G-FMS Curriculum Development Journal – July 16, 2013

July 16, 2013

The Hive congregated in our workspace in the morning and worked furiously to finish demonstration versions of their games. By the time the faculty appeared (just Professors Nuñez-Rodriguez & Fernandez due to Professors Disanto and Baker being away) Chris and Elijah were able to demonstrate their game while Amara helped Dylan and Kidany to put together a working demo version of the revamped Scientific Method concept.

Prior to the demos, however, I brought some rough ideas to the group in the form of development concepts for initiating a game design – I called these “pump-priming questions” to initiate thinking about how one might introduce play to a topic. I also introduced a list of heuristic points for us to keep an eye on as the games develop.

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Heuristic points on left with Initiaing concepts on right

Heuristic points on left with Initiaing concepts on right

In terms of initial game questions I expressed to the group that we might begin by asking what metaphors for the topic come to mind, and if in describing the topic one could find an inherent mechanic. Then an understanding of what the player brings to the topic in terms of knowledge base, and what tools or concepts they might need to develop in order to engage in the topic –

  • Are there metaphors here?
  • What opportunity for conflict is there in this topic or in learning this topic that might inspire a competitive energy?
  • Is there then an obvious victory condition that we can develop from this conflict/competition?
  • And finally as we develop the game concept are there opportunities for modularity in the design? This might come from discovering we have over-complicated a game at the outset making it more difficult to learn, but we could potentially extract these complications and modify them for later versions of the game.
  • I then introduced a list of heuristics to apply to our games, which will end up being testable (e.g. assessable) outcomes that we aim for while in the design process. These are important to consider from the outset of the game design process. I introduced the group to the following points for a game designed for a teaching situation:

  • Time constraint
  • Meaningful play
  • Number of players/participants
  • Addresses SLO
  • Addresses Student learning issues
  • Involves engaging play
  • Is challenging
  • Requires appropriate prerequisite knowledge
  • Is affordable to build and easy to recreate
  • Involves a level of physicality
  • Involves strong graphical connection
  • To this list Professor Nuñez-Rodriguez stressed we should add:

  • Improved understanding
  • Increased motivation to explore subject matter further
  • Involving clear assessment goals
  • We agreed to begin outlining these points for each design as the project continues.

    The first demo involved Elijah and Chris’ planetary fraction game, and several points came up which need to be worked on in future iterations – The first issue was a very quick game play lasting only two or three rounds. It was suggested that this module of the game, which involved only divisions of tenths, three planets, and three elements needed further development in terms of content assets. A possible solution was adding more fractions, but the original plan had been to develop skills in tenths before moving to other fractions. It was then suggested that the number of elements being traded were so few that trading to one player’s advantage inevitably resulted in the other player benefitting no matter if the action had been a forced or friendly exchange.

    Francisco stepped up and identified the major elements involved in terraforming a planet for carbon-based life forms. A planet supporting carbon-based lifeforms would involve a core involving elements such as Oxygen, Hydrogen, Iron, Silicone, Carbon, Sodium, & Phosphorous. The same planet’s Atmosphere would most probably involve Oxygen, Hydrogen, Carbon, Water, Nitrogen, and Helium. Elijah and Chris had researched atmospheric makeup in our solar system and often one or two elements would take up the lion’s share of the makeup of the atmosphere while many of these other elements combined to make up one or two percent. It was decided that we should probably fudge the numbers in order to have more engaging play with fractions that initiated some kind of concept for the scientific information – this was, after all, a math game.

    I suggest that if a planet’s atmosphere is 60% hydrogen, 39% nitrogen, and ½% each oxygen, carbon, and helium, that we try to work the numbers in a somewhat balanced change with the smaller amounts being increased to the lowest common denominator (in the first module tenths) and the larger percentages being reduced to 40% and 30%. This keeps it somewhat relative, and as we subdivide into smaller and smaller fractions we can get closer to the realistic numbers.

    At this point Professor Francisco needed to leave, and the scientific method game was not finished enough to be demonstrated. Nelson gave a bit of feedback to the team as they discussed their ideas and then left the science team to work more on their assets while the math team began considering their next move. By two o’clock the scientific method game was complete enough to playtest, and the Hive gathered around and began working through a mock game involving only four animals, and appropriate assets with just a handful of ‘red herrings.’

    The game went rather well – the players were engaged and at times actually picked up their smart phones in order to check facts before answering hypothesis statements. Some of the major issues were that without a checklist to work from, several players leapt directly to specific questions about their animals rather than starting in generalisms and working toward specifics. It was agreed that on the back of each animal card there should be a list of suggested points to address that would act as cue cards for the players.

    When dealing with specific types of animals such as a Great White Shark or general species such as vulture, the questions could get too specific or too distracting and make final theorizing difficult. It was suggested that a list of possible animals be provided to accelerate game play.

    Finally, in this iteration of the game, the hand of the player had to reflect a final theory of which animal the player would suggest. This was problematic due to the fact that cards kept being lifted or forcibly traded whenever a hypothesis was incorrect. So in the end it was decided that a point system could be developed where a correct theory would be awarded 2 points and each appropriate card in that players hand would be awarded 1 point. Other players who had not yet been able to correctly identify their animal could be given points for each correct card in their hand. In this way, a player making a desperate lunge for a theory without a proper hand of cards might lose out to someone on the verge of putting forth a theory with an appropriate set. This could introduce a level of meaningful play to the situation, providing the opportunity for strategy.

    Near the end of the afternoon, I sat down with Elijah and Chris to discuss the next big game idea, and they were considering the rounding SLO. They were not sure what form the game would take, and so I pulled out another Games Magazine and showed them some of the math games I’d been exploring recently from a best of collection. There were several games involving geometric patterns that interconnected at junction points requiring the solving of functions. The shapes somehow reminded me of the Skittles game I played as a child where a top would zing around a tabletop maze striking down pins for points. I had been wondering if such an active form of play might be applicable to an in-class game, and as I began to try to verbalize this, Elijah latched onto the visual forms in the Games book and said, “like chinese checkers!”

    Though it was not where I was heading, I tabled the Skittles concept and ran with the enthusiasm. Within the hour we had designed a simple checkerboard game that involved moving pieces across a board from corner to corner occupying the opposition’s corner stronghold.

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    Rounding Game

    The Rounding Game board with yellow moving to the right corner and red moving
    to the left corner while green and blue fight to switch corner positions.

    The players would roll two ten sided dice, one describing 0-9, the other 00-90. Resulting rolls would be added together, and rounded to the nearest tenth, which we then imagined a central decimal point in order to decide how many spaces a player could move (see description beneath the above dice image). Players could move in any direction and leapfrog over another player as in Chinese Checkers, but they would have to move the total number of moved outlined on the dice.

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    Rounding Game Dice

    The rounding die: here we have rolled a 40 and a 9 – this would be rounded to 50 or 5

    Our first play-through went well, and lasted just twelve minutes. Players speed in figuring the rounding of numbers showed a marked increase over the course of the game, and we felt confident that we should continue development. As the evening came on, it was decided that we should call it a day. [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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