Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I don't know how I got on their mailing list, but I got an e-mail today from a company called Kognito pointing to a new information literacy game created for the City University of New York. It focuses on business research. The page still says "coming soon," but it does include a Captivate explanation of the game, which seems like it could be kind of cool. So far, my only criticism is a good game needs a good title! Hopefully I will be able to find it live and play it for myself soon.

Carmen Sandiego

I played Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego yesterday. I remembered how intriguing this game was when I was a kid, and I still find it so even with the awful graphics. I took a few notes on the things that I like about it:

  • Database-driven game, so you'll probably never play the same game twice.
  • Offers players a choice on what they want to do, look for clues, enter data to try to get a warrant, or depart for a new city.
  • Each choice has consequences as far as the time goes. While the player can take as long as he/she wants to make a decision, each decision costs a certain amount of time. Interviews cost time, but if you don't do enough of them, you'll find the thief without getting a warrant. You also may depart to the next city, only to realize you didn't go to the right place. All of these choices costs time.
  • Animations that indicate you being on the right track. Of course the graphics are awful and the animations take a long time to load, but they add a fun element to the game.

The database-driven part is too hard for me to do, but I'm going to think about how I can add some of these other things to my own games to make them more fun.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Article Review: Games, Motivation, and Learning: A Research Practice Model

Authors: Garris, R., Ahlers, R., Driskell, J. E.
Article Title: Games, Motivation, and Learning: A Research Practice Model
Journal: Simulation Gaming (2002). Vol. 33, p. 441-467.

I'm tying up the lose ends of my article and passing it around for review and criticism before submission. I hope that will be next week. I have found some great resources in the past few days, including this article that really helped me bring a few things together. First of all, it's a great literature review, with publication dates of material cited range from the early '60's to mid-'90's.

Caillois (1961) defined a game as "an activity that is voluntary and enjoyable, separate from the real world, uncertain, unproductive in that the activity does not produce any goods of external value, and governed by rules" (quotation from Garris et al., pg. 442). They later point out that the parts involving voluntary and unproductive make non-voluntary educational games problematic in theory.

They point to several articles that define the difference between games and simulations. Margaret Gredler also addresses this in a handbook chapter entitled "Games and simulations and their relationships to learning." Each explanation is different and confusing. I have made up my own simplistic explanation for my article.

They point out that, "The generally accepted position is that games themselves are not sufficient for learning but that there are elements of games that can be activated within an institutional context that may enhance the learning process." I think the institutional context is important. I strongly believe that students at a larger school would have higher expectations for graphics and technical splendor than my game has, plus if you sent students off into the stacks at a place like Indiana University or Penn State, those students would never, ever come back to the classroom.

It is also important to separate the effectiveness of increasing motivation and the effectiveness of increasing student retention of the material. These are two very different things.

Some, such as Young (1996) have equated the interest shown in video games to that of compulsive or addictive behavior. This is the flip side of the motivation games draw on. I don't think educational games will ever have to worry about this, but this is an interesting point.

Dekkers and Donatti (1981) found that shorter simulations were more effective than longer ones.

The best part of this article was the section on the debriefing. There is little evidence that pure discovery learning works, which means the debriefing activity is crucial for success. This gives players a chance to review, analyze, and reflect on the events, and to draw parallels between the game and the real world. This allows students and educators to "transform game events into learning experiences."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Belated Picture

After a number of technical difficulties and general procrastination, I'm finally posting the picture of my honorable gaming focus group. This picture deserves its own post, since no one is likely to see it if I just update the post I created after our last meeting. They have provided more information in our two times together than I have been able to process and have been such fun to work with.

Some new games

As I was collecting some more articles to tie my article on the Secret Agents in the Library game, I came across a PowerPoint presentation that points to some library games that I didn't know about. They are:

Bioactive is the first game I have seen that is about the same level of complexity as my games. I'm not quite sure what I'm supposed to be doing, which is probably partly because one of the first assignments is to log into the electronic course reserves, which I can't do as someone who isn't affiliated with the U of FL. I like the use of hotspots to find clues, and the way they have the student explore all of the floors.

I really like the story and use of video and MySpace in the Blood in the Stacks game. It was a scheduled real-world game, so I can only get bits of it from just looking at the site. I might have to contact someone from Trinity to see how it went and if they could share their materials.

Help Me Solve a Mystery has been taken down, but has an interesting "rabbit hole" and an e-mail address. Who knows if that still works, but it's worth a try.

I have seen the UNCG game before, but that was before I was particularly interested in gaming. I'm a little turned off by the 1984 graphics, but it is a relatively sophisticated game. I like how it lets you chose your avatar (even if I don't like the choices), and the questions are database-driven. I also like the board game format and the timer, which creates a since of urgency. Actually, I hate being rushed, but it does add an important game-like element. I think they have good questions and I have fun playing the game... though I'm too lazy to actually look at the Web sites they ask me to look at. They have a link on their site for people who want to use their game. I might try to get it so I can understand how it works and incorporate that knowledge into my own games.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Presentation a Success

My presentation yesterday at HACC Harrisburg went very well. I was most worried about timing, and I did go about 5 minutes longer than I wanted to, only leaving 5 minutes for questions, but otherwise I think I performed at my best. I got a lot of positive feedback, including one school librarian who said "you inspired me!" I hope people will feel free to e-mail or call me. The local high school librarian approached me about some type of collaboration, and I'm looking forward to that. Overall, I had some great conversations with various librarians throughout the day (not just about games), loved the food, and was very impressed by the quality of the other presentations.

I learned two days ago that a high school English teacher who is a Lyco alum and currently working on her MLS wants to do a summer internship at our library. My director asked if she could get involved with any of my summer projects, and I'm quite excited to have a collaborator for my games, especially one with a few years of teaching experience. I plan to have her help me complete the plagiarism tutorial, with her focusing on the pedagogical aspects of the game. And perhaps we can also start the Raiders of the Lost Journal game.

Finally, I just came across a call for participation at the Play with a Purpose 2009: Games and Simulations in Libraries in Rochester, NY. I just requested further information from Scott Nicholson, who promptly responded that there had been so little interest and such budgetary constraints that the event has been cancelled. Oh well, it would have been difficult for me to go anyway.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Presentation Slides

I'm finalizing my presentation and handout for the HACC Information Literacy Symposium this Thursday. So far, my presentation looks like this: