Thursday, December 21, 2006

Playing Games

For our department's holiday party, the boss took us all to Dave and Buster's. For those of you not familiar with this chain, imagine a large restaraunt filled with video games, some billiards tables, and skeeball.

As I've admitted before, I'm not much of a gamer. Since gaming is the next big thing in instructional technology, I figured it was time to start playing.

During my explorations, I found the following (please excuse my lack of memory for names, it was late and there was alcohol involved).

The Snowmobile game: You sit on a snowmobile with similar controls and race down a hill against other people sitting next to you. This was one of the two games my boyfriend and I kept coming back to. Why? There was a goal(i.e. get down the hill faster than everyone else). The controls were intuitive. I didn't have to do anything fancy if I just wanted to get down the hill. If I wanted to punch people, I had to push 1 bright red flashing button. Mr. Flaky has a mean right hook.

Air Strike: Dave and Busters has you walk into a jungle bunker with 6 seats of this game. You are a gunner on a battleship (Why the restaraunt has you walking into a jungle bunker is a question I didn't think of until now...). You and the other people in the game shoot down as many planes and enemy battleships as possible. I found myself recruiting co-workers so we can shoot planes down together. One of the best team-building exercises I've seen in a long time. I found that my colleagues and I would start developing strategies for getting the enemy. "You take this quadrant and I'll go after this boat..."

The Zombie Shooter game: I think this was based on a movie. You and your friend are 2 teenagers who have to defend themselves from zombies. My boyfriend and I hated this game for 2 reasons: 1) There was no way to turn around and the zombies would attack from behind. 2) The controls were not intuitive. You have to point away from the screen, shoot, then shoot the screen. There were also a lot of buttons on the gun you had to push to do simple things like duck and jump. I panic when I am being attacked by zombies and forget which button controls which action.

Thinking about the experience...I've discovered 3 characteristics that make games engaging for me.

1) There is a concrete goal. You get down the hill faster than anyone else. You shoot all the planes.

2) The time for each exercise is reasonably short. Gameplay for each level of the games I liked took about 3 minutes. You then move on to something else or a greater challenge (depending on the type of game / goal). If I want to stop, I can.

3) Intuitive controls. If I have to think hard about what button to push while I'm playing, I get frustrated. If I have to finesse the controls on top of it, I get even more frustrated. This may be why Xbox, Playstation, and many PC-based games hold little appeal to me. I can't keep track of what button I'm supposed to push when and find myself mashing buttons at random hoping to get the thing on the screen to do something useful. Posessing bad small-motor skills doesn't help.

So if I'm going to design a training game for our organization, I'll want it to have these 3 features. If it won't engage me, it sure won't engage my audience of technophobes.


Paul Fender said...

Wendy~ Thanx for the post and welcome to the world of gaming. Although I've overcome most of my addiction, I still can get totally sucked in ;)

I agree emphatically about #3. Despite my love for gaming, I don't own (or plan to own) an xbox, P3, or anything similar in part because I have no interest in figuring out the controller (although from what I've seen the Wii has given me hope again). There are certainly other reasons too, but, I've got too many other ways to get what I want (the thrill of playing a good game) without the learning curve of figuring out 17 buttons, a joystick and a thumb pad - I'm lazy that way.

And since I'm so lazy, do you have an RSS feed for your blog (Paul loves bloglines)?

Paul Fender said...

Welcome to the world of gaming!

Do you have an RSS link?

Karyn Romeis said...

Interesting observations, and food for thought as we look to introduce gaming into our blends. The three points you mention are solid good sense.

I've never been to Dave and Buster's (don't think they have branches in the UK), but in similar venues, I tend to opt for the airhockey table or the dance mat (as long as I can hear the music above the hubbub of the place, and there is no other music playing simultaneously). I have to say that I do like the sound of the snowmobile game, though! I don't like shooting games, whether they are against virtual characters, avatars or real people (a la paintball/laser quest) - I just have a problem with the goal of doing other people harm.

Karl Kapp said...


Sounds like you had a good time. I agree that the navigation and controls need to be easy and intuitive or the game will never fly with most corporate folks.

I think the console makers (ok, just Nintendo) have gotten that concept, the Wii is very intuitive and I think a good prototype for the future use of games in learning.

If you don't have one, wait until the hype dies down and then go get one. Another interesting interface is Sony Playstation's EyeToy. It films the player and shows him or her on the tv as you interact with the items on the screen. It works with the Playstation 2 which can now be had for a relative "song" compaired to the Playstation 3.

We (my boys and I) like the game called SpyToy but there is one created by Nike which is actually an exercise program...very interesting stuff in terms of interface and intuitive operations.