Free Educational Games at PBS

I really love PBS and not because I worked there while I was getting my Ph.D. They offer some great educational tools for educators. Last week in my courses we discussed gaming and gamification in K-12 Education. One of the sites my students were able to ‘play’ with during our game playing session was at PBS. This site offers tons of free educational games, so check it out and try to implement some into your lessons where you can. Keep in mind some are better than others so be sure to try out several:

Gamification: What is it and how does it apply to instructional design?

A new buzz term has been making its way around the instruction design world: Gamification. Like all buzz words, the idea is not new, however, acknowledging that it is an instructional strategy is very useful, especially for someone like myself who has a strong interest in gaming.

So what is gamification?

Gamification is the act of applying gaming techniques, strategies, and principles into any type of training and/or process. For instance, putting an achievement system into an LMS to reward learners for taking courses and gaining certain scores on the assessment. Essentially its the idea of taking anything gaming and putting it into regular training. Thus we take the ‘part’ of games that make them fun while giving us a sense of accomplishment and put this into regular training which then increases learner motivation. Instead of developing an actual game, we take pieces of the game.

At this point, the literature on gaming is growing large but is not very experimental. Having said that, the idea of gamification can be measured via quantitative research and I would expect to see quite a bit in the next few years as we develop best practices based on gaming strategies.


Want to know what video games your kids are playing?

Microsoft’s xbox releases information each week about which video games are the most popular when playing in their online environment. I thought it was interesting to see what games are the most popular. You might notice some commonalities between all the games. Most are war or sports games. This tells us that players enjoy the action in those two genres. Now if we could just take the features from these games and put them into education games…..Here is the list:

LIVE Activity for week of February 27
Xbox 360 Top LIVE Titles (based on UU’s)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Battlefield 3
Halo: Reach
Modern Warfare 2
Gears of War 3
NBA 2K12
FIFA Street Demo
Mass Effect 3 Demo
Madden NFL 12
Forza Motorsport 4
Saints Row: The Third
Halo 3
Mass Effect 2
SSX Demo
NBA 2K11


Neilson’s Annual Survey of Video Game Use

Neilson’s latest report shows the latest trends in video game use. Here are some of the stats:

  • Over half of households (56 percent) own at least one current generation gaming console as of January 2012, up from 50 percent last year
  • There is increasing overlap and competition in the mobile / handheld / tablet gaming space: 66 percent of households with kids age 6-12 that own a Nintendo DS or Sony PSP also have an Apple iOS device
  • Android4Fun gaming peaks among adults 25-34 while iPhone gaming is distributed more evenly across age segments
  • Gamers increasingly play across multiple screens: 24 percent play on two or more of a console, a PC or a mobile / tablet device, up from 17 percent in 2009
  • 65 percent of consoles are located in the living room; Nintendo Wii leads (75 percent) but Kinect for Microsoft Xbox 360 is helping to shift that platform toward communal spaces

– survey conducted among a general population sample of n=3,000 in the United States, October 2011.


Real soldiers take on CoD and BF3

Here is what soldiers think of CoD/BF3. I do not think anyone thought any differently. Obviously no one would really run around in the open shooting

From the article:

Developers of games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 spend millions of dollars to ensure their games are as realistic as possible. Everything from the noise of guns firing to the war-torn environments are created with meticulous care. Military experts are brought on board to ensure that details look and feel as true to life as possible.

Everyone understands that shooting games are fantasies but how close is the experience to real-life combat situations? We asked three soldiers who have served their country in dangerous war-zones.

They explain that as much as they enjoy playing games, the real-life experiences are vastly different. And while games can be very good at portraying physical environments, they aren’t even close to recreating the emotional strain of combat. Also, while games focus on the individual, real soldiers are trained to focus on the team.

Rest of article here

Gaming: Developing for stand alone device (console) vs. PC (many devices)

After seeing bug after bug in newly released games I have come to a few conclusions in the gaming world: If you are going to create a game or a simulation, whether it be for fun, entertainment, professional, or training purposes, it will be a much better user experience if you design it for a certain system i.e., xbox, iPad, PS3, Android ICS, etc. That way when it is released there are not tons of errors because my machine has a different type of gpu card.

What I notice in the world of gaming and simulations is that one releases a game that should run on many different systems and then many unforeseen issue arise. This is usually caused by people having old or different versions of browsers, different GPU cards, incorrect settings, different sized monitor, etc. While we try to control for this in companies when designing training or in the game world by describing minimum specs, its still just not that efficient.

In fact, this even translates into the HTML5 vs flash debate because if you are developing specifically for the iPad you might need to use HTML5. However, that HTML5 app probably will not work on the PC or Android device correctly. Thus the need to release multiple versions or include a lot of extra code. This same thing happens to so many games and simulations. The latest example being the new Star Wars game by Bioware (SWTOR). They released this game a bit early and many users are having lag or frames-per-second (FPS) issues and now they need to find and fix them. So what is the solution?

There are a couple of workarounds but no single solution. One would be to develop for one device only, such as the iPad or xbox. This is actually what I love about the xbox or iPad. If I buy an xbox game or iPad app I know it will run flawlessly for the most part on my machine because it was designed for my machine. However this becomes impossible when trying to reach all audiences as too many users have other machines such as PCs. My personal solution? Create a standard for devices each year or every few years that all devices released during that time should have. So if that standard includes a certain amount of memory, gpu, html5, flash, etc then all devices would have it and thus be able to run game and simulations released during that time.

How to survive your first night in Minecraft

I am exploring this game for my classes so I figured I would post as I learn how to use it. So far there are many possibilities for this game in education. This tutorial goes through creating your first shelter, mining, and crafting tools needed to survive that first night. I did not create this tutorial.