Sunday, November 10, 2013

Gamification - Using Second Life: Taking a Tour

For Quest #5 of my Second Life gamification experience, I chose to follow the "Games of SL" tour.  It took me to many different locations, that all revolved around the idea of being able to play games within the game of Second Life.  My favorite place on the tour was the Center for Games and Simulations, as it had some information within it that was interesting to me, and it also seemed to be the most up-to-date.  Frootcake is another location that I spent a lot of time in and took a lot of pictures of some of the different areas in which you could participate.  Most of the games required a large group, so I was only able to interact with a few of the games designed for small groups.  I participated in a few of the games with another student in class, Ian.  You can see some pictures of my tour down below as I went to all of these different locations listed in the tour.  I can see where this would be a fun way to take a class on a trip around different creations and see what they think about the various locations and the items within the world.  It's also kind of fun to explore the idea of a "game within a game."  It makes you think very introspectively about how the actual game world works, if you were to go and design a game or world for this Second Life Platform.  I would say the biggest downsides of my tour as I went through, was that many of the locations didn't work anymore, or had been drastically changed from their original intent when the tour was created.  I also ran into a lot of locations not allowing me in because I wasn't on the person's "Access List."  Even with a few shortfalls, it was still interesting to see how you can link locations together and distribute them from a list.

Gamification - Second Life: Changing Avatar Clothes and Appearance

Here are the Before and After Results of Changing my Characters Clothes and Appearance



Gamification - Using Second Life: Exploring Lionheart Orientation Island

Gamification - Using Second Life: Exploring Lionheart Orientation Island

I started my next adventure in Gamification, by using Second Life and exploring the Lionheart Orientation Island.  Lionheart Orientation Island is essentially a tutorial location that walks you through a structure that has lots of areas with information regarding the basics of Second Life.  There were fairly indepth explanations for things like Navigation, Appearance, Gestures, The Library, Lost and Found, etc.   Basically if you are new to the game, this is a good way to understand many of the basic commands, some of the Second Life jargon, and even how to do a few advanced commands.  I also discovered that it is possible for certain locations to lock out some of your commands.  For example, I've pretty much used the ability to fly so far to get around locations much faster, however in the actual structure of Lionheart Island, I was unable to fly.  Stay tuned as I continue through our 3D Gamelab Quest in exploring Gamification.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gamification - My first experience with Second Life

Continuing on with our studies over gamification in my Emerging Instructional Technologies course, we've been asked to begin using the game Second Life to learn about virtual worlds, virtual environments, and using avatars to interact with people around me in a collaborative manner.  I am a pronounced and avid gamer, however I have never played Second Life before.  I've played several different role playing and multiplayer games before so I'm sure that I'll adapt quickly to the game.  So far, I've been playing for a couple of hours and I think I've got the basics down.  I've figured out how to move around the various worlds and easily transport being different locations.  Here are some various pictures of me hanging out in Dr. Z's house, and yes there is a picture of me playing a video game where my character is playing a video game.  Don't think about that too long...

So far, I've been playing for about 3 hours and I think that I have the basics down.  I ended up meeting up with another student in my class, Ian, and we flew around the Iowa location.  I also made a visit to a place called "Freebie Island" where I tried choosing some new clothes that I didn't have to pay for.  I can see that micro-transactions are a big deal in this game.  It seems like everywhere I look when I go somewhere new, there is a bunch of stuff for sale.

I will also say that after only a short time in the game, I understand why it is oriented towards an adult crowd.  In order to use this in a high school setting, things would have to be very toned down before a school administrator would sign off on something like this.  However, it has been fun exploring and seeing all of this stuff that people have created.

I will say that the big advantage and disadvantage is that the entire game is played in a browser like window that you have to install.  This is good because it makes it easily accessible by players with different types of computers and graphics capabilities, but the downside is the draw distance and loading of in game objects.  I've got relatively fast internet, however the connection to the servers and the amount of stuff that has to be loaded can be excruciating at times.  To me, this is where the program is really showing it's age as so many massively multiplayer games have long since passed this technology.

I look forward to continuing to learn how to use Second Life and seeing how technology similar to this could potentially be used in a learning environment.

Gamification - Playing and Learning Collaboratively

This week in my Emerging Technologies course, we were tasked with playing Kingdom Rush, with an emphasis on playing collaboratively.  I was paired with Amanda Harris, another student in my class, who didn't have a distinctive love for video games.  We were also asked to read an article by Kurt Squire called "Video Games in Education" which I will also reference and link down below.

My gaming experience was a lot of fun this week, as I said in my previous posting regarding Gamification in the Classroom, I love playing video games.  Kingdom Rush is a game that I've not beat a couple of times and I feel like I have a very good grasp on how to easy work through the levels using a couple of different strategies.  Now the big difference between this week and last week, is that I was supposed to focus on the collaborative aspect.  My partner Amanda, is not as big into gaming as I was, but I was able to help her out by giving her a couple of tips and tricks that I've picked up along the way.  I would say that I probably didn't gain a huge amount of knowledge regarding new tactics and strategies, but the questions that Amanda would ask definitely made me think about why I was doing certain strategies at various times.  It helped me a lot with solidifying what I knew and that what I was doing was the best application of each strategy.

What is the big difference between playing singularly and collaboratively?
In my experience, playing on my own in Kingdom Rush results in having to use the trial and error technique in each level.  When I would get to a level that I couldn't remember or just hadn't played in awhile, I would basically try my basic strategy to see if that would get me through.  Playing singularly is never very much fun for me because I'm just always trying to figure things out on my own and if I hit a point in which I can't pass something, I become very frustrated.

Playing collaboratively, whether it be a small or large group, allows the player to bounce ideas off of other people who are also familiar with the game.  I think it helps having played the game on our own the last week because it did force us to try a lot of different strategies.  We found out what does and doesn't work in each stage, with an emphasis on what didn't work....

The one thing that would help in this kind of a class project, is choosing a game that more easily lends itself to collaboration.  Don't get me wrong, I love Kingdom Rush, but there are a lot of games that are specifically designed around the concept of working together towards a common goal.  Examples of games being used in education for collaborative learning include but are not limited to:  Minecraft, SimCity 5, Second Life, The Sims, Farming Simulator 2013.  It would be fun to continue our learning by trying out a game that has an integrated multiplayer component, just to see if our experiences are any different.

How do I feel about getting assistance in beating the game?
When I played Kingdom Rush for the first time, I used a lot of different Youtube Videos in order to beat a lot of the challenge levels.  At the time, I can remember feeling justified in doing that just because you had to specifically do certain things at certain times.  In other words, the levels are very unforgiving and even a single mistake can mean that you will not pass a level.  I would get to the point where I had failed so many times, that I was willing to see how others beat the level.  Now last week in my Emerging Technologies class, we talked about whether or not this was cheating.  I'm still very much on the fence about it, but I can definitely see both sides of the argument.  On one hand, I did have to look at another person's work in order to continue on, however from the other side, I would not have learned that strategy on my own and now I actually use it proficiently in other levels.  It's very much a person decision for the player or educator.  Now having thought about it, seeing how someone beat just one level was more of a collaboration activity to me, but if I had watched how to do every level with no thought from myself, then I would still see that as cheating.

As far as my partner is concerned, I know having someone to help her through the levels was a big help.  Not everyone is going to have the kind of deep level knowledge of a game like everyone else, and having an expert to talk to and ask questions is always a great way to pass along knowledge and learn.  It also really built my own confidence in myself, it's just nice to be an expert at something every once in awhile.  I love teaching, I love helping others accomplish goals, and I like seeing that I'm making a positive impact in someone's learning.  There needs to be so much more of this in education.

Thanks for reading my post!

Jeremy Cooper


Game:  Kingdom Rush by Ironside
Video Games in Education by Kurt Squire