Monday, April 16, 2007

Games and simulations - keep them consistent!

Over the course of our recent holiday, my sons spent a large amount of time playing PSP games. This is not unusual in itself. What is unusual is that I was in earshot much of the time and got to experience their frustrations by proxy.

I have recently been thinking about the use of games and simulations in learning - trying to figure out what place they might hold, etc. - so I was alert to their observations. I'm still not sure how to reconcile learner-driven just-in-time learning with the serendipitous, learning-by-immerson world of simulations, but regardless of how these things fit together, it has become abundantly clear to me that simulations must observe some rules:

  • If the player is leading a race by 10 seconds, and the second-placed, system-controlled competitor is not catching up according to the images on screen, then the player must win. He cannot be pipped at the post by a competitor that was clearly eating his dust.
  • When the player is in second place, the leading car must not straddle the centre line when cornering - it must take the inside lane as would be the case in real life.
  • If getting back onto your motorbike after a spill takes 2 seconds when you are in third place, it must not take 5 seconds when you are in first.
  • Clipping your wing mirror must not cause your car to roll 5 times and end up on its roof off the track. Especially not if it only does this if you are in the lead.
To summarise:
1. They must be more or less realistic within their own set of paradigms (perhaps believable would be a better word)
2. They must be consistent
3. They must not cheat!

I would have given up faced with the frustrations they experienced, and elder son's temper was tried to extremes at times, but he is a stubborn and determined child, and he persevered.

Meanwhile, I muttered into my pen-and-paper sudoku...

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