Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

User Testing with CodeAcademy

In the exercise “A Box Office Hash”, CodeAcademy had me write a hash database that holds movie titles and their respective ratings. It can Add a new movie with rating, Update to change a movie’s rating, Display to list all the movies and their ratings, or Delete to remove a movie from the hash.

As I finished it, my aunt asked what I was working on. Since this was the first remotely functional program I’d built for CodeAcademy, I asked her to give it a whirl.

She had absolutely no idea what to do.

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Improving on a CodeAcademy exercise

In CodeAcademy’s “Data Structures, Meet Iteration” exercise, I was asked to create a Histogram program. It would take any input and then list the words from that input in order of how frequently they occurred.

I had some issues with this program, however.

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Involving Everyone

A belief, excitement, and feeling of mastery over the prospect of being rich and influential is developing in me. Singularity University has a concentration of people who are both wealthy and primary players in the good of the world and humanity.

I am becoming more confident that I can add to their contribution.

I have many thoughts that I reflect on as particularly luminary and rich in potential, that I then find echoed by other influential people attempting to take action on them.

There is one thing I want to do that is attractive to generally everyone, that is not being done despite its wide-spread acceptability, and I am confident would have a radical influence on the human innovative potential for good.

I want to open the doors of invention and market influence to the general population. As the owner and operator of a company, it is the discretion of the company’s leaders to involve whomever they see fit in doing the business of the company. I have been working more and more to lengthen the possible wingspan of a company so that it can put its arms around the shoulders of greater numbers who wish to be involved in their work.

I am consistently inspired by the image of a child, playing Super Mario Bros., and having brilliant and passionate ideas to add to the experience that she wishes more than anything else to contribute to Shigeru Miyamoto’s team. The products of brilliant people inspire that sort of passionate devotion. If Shigeru Miyamoto were to have reached out his hand and welcomed that child into Nintendo where they could contribute to existing projects and develop more games using their ideas, that child would work tirelessly and with unbridled joy to invent a better game. Passionate devotion makes the people who feel it extremely powerful creators. Currently, the body of radically inspired individuals all over the world are encapsulated in a demographic group called a fandom.

The service a fandom does to the source of its inspiration is generally a supporting role. They are responsible for contributing monetary support, virality, and encouragement.
The fandom contributes monetary resources by consuming a wide range of products related to the inspirational source, including the exclusively emblematic. They share the source of inspiration with others, producing more fans, who can provide more support – this is referred to as virality, as they communicate their inspiration like a disease to those they contact. Lastly, they provide moral support in the form of encouragement.

Innovative effort is not typically part of this arrangement.

However, this is changing over time.

Modding is the act of fans, who are not part of the company who created a video game’s software, adding to the software and distributing their work for free. They are essentially working on this company’s game for free, in their free time, to make it more fun for their customers. Modders are sometimes, but not often, hired by the company and become an employee, as in the case of Mojang’s Dinnerbone, a Minecraft contributor. More seldomly, the Intellectual Property of a mod is incorporated into a company to become its own internal project, as in Counter-Strike, which spawned several sequels. Even more seldomly, mods created for a game become a product outside of the company and go on to be distributed for profit as in the case of Gary’s Mod, which stemmed from Half-Life.
Creators of games are incorporating the creative involvement of their fans more and more as time goes on. Games that begin as Kickstarter campaigns are the specific drivers of this change, as a popular reward for high-paying backers is entry to, for example, a developer feedback forum where they can contribute bug reports, advice, and creative suggestions for the development of the game to its creators. They can’t, however, produce the game content itself, or contribute design to the game, which I assert they would desire to do. What I envision is a sort of volunteer division of the company which becomes its own development team, where the passionately inspired contribute actual game designs, art assets, and code to the core project.

Valve is already dipping its toe into these waters. They have created meta-markets for user-generated content in the game Team Fortress 2. They provide rudimentary education to their fans, and skilled fans create 3D commodities such as hilarious hats that players can purchase for their characters to wear. When those hats are bought by players, the fans who created them have a revenue share with Valve. Many hat creators have earned more money from the sales of their hats on the TF2 meta-market than from the salaries provided by their legal employers.

A subgenre of games has come about to scratch the itch to develop creative content. These are maker games, such as [that game with the mask gods where the entire gameplay is creating stuff], [that other game that’s just for kids where they create avatars, do projects offline and upload them for points]. These games are an outlet for the passionately inspired, but I argue that they are diverting the passion of their players away from innovating with completely new work of their own.

One potential implementation would be a hybrid of models I have already cited. Mods, short for modifications, are extensions of the very software of the game that inspired them, and can be installed into the game to extend its features. If we took away the divide between game and mod, the creators of mods would essentially be additional unpaid developers. Companies spend significant time creating tools for fans to mod their games as a way to encourage and increase community involvement, and satisfy the desire of those who want to use their inspiration to contribute to the game. If they were to layer Valve’s practice of game-specific meta-markets for mods onto their games, they could catalyze the development contribution of their fans, legitimize mods as game extensions to the rest of their players, and allow for the benefit of the company and the modder. This is a step toward what I imagine, halfway between incorporating fans directly into the company and leaving them out entirely. Effectively, it is almost as if the modder has been accepted into the company, as they are receiving monetary compensation for their contribution to the company, as well as increasing the value of the company’s product to their customers while increasing the return of revenue to the company, which is the aspiration of all employees.

This idea of companies capturing the inspiration that their products create to exponentially increase their own potential is being pushed forward almost exclusively by video game companies. I am envisioning a world in which the inventors and manufacturers of medicines and other bio-technologies invite children, students, and adults who are unemployed or employed outside the company, to incorporate these non-employees into their company so that their innovative work can be added to the company’s and increase its potential. The company wouldn’t dictate when, for how long, or necessarily how these contributors would work, because they would not be employees. But they would create environments tailored for their involvement. Where software companies allow the public to modify their products, test the effectiveness of their additions, and submit them to the company for inclusion into the product.

Barriers to Extended Play in Monster-Catching Games

Disclaimer: This article is a Work in Progress.

Games studied are based on the Pokemon formula and include Pokemon games both handheld and console of all generations, and online asynchronous MMORPG Outernauts, by Insomniac games.

The article aims to identify Points of Failure, or factors that cause a player to stop playing and leave the game. I will do so by discussing game mechanics, and illustrate how the intersection of these mechanics results in Points of Failure. Finally, I will list alternative mechanics that could eliminate these points and result in increased player engagement and monetary contribution.

The mechanics discussed include Beast Disparity, Onboarding Failure, Finite Progressive Elements, and Unbalanced Rate of Return.

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Experiential Learning vs. Abstract Learning in Educational Games

Synopsis & shortly stated points: 

Neural Architecture + Heuristics = Experiential Learning > Abstract Learning

Simulations are models of the real world that allow us to engage in experiential learning at an accelerated pace, and without unrenewable consequences.

An abstraction of a learning model that is not fun, is not fun.

Children love to learn by playing in the real world, and this desire is called intrinsic motivation.

Simulations based on real world systems that allow the player to engage in experiential learning are the ultimate education tools.

They are also capable of becoming predictive models of human behavior, and could be used to pilot and discover new economic systems, new market structures, new communal strategies, and new modes of subsistence.

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