Research and Reviews

Research I did relating to my project, and games I played and analysed during the brief.

Water games:

When I decided to make my game about water filtration, I decided to look for other games with similar themes. I was surprised to not find any, with most of my results being about water conservation. The closest I could find were activities like this. While I think this could be a good activity to promote learning about water filtration, I think it has several weaknesses. The activity itself is not something I could see 8-year-olds doing on their own, or of their own volition – that is to say, they would need prompting by an adult to do this activity. It is also something that requires a lot of time and set-up, which is the opposite of what my goal is.

Some of the other water games I found were:

Games I looked at in class:

In class, we looked at Cluedo and assessed its design, delivery, technology and support, outcomes and cost, to see if and how it could be used for educational purposes. Overall and on average, it scored around 6 out of 10. While we all thought it was a pretty good game, one of the things dragging the score down was the fact that several of the questions were not relevant, either because they were aimed at a game that could be (or was designed to be) used as a classroom activity, or at a digital game, of which Cluedo is neither.

We later looked at Gumption, which is a New Zealand board game similar to Monopoly. One of my main problems with this game is that while it isn’t exactly like Monopoly, none of the changes are for the better. Playing it is ridiculously easy, to the point where it’s almost entirely mindless. Basically, you just roll the dice and see where you land. The visual side of it is basically just branding. As much branding as you can possibly fit into one board game. The rulebook only has a few pages of actual rules – which themselves are extremely vague – with the rest of the booklet being filled with pages and pages of descriptions of the businesses whose brands are featured in the game. The overall feel was kind of like going on YouTube and having to sit through a three minute advertisement to watch a 30 second video.

I looked at Speedy Speller, an educational typing game, focusing on the 5 game basics: rules, goals, space, components, mechanics.

  • Rules: type the words that are spoken to you, press enter to check if they’re right.
  • Goals: get through all the words as quickly as possible, beat other players’ times
  • Space: the textbox which changes colour if the words typed in it are spelled correctly or not, the area below which lists your previous answers, and a line of dots that change colour to show your progress
  • Components: a pre-recorded voice that delivers the rules and words to type, the keyboard input
  • Mechanics: type words with keyboard, check with enter; game checks if words are spelled correctly and keeps time; at the end you can replay the game, or choose another version with a different list

While I think it could be a good game for young children, it is very simple, and I think the fact that the words are exactly the same every time makes it too easy. Someone trying to get a high score would only have to memorise the keystroke order and practise hitting them as quickly as possible, which doesn’t actually teach typing.

Games I looked at outside of class:

Marvel Tsum Tsum vs LINE Disney Tsum Tsum

This is a similar case to the Monopoly/Gumption issue I mentioned above. Despite being similar games – in fact, both of these games fall under the Tsum Tsum brand – one of these was fun to play and the other one was terrible. There are only a few minor changes, but I found Disney Tsum Tsum frustrating to the point of deleting the game from my phone after only a few hours.

  • Number of Tsums: while the game has the same number in the levels, the player can only choose one of them in the Disney version, compared to three (one leader and two teammates) in the Marvel version
  • Levels: In Marvel Tsum Tsum, levels follow a progression through different worlds, and alternate between a few normal levels with missions relating to score or technique, and battle levels where you have to defeat a villain before they take out all your HP. In Disney Tsum Tsum, there is no progression, and the only battles occured randomly, for the Star Wars event. The only missions are optional, though admittedly better explained.
  • Visual/Audio: I found the visuals and sounds – particularly when completing a level or getting a boost/fever – in Disney Tsum Tsum to be very irritating. They include rapidly flashing lights, alarms and grating, high-pitched music and sound effects worsened by the increased speed during these times.

I found the game to be boring due to a lack of progression, since leveling up a single Tsum at a time was very slow, and there was no other real progress meter, and irritating due to the sounds and visuals. Additionally, having to sign up for LINE just to play the Disney version was annoying.

LINE: Play and I Love Coffee

Both of these games suffer from being not new-player friendly, albeit in different ways. In LINE Play, the tutorial is lackluster and leaves a new player fairly lost in the world. There are a great many things to do and buy, and not much indication of how currency is supposed to be generated (aside from microtransactions). There were a few games, but they either didn’t seem to generate any money, or if they did it came in pitiful amounts, compared to the prices of things. While using envy to encourage players to continue playing so that they can customise their avatar and house like the more experienced players have done is a good idea in theory, it is useless without a clear way to get there.

In LINE I Love Coffee, the problem is with the sheer amount of things that are shoved at the player from the start. The tutorial missions seem to have been split into several separate quest lines, possibly for storytelling purposes, but they are all given at the same time, or triggered while another one is being completed. The sheer volume of pop-ups for quests being completed and triggered, special offers and story progression was overwhelming. Not to mention, while the player tries to read through all of the pop-ups, there time sensitive tasks running in the background. The escalation of difficulty, in regards to juggling quests, tasks and storylines was far too fast, plus the same problem as LINE Play with regards to player envy.

Really Bad Chess

This game was very interesting as a subversion of normal chess. The player and opponent are both given random pieces, placed randomly in their starting rows – while each player is guaranteed a single King in the standard place, the other 15 pieces are determined only by the player’s rank, which corresponds to the difficulty. Playing with different pieces creates a very new dynamic, which also changes every game as your pieces are switched around. Players have to take different things into consideration when moving pieces – for example, if either player’s bishops, rooks or queens are in the front row, they can attack their opponent from the first turn.

Magikarp Jump

While outwardly a simple game, the main mechanic of Magikarp Jump is actually choices – what you spend your coins and jewels on, whether you train your fish or focus on feeding, whether you play it safe in a random event or accidentally kill your ‘karp. The numerous ways that your Magikarp can be ‘forced to retire’ – which range from disqualification due to evolving, to being K.O.’d to being stolen by a fisher or Pidgeotto – create a level of tension and interest which would be otherwise lacking in a game where you click buttons and watch things happen. I think the unexpectedness of the potential to permanently lose a Pokemon also contributes to the popularity of this game.

School of Dragons

I was very surprised to discover that this game is an educational game, specifically about science. I think it’s really cool how science has been incorporated into the world of How To Train Your Dragon, although I do find it a bit jarring for Vikings to be talking using scientific terms like ‘hypothesis’ and ‘manganese node’. One thing I thought was very interesting, was during the tutorial quests, where scenes from the original movie are used to illustrate the scientific method (problem, research, hypothesis, experiment, analyse results, adjust hypothesis, experiment again and repeat until you come to a solution). I think it is probably a very effective way to teach, especially for children who are How to Train Your Dragon fans.


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