A Constructivist Approach to Learning

I got really excited recently about this class-I was sitting and doing my second poster and I realized that I could apply one of the learning principles that I was discussing being utilized in my game to my own life. I am a study group leader for the Science Learning Center here on campus, and my group members are taking their third exam this week. Normally, I send out practice exams prior to the exam being taken and hold a review session that covers the material that was mentioned in class in a quick “mini review lecture” and then allows students to ask questions about the practice exam. Practice is helpful, as demonstrated by Gee, but I had a new idea while designing my second poster.

The game that I am playing, Final Fantasy Tactics, is frequently a game in which players “roll the game clock.” In order to accomplish this, i.e., playing for over 99 hours and 99 minutes, the players must continue to play beyond the normal storyline. To do so, online forums have arisen that have created SCC (Single Class Challenge), in which all five party members must belong to only one class during the course of the game, and SSCC (Solo Single Class Challenge), in which the player has only one party member who is the same class the entire game. As classes can be modified throughout the game and used to help in specific situations, constructing a new game requires that players take the knowledge that they learned in previous playthroughs and construct it in a new manner. This is the goal of a Constructivist Approach to Learning, to encourage players to make new connections with knowledge that they already have.

To apply this to my study group, I split my group members into groups for each lecture covered on the third exam. I asked each group to create questions based off of the material in lecture, but not just definition questions, but conceptual questions that required problem-solving skills. This required them to take the knowledge they had of the class’ information and the content and structure of practice exam questions and resynthesize them, as in the Constructivist Approach to Learning. They then played a game where each group was a separate team and had to answer other team’s questions. The gameification of review also made it more enjoyable.

Thanks to Edu 222 for making my own teaching techniques more effective (I hope!) and enjoyable!

Video Games Might Help to Fight Congenital Cataracts

Another interesting use for video games…


Not only can video games be used to help develop hand-eye coordination and reflexes, as we saw demonstrated in the “serious games” lectures this week, but new research is now suggesting that video games might help to fight congenital cataracts. Fascinating, huh?

Not only are video games directly involved in cognitive learning, but they can play a role in training reflexive muscles as well. According to this article, playing action games is “a sort of eye training that essentially doesn’t give the eyes time to ponder what they should or should not do,” and it forces the player to develop better vision and better response to visual cues. This same treatment is being used to treat lazy eyes.

Elaboration on a Minecraft Comment from Digital Ops

I already made a comment about the awesomeness of Minecraft on the class blog earlier this semester. Anything that can be so simply created, lacking many of the detailed visuals and complicated plotlines that we associate with successful, high-end games today, but can still reach out and snare the minds of so many people has something very special. How does Minecraft manage to motivate people to spend so many hours playing it? The first day that I logged in to Minecraft and created my world, I spent almost eight hours exploring, much to the detriment of visiting my long-distance boyfriend, although he had to have understood how much fun I was having exploring and fighting monsters, as he had just done the same thing a week before. However, Minecraft, at the time, had no badge systems and has only a rudimentary system currently, has no clearly prescribed goals, and is very open-ended. Why did I, my boyfriend, and so many others find it so engaging?

At Digital Ops, one of the members made a comment that young children playing Minecraft will often spend the first hour using cheats to make large structures and to go around the rules of the world, and, that, after this first hour, these young children will transition to actually working within the confines of the world to create their own structures, even if they are much smaller and less impressive than the structures made using cheats. Although Minecraft is fairly easy to manipulate cheats in, these young children are intrinsically motivated to play within the confines of the game and build and explore on their own. The game creates a sense of unknown, arousing curiosity within the player, and it creates varying levels of difficulty as the player progresses through different adventures that encourages the player to gain new materials, create new things, and face new challenges. If this level of intrinsic motivation could be harnessed within other settings that young children engage in, such as school, much more successful outcomes might occur.

Does anyone else have any ideas what might make Minecraft and other sandbox games like it so successful and engaging?

The Importance of Dialogue in Gaming

I was sitting on my bed this evening, talking to myself (I do that a lot…I like to think out loud in my room and just process things verbally. I swear that I am not crazy! At least not that crazy…) when I had a realization. For me, language and conversation are necessary for me to form connections and to create concrete ideas. Cooperation, whether in a game or in a real-life situation, cannot happen for me without dialogue, and learning, for me, occurs best when I can either verbally work something out myself or when I am able to run it by other people. I study in group settings before exams; it helps me to form better connections. When I am writing, I often bother my boyfriend or my roommate to help me to figure out how to phrase something. I read things back to myself when I am reading research papers for science courses or for my Honors Thesis to further process ideas. For me, dialogue is incredibly important in learning, and I am realizing the importance of dialogue both in learning during videogames and in establishing in-game worlds.

The game that I am playing for class, Final Fantasy Tactics, is well-known for its intricate story line, but it is also well-known for its poor translation. The story is very complex, and, although the main plot is well-translated, side quests and dialogue between characters is confusing at times. For example, one of the characters stands up mid-way through an argument, slams his hands on the table, and yells at another character, “Your words are harsh!” Translation issues range from awkward, like this character’s angry comment, to confusing and detracting from the story. This occurs in both the tutorial and in side quests and makes the game’s world difficult to navigate and prevents me from being overly motivated to participate in side quests because I may not understand what is going on and how to integrate it into my understanding of the world.

There are other games where the use of dialogue is incredibly efficient at drawing the player into the world and creating the illusion of a fantasy setting, as discussed in our reading for class this week, that engages the player and encourages their interaction with the world. Bastion, one of the games presented about in the poster session today, has a voice-over narration that explains the back story and provides a strong connection to the character. This voice-over narration also serves to motivate the player to continue by providing fairly regular feedback on the player’s actions and giving advice to the player when the player appears to be having difficulty. In several RPGs, including my favorites Earthbound and Chronotrigger, characters in the world address the silent protagonist with the name that the player has given the protagonist, allowing greater identification with the game world.

Dialogue can also be used poorly in games. In Final Fantasy X, an excellent fantasy world is created, with excellent dialogue between the players. However, the protagonist is a rude and brash individual. The player has no way to control his interactions with the other characters, and many characters end up disliking the protagonist. The player is left feeling discouraged, unwanted, and lacking control over the development of the character and of the fantasy world. In League of Legends, a free on-line game, the narration in the tutorial is condescending and overly critical. Although it provides advice and feedback, like the narration in Bastion, it does not motivate the player but instead reduces the player’s self-esteem, leaving the player less motivated to continue to attempt to learn how to play the game.

Is anyone else a verbal learner? Has anyone else had any experiences with dialogue and its importance or influence on a videogame?

Females in Video Games (And a Random Rant!)

As I was writing my Game Selection Paper, I was thinking about the tripartite identity mentioned by Gee and by Professor Fishman in lecture, about the identity of the player in the real world, the character in the virtual world, and the blending of the character and the player into an integrated identity. I chose a role-playing game for my video game for class, and one of the things that I am most interested to learn this semester is how developing the blended identity between the player and the character in the game facilitates learning and motivates the player to try new challenges in the game and encourages the player to play the game differently. However, I realized that this is going to be a slight challenge in the game that I chose for class. Although I have played other characters in similar games with the same challenge and have still formed a connection with the character, the main character in the game that I chose, Final Fantasy Tactics, is male. I am female, and I wonder how this impacts my connection with the character. Would I be able to connect with the character on a different level if the character was the same gender as me? It will be interesting to consider how I may have played the game differently this semester if the main character was female.

Considering how I connected with a character in a video game who is a different gender with me made me consider gender dynamics in video games in general. Although the number of females playing video games is only slightly smaller than the number of males playing video games in general, many gamers assume that other games are mostly male. One of my favorite games currently is Minecraft. (To read more about Minecraft and consider getting it because it is awesome and will take up all of your freetime, visit: http://www.minecraft.net/). I was on a forum about Minecraft and was discussing one of my current projects with another player. At one point, I mentioned that my boyfriend was helping me to design the roof for the giant cathedral that I was building, and the player paused for a moment before typing, “Wait…you’re gay?” According to current research, only ten percent of the population is homosexual; fifty percent of the population is female. Why did he pick the less likely of the two options? One of my closest female friends is an avid World of Warcraft player and she has stopped telling other people that she is interacting with that she is female because she either gets, “Wow! You must be really good if you are a girl and play this,” “You must be pretty bad. Girls aren’t good at WOW. You shouldn’t raid with us,” or receives an offer for a date or a certain popular derogatory message (I imagine many people are aware of the phrase that I am thinking of.) Even video game designers appear to assume that most gamers are male when designing protagonists. There are few powerful, independent female protagonists in video games. The main example that I can think of is Samus Aran from Metroid. Although women do exist as main characters in other video games, such as Lara Croft from Tomb Raider and Alex Roivas from Eternal Darkness, these women are often highly sexualized and may not have well-developed, independent characters. As a female gamer, I would like to have more independent, powerful women to play as and experience games through. Does anyone see a shift in this perception of female gamers occurring? Does anyone have any recommendations of games with a strong female protagonist that I could try? Does anyone have any other feelings on this subject?

Although this is not exactly video game related, I believe that this two blog posts from Epbot (one of my favorite blogs; the woman who writes it is so spirited and funny!) is also highly appropriate to this topic:



I don’t understand why there are people who tease others for their choices in entertainment or in their interests. Whether it is as a female gamer, a girl who wishes to dress up as Spock for Halloween, a boy who decides that he wants to dance ballet, or anyone else who chooses to defy societal norms is alright. Sorry that this post started as “I want more strong female protagonists in gaming!” and ended as “Let’s accept and support everyone!” I think that this is an important message that this class will teach us, though. We are attempting to understand and potentially pioneer a new method of learning. There will be stigma associated with it, just as there is currently stigma to a certain extent against females who play video games, but we must work through the stigma and fight for what we believe works and is important. This is an important lesson in perseverance, whether in learning, in changing the world, or just in finally beating the final boss of that one horribly hard game.

Getting Pumped for Class!

Yay! Professor Fishman helped me to reregister as a contributor for the blog; I was registered as a follower of the blog, which is why I could not make a new post. Oops!

I just watched the video about learning in video games that is posted as an introduction to the class on the CTools site. I wanted to share another video that I have seen that explores similar themes about learning. However, this video focuses more on in-game learning, as Professor Fishman described quickly in lecture today with the Incredibles game. This video, which my boyfriend shared with me when I told him that I was registered for this class, got me really excited, and I hope that it gets other people excited too! (Also, it is about Mega Man and Mega Man X, both of which are amazing games!)

Without further ado, the video:

Also, a funny story that my boyfriend shared with me about video games and learning: When he was younger, he was attempting to play Mario’s Time Machine, but the game required him to be able to read in order to progress. He wanted to play it badly enough that he was motivated to learn to read prior to kindergarten. His mother taught him, and Mario’s Time Machine is still one of his favorite games. What a great way for a game to motivate a child to learn! Does anyone else have funny anecdotes like this?