Friday, January 25, 2013

The Sandbox Project - Tutorial

Inspired by Darcy Osheim's thesis that examines World of Warcraft from a pedagogical perspective, I'm launching a little experiment in paragraph-level writing that explores the intersection of pedagogy and sandbox style gaming, focusing mainly on console games like GTA, Red Dead Redemption, and LA Noire. Aside from common interest, my project and Darcy's thesis are unrelated. These 'graphs are written without an outline. Their connections may be tenuous or superfluous. I may never finish. 

Educators should play more video games. After all, consider how the contemporary video game teaches its player how to play; there's a lot of serious theory at work. And that theory is backed by mammoth budgets and based on high expectations for ROI. Yet the standard video game contains no syllabus, not much of one at least. I can't think of the last time I started a console game by reading the instructions. And what if I did? Most booklets include a glossy, mostly useless insert. There may be a basic overview about running and shooting and driving, maybe a fold-out map, but little else. The instructions that come with LA Noire? 12 pages of pictures and button-functions, followed by 11 pages of tiny font listing everyone involved in the game's production. Generally the "instructions" that come with most console games are scanned once and never used again. We learn to play videogames through trial and error, advancing through tutorial levels that implant button combinations at an almost unconscious level. If the process works we learn by doing, sometimes aided by explicit instruction but generally by playing. One may debate the virtues of video game content, but one can hardly doubt that game designers know how to teach.

To Read: Erik Andersen et al.'s "The Impact of Tutorials on Games of Varying Complexity"

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