Gamification: How do we know our players are learning?

Chloe is a writer and general admin monkey in the SeeThrough office.

Recently Paul and I had a meeting with a physics educator from the University of Sydney to discuss the educational elements we are including in particulars. Amongst excited ramblings about gamification in general like Zombies, Run!, SpaceChem and Robot Turtles we hit upon an important consideration. In order to be certain that Particulars actually teaches physics, we would need to test players, like an exam, like school.

Clearly not the funnest thing to be forcing on players.

Don’t worry, we have no plans to introduce pop quizzes into Particulars but our meeting did help us realise the kind of education Particulars can provide. The game doesn’t so much teach particle physics as it does familiarise. Yes players may realise that two down quarks and one up quark make a neutron by the end of Chapter 2 (and we certainly hope you do) but the real educational value of Particulars lies in showing players that down quarks exist at all. If we’ve done our job right, players will then be encouraged to seek out deeper understanding on their own (though we are certainly putting in tools to make this easier.)

I was reminded of my experiences playing Civilization over the years. I didn’t learn much history from them, but I did get introduced to different civilizations and cultures, enough so that when I encountered them in a more “educational” setting I already had some context for them, which made me more excited to learn. I was even a member of the “All the history I know I learned from Civilization” Facebook group back when Facebook actually had groups.

So, what are your experiences with educational familiarity in games? Were you inspired to learn more?

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