It’s always confounded me that “educational games” continues to be this misunderstood and ghettoized area of gaming when there are few better ways teach a person than by having them interact with their subject matter. Nearly every one learns better when they can put their hands on something, and who’s better at getting your hands involved than games? There’s an entirely different argument that could go here aobut the earliest of games appearing first as teaching tools, but it’s already ridiculously late and I need to be awake again very soon. So instead of a rant, here’s one game looking to teach, and another out to learn.
Launchball comes via the London Science Museum and is all about getting a ball into a hole via any and all realistic (and sometimes less so) means possible.
Of course there’s more to it that that. At the start of each level you have a set number of ability tiles to use in setting up a Rube Goldberg device for carrying the ball from point A to point B. Some of these generate power (such as heat sources, generators, etc.), while others are devices in need of power (turbines, conveyor belts, and such). The game is intended to support the Science Museum’s Launchpad exibit, and both share a similiar love of showing how the mundane creates the extraordinary. This way, though, you don’t have to put up with other people and their kids.On top of the already rather brilliant selection of puzzles, there’s a level editor available that allows you to create levels, save them, and even send them to friends. It’s a fantastic idea that more flash games – and museums – should consider stealing, as the only thing more fun than peeking behind science’s curtain is using your new-found knowledge to show off in front of others. Deceptively simple and surprisingly deep, Launchball
is one of the better educational games I’ve played in years, if for no other reason than you may actually learn something. Remember to use that as an excuse when it gets you in trouble with your boss.And then there’s Game Experiment Test #1
by noted Ludologist (no relation) Jesper Juul. When not actually making games, Juul spends a lot of time thinking and writing about what makes them work, and has put some of his thoughts into the rather ace Half-Real
. He’s one of the ones worth listening to.
As the website promises, the entire GET#1
exprience will take you about ten minutes to play through. It’s not a complete game, merely a playable version of an unfinished idea. But what’s there is enough to give you a feel for how the real thing would probably play, which brings us closer to the meat of the project.Half-game, half-survey, GET#1
throws a few levels at you of a game that are somewhere between Pac-Man
and Jenova Chen’s innovative FlOw
. The result is a game idea that’s more than a little clever while remaining easy to understand and – even in this unfinished form – challenging and fun. After you play through the handful of levels available, you’ll be asked a few questions about your experience with this and other games. It’s all for the greater good, as your answers will become part of Juul’s larger work with experimental game mechanics and (if the nature of the questions are anything to go by) the question of what player’s consider constitutes too easy or too hard a challenge. He’ll be posting the results once their on his blog, which promises to be interesting. I’m as curious to see how people answered as I am to know what this is all building for. If you have a chance, spend a little bit of your time playing through a curious proof-of-concept and answering some questions – if nothing else, you’ll at least learn what you consider too much or too little of a challenge in the games you play, something I knew deep down inside but have rarely articulated.