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Education with Games

Steven Stites / November 16, 2014 at 8:00 AM / Blog, Opinions

There’s always combinations that appear to be the worst idea ever. Fish and chocolate, cigarettes and gasoline, curiosity and lack of caution, and education and video games. Actually, maybe that last one isn’t so far-fetched. There’s already video games with the intention of teaching children, right? Math Blasters, Reading Rabbit, Magic School Bus, just to name a few from my own childhood. But what about games that can be used widespread as a way to teach kids and be fun at the same time?

I started thinking about this question when I first saw the Extra Credits series about the subject in question. Highly suggest checking out the series. I found it to be very informational about the industry and how to look at game design techniques. Anyway, I came up with an idea for a game that could be used.

Now, I think this idea, while extremely flawed in many ways, can help start other people thinking about ways games could be used for education in general. At least, that’d be my goal in fleshing out a game like this.

But not actually developing it. That's hard. Like real hard.

But not actually developing it. That’s hard. Like real hard.


Before I get into it, though, I must want you dear readers that this idea may in fact sound so freaking stupid that I’m probably crazy. And you’d be right. I’m only putting forward this idea as a way to challenge you. Start thinking of ways games and education can be put together. We already have the technology to MAKE such a game – we just need more people to think about this.

Anyways. I first tried to think of what subject could be the most beneficial to being in a video game format. The answer came fairly quickly, as it’s a subject I have trouble myself. Math.

Next I tried to think of what genre of game would go well with math. The subject really isn’t one that’s fun in general, and extremely straight-forward. There’s a problem and there’s one exact solution. There’s no real wiggle room with a math problem. How about a puzzle game? Something like a point-and-click adventure? No, that wouldn’t work. Something like Professor Layton? Naah, that’d be more along the lines of Critical Thinking Skills.

Then it hit me. The original Final Fantasy. I played that game when I was a kid. It have a very straightforward battle system. All that’s needed is to figure out how to use math in this system. After a bit of thinking, I came up with the idea of replacing the weapons: the swords, magic, etc, with the symbols used in math. Four characters and four general symbols used in arithmetic. Plus (+) minus (-) multiply (x) and divide (/).

Final Fantasy Battle

Now, how to use math problems as a way to battle monsters? Perhaps for each creature, there’d be a number over their head. Every time the battle start, the player must figure out how to make the combined numbers reach 0. Or maybe figure out how to make the combined numbers = that to whatever number is presented.

Now, I had a really clear image of this when I was thinking in terms of a boss battle. The first boss will have an equation over their head, and the player must use all four symbols and keep in mind the order of operations. That’s how they’re taught, well, the order of operations. After the boss battle ends, then problems including the order of operations would be included in the normal battles.

The game would keep track of how long each player takes to solve each problem. The longer a player takes on a particular problem the more the game will try to provide hint to help the player understand the problem. And that’s about how far I’ve gotten so far. I keep thinking over this and I don’t see any problem so far, but I can’t actually work on making a game like this reality. That’s for people with the experience and knowledge to make a game that can help educate.

The entire point of this editorial of bringing this subject to light. Anyone can help create an idea, and people willing to learn or just want to make a game can take said idea and make it a game. I want people to start thinking about how we can make educational games that are fun. Games that are still fun as hell to play, but it helps the player learn while they play.

This is something that we CAN DO, but all it takes is for people to take that first step.

Steven Stites

I'm a PC player. I tend to spend all my time doing things I enjoy, games, Netflix, anime/manga, browse interweb, what-have-you. When those things pique my interest enough, or I get an interesting idea, i tend to start writing them down. Eventually I got into writing about the things I enjoy doing. Also kind of a big music lover. I listen to everything from metal, pop, classical, and Pink Floyd. Yes, Pink Floyd is a genre unto itself.