Broccoli dipped in chocolate is still broccoli!
Part of the ‘Are digital games bad for kids?‘ series (which was the first post).
My son’s biggest fear when I told him I was going to do this series, and focus on learning, was that I was going to write about things called ‘Educational games’ – you know, like learning the ABC. He said, ‘You know, that’s not real gaming, Mum.’ The inference was of course that this series would be really lame if I looked at those things.
I can understand why. A boring task like spelling or maths dressed up as some sort of racing or shooting challenge might entertain for a short time, if the kid knows their stuff. But it gets boring after a while. Maybe, the game rewards aren’t just worth the effort. Besides, kids know it’s didactic. They are wary about being taught – it takes all the fun out of it.
That’s not to say that none of these learning games have been successful. Online learning programs like Mathletics, Literacy planet, and Spelldrome have been a big success. Interestingly though, for homework, my 11-year-old would still rather fill in a worksheet of Maths problems than play Mathletics. He says that solving Maths problems is far easier on a sheet of paper. (He used the metaphor of trying to do BMX tricks on a unicycle.)
So, what sets the successful learning games apart from the ones kids avoid like the plague?
- Is it just the rewards?
- What makes the rewards worth going after?
- Do leader boards count?
- How big a part do customisable Avatars make?
My feeling is that where educational games go wrong is that the game itself gets forgotten. The creators get too focused on the learning perspective, and not the gaming. My son says that what makes the games boring is,’ the game part is in the background – and they seem so slow. Educational games only work if kids will play the games because they are fun…’, but he’d still prefer a ‘real’ game.
BTW I did Google to see if a recipe for chocolate coated broccoli existed – sure enough, it did! Peanut butter was added, I guess to make it palatable. I didn’t attempt to eat the broccoli I created for the feature blog photo, but my son did. He said it tasted not too bad (well that just wrecked the metaphor!) This is how good it was …
And yes, chocolate was harmed in the making of this blog. Here’s the recipe I mentioned above.
The next blog: ‘Is it game over, Princess?‘