A modest blog about my journey in the games industry

Games and education

When we hear Gamification, we probably think of making regular education more exciting. And while this isn't bad, it only scratches the surface and ignores the true potential of games.

This is a consequence of a fundamentally mistaken approach. Gamification aims to turn the act of studying a competition, but I think this only adds extra steps on how things have been done for the last four thousands years.

Instead, we should be thinking on how an interactive medium can teach concepts in a different manner.

Abstract concepts

Maths, as taught in schools, is generally boring. But the application of Maths lead to really interesting concepts, such as fractals, non-Euclidean spaces, and so on.

Knowing the Maths behind these concepts is something that requires a lof of study and it's really difficult to have a clear understanding of them by reading about it or when explained by another person.

Luckily for us, we humans can learn by doing and what better way to experiment with abstract concepts than videogames.

I'd like to focus on one particular concept, 4-dimensional spaces, but the same could be told for others.

4-dimensional spaces

This concept is usually explained by extrapolating our understanding of space.

Essentially, the explanation starts from a 1-dimensional shape, a dot, and gives it a second dimension, turning it into a line. And the same goes for a 2-dimensional shape, turning it into a cube.
Then, it's shown how a shape is seen from a smaller dimensional perspective
With that in mind, a cube is turned into a 4 dimensional shape, a tesseract.

And that's it. It actually is a good explanation on how higher dimensions relate to the former.

Now, the question is, have you clearly understood the concept, or have you a vague sense of how it works?
In my case, it's the latter. I get the concept of 3D projections of a 4D shape, but it's hard to visualize a concept out of this universe.

Here is where videogames come into play. Being able to interact with these 4D shapes helps a ton to really understand what's going on
Some videogames that play with this concept are Miegakure and 4D Golf . And even if it's not their main purpose, they are educational games!

Raising awareness

There are other approaches to learn by playing. When a player repeatedly performs an action, where this action has a consequence, they learn A leads to B.
This is specially notorious on children, for whom everything is more impressive.

When I started working on Quidala, I was convinced there was another way than a quiz or verbal language to teach children how to take care of their pets.

So my team and I started brainstorming a WarioWare-like game, where every mini-game was designed based on a question provided by Laborsord, the project managers.
Here are a few examples and what they wanted to teach:

  • Choose the appropriate shampoo.
    Not all hair types are cleaned with the same shampoos.
  • Place a dog's race in its correct continent.
    Dogs used to cold climates shouldn't live in a hot one.
  • Choose the correct food.
    It's important to give a pet the right food for its age or size.
  • Reigns-like game. Classifies animals according to whether it is appropriate to keep them as pets.
    Not all animals can live as pets.

As explained on Finding the fun in Quidala, this idea had to be discarded, but nevertheless what we did served as a way to prove to myself that it is possible to educate people in a different way.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me through email or Twitter