique score. You are free to write posts more frequently if you would like as long as you submit 3 posts at some point throughout the semester.
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. You may use any of the games on the Big List for your critiques except for the ones that are marked as Stretch (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 as unique. For example, there are many titles in the Panjama Sam franchise of games that are all generally similar. If you want to spend the semester doing a deep dive on a particular franchise then we are open to relaxing this rule but would expect an additional level of attention to detail in your critiques. Reach out to us if this is something you are interested in doing.
In addition to submitting new posts every 3 weeks, 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:
- You can demonstrate that 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 Big List contains a list of educational game collections you can mine for ideas and the third tab of the Big List contains a list of games that we've found interesting but avoiding adding ourselves. If you have any questions if a game is appropriate you can ask us. 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 new games that are not already on the list.
Part of the goal of this assignment is to get you to play more games and not get bogged down in lengthy essay writing. How you structure your critique is up to you but there are specific elements we will be looking for in grading. In terms of length we would expect roughly 1-2 paragraphs for each of the major sections below.
Game Metadata - Provide the Game Name, Designer/Developer, Platform, High-level Instructional Goal, and link to the game. Be sure to include this information in your post even if you're using a game that's already on the list.
Learning Objectives - Describe what the apparent learning objectives. What does the game seem to want a player to learn? What kind of prior knowledge does it assume they have? What possible transfer opportunities could there be for this knowledge? This may be somewhat challenging if you do not know the domain really well.
- Try to base you assessment off of actually playing the game rather than relying on what the designer claims the learning objects are.
- Try to avoid vague terms that get listed in marketing materials like "problem solving" or "21st century skills". (e.g., a game that claims to teach problem solving probably involves more specific knowledge or skills).
- Please cite any additional sources you relied on if any.
Game Elements - Describe the game's main elements. What is the Core Gameplay Loop? Are there interesting inner or outer loops? What nouns and verbs can the player do? What is the player experience like?
- If a game is particularly large or has a lot of mechanics then try to describe the main gameplay loop 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 Mechanisms - Describe the learning mechanism that the game is trying to impact (e.g. fluency building, refinement, sense-making etc.). What learning science principles does the game seem to employ to support (or hinder) the learning mechanism? How does the learning mechanism support (or hinder) to the apparent educational goals?
- Try to explain your reasoning behind any specific principles
- Feel free to cite any of the lists discussed so far, or from other learning science literature you may be aware of. If you are new to learning science the Instructional Complexity principles from the course learning principle site (http://www.edugames.design/principles) should be sufficient for most cases.
- If you reference a principle outside the ones we've discussed please include a reference.
Overall Critique - Come to some final judgement about whether you think the game is likely to succeed both as a game and as a learning experience. Provide some reasoning behind your judgement.
- It is totally ok to say you think a game is a poor example of an educational game, having some bad examples will help you to understand how to make something better.
If you have any questions about any of the policies or grading around the critique assignments please ask them on the Critique FAQ Discussion.
When you submit the assignment please fill out the assignment survey: Survey Link