by Tom Garncarz, REU Fellow
Hello! Here's an update on my progress in creating an educational game to help teach learners how to identify different families of macroinvertebrates. Since my last post (which you can read here), I've decided on a proper design direction and have begun work on a digital prototype of the game. Before getting into it, everything below is in-progress and in-development and may not be fully representative of the final game.
After completing my pitch to the rest of the team, I received a lot of feedback on the direction of the game. There was a lot of positive noise about the mobile Tinder-esque card sorting game; team members felt that the primary interaction of swiping left or right was simple enough to easily introduce players to the game, while the anatomical questions were a good way to integrate the project's overall interest in teaching anatomical vocabulary into the game. Some key considerations were also made regarding progress in the game; if the game is to be used as a pre-test/post-test measure for new learners, how would progress and ability be recorded? Furthermore, are there ways to build this scoring mechanism into the structure of the game in a way that feels compelling and rewarding for players -- and doesn't fall into traditional gamification pitfalls in the process? With this feedback in mind, I went forward towards designing a digital prototype of the game as a means of exploring those design questions, while also building progress towards a final release.
Work on the digital prototype of the game, which is being built in Unity, has been progressing smoothly thus far. The primary interaction mechanism of touch-screen input to swipe cards left and right has been built, and the underlying infrastructure of allowing players to answer questions about the macroinvertebrates on certain cards is nearly complete.
Once these two features are fully complete, work can begin on building out the scoring system for the game. I have already resolved that once players are able to fully identify a macro -- that is, narrow down their deck of cards to the point of having only one macroinvertebrate left -- they should be "given" that macro as a reward. This would entail being shown the macro full-screen, as well as some anatomical and categorical information about it -- order, genus, where it might be found in a water system, and so on. As such, the number of macros that players are able to "collect" and which ones were collected might serve trainers as a means of understanding what players were able to successfully identify and what they struggled with. Additionally, I intend to integrate a player-invisible scoring system into the game that tracks the total number of correct answers to questions versus incorrect answers. This would help to further contextualize each player's ability, and could serve as a comparative metric in a pre-test/post-test situation.
Work on the game continues, and seems to be progressing well to meet the May deadline. There are still design considerations to be made, including how the game ought to respond to incorrect answers. Given that the prototype is nearing a functional state, I anticipate that I will be able to spend more time focusing on these aspects of the game in the coming weeks.
Thanks very much for reading!
An interdisciplinary team