This is the opening entry into a series of blog posts for my Games and Learning course. In this journaling exercise I am going to play social games and analyze the game mechanics, design, and play experience, to identify how the game can be applied to learning in formal or informal settings.
I decided to kick off my game play experience with a game that was both comfortable and out of my comfort zone. I have never been interested in online multiplayer role playing games, also refereed to as Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG). I have tried them before but have been overwhelmed by the number of tasks to be undertaken, having to explore, find materials, conduct missions, build or upgrade, etc, are too much for me to enjoy the game play. I never know if what I am doing is making me a better player and I get bored or frustrated and quit. I also generally don’t enjoy the settings or genre of role playing games – fantasy – I am more or a science fiction or superhero guy in my nerdy pursuits. So while I wanted to try a game that is out of my comfort zone, the MMORPG, I decided to try to find one that had content that more closely matched my interests.
The game I settled on was Champions Online, this free game lets users create and design a superhero based around a specific class of powers, for my character Fire, I chose the ability to create and manipulate, you guessed it, fire. The game starts with a lengthy tutorial that runs through the basics of game play and upgrading offensive and defensive powers. The tutorial also connects with a community forum where further questions can be asked or answer can be searched for from previous questions. I found this forum useful because I wanted to better know how to take advantage of my character’s abilities. I have a ranged attack and learned that if I let other players, who can take more damage, spearhead attacks, then the focus of the enemies will be on those players and I can provide support with my ranged attacks. This information may have been shared in the tutorial but I missed it and was getting frustrated at how fast I was dying as I rushed into battle. By leaning on the tacit knowledge shared by the others in the Champions Online affinity space I was able to overcome my frustrations and be a better contributor in battles (Gee & Hayes, p 19, 2012).
To support learning I think that this game would good to encourage students to apply a trial and error approach that lets them identify what they can solve on their own and where they need help. For me I learned that I was not effective in my original approach to how I attacked the bad guys. I ran head first in and died too quickly to be an effective contributor. This trial and error highlighted that my approach to the battle could be wrong and I was able to refine my query about how to improve my play. Students could be supported in other learning endeavors by playing this game if they transfer skills around attacking problems with a trial and error approach to determine specific challenges that they need scaffolding for to be successful.