Twists and turns

21Feb08

One of the hardest struggles in building a curriculum is the lumbering feeling of the classroom plan. At the level at which the student experiences it, it doesn’t twist or turn or adapt. Consider Raph Koster’s notes from the Game Designers Conference 2008, especially point#10:

#10: The best content understands exactly how the player likes to play and then makes it slightly harder.

Three scientists at U Essex had looekd at ways to procedurally generate tracks in racing games. And they wondered how to make them interesting, especially for different sorts of players. They called this “tuning for entertainment.”

They quickly disocvered that optimizing track performance is not interesting. A fun track is one where the player almost loses control. Drive fast on straightaways but brake fast on turns.

Rather than guess, they looked at how players performed as they raced and used it as a source to generate new kinds of tracks either live or in advance.

In other words, take how the driver seems to steer, then adapt that steering pattern to make it slightly uncomfortable. Using the player’s steering patterns as a normative reference, the challenges become small adaptations away from that norm. This makes those challenges A) properly scaled to the user; and B) apparent to the user as challenges.

Computer games can be adaptive; can a curriculum built on pencil, paper, photocopies and other paper materials be adaptive as well?

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