[Inform] Educational Games

0 views
Skip to first unread message

John E

unread,
May 17, 2001, 5:42:11 PM5/17/01
to
Does anyone know of any education IF an ways of programming it in Inform?

Issues I'm facing is scoring and how to ask questions.

So far the only one I know of is Lists and lists.

-John


Thorsten Franz

unread,
May 17, 2001, 5:47:34 PM5/17/01
to
"John E" <john...@NOSPAMearthlink.net> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
news:TAXM6.12377$Az.11...@newsread2.prod.itd.earthlink.net...

> Does anyone know of any education IF an ways of programming it in Inform?

You might want to check out school.z5, available at the IF archive.

--
Thorsten Franz, Bonn, Germany (shlomo.g...@gmx.de)


Gunther Schmidl

unread,
May 17, 2001, 6:36:14 PM5/17/01
to
If you look past Inform (I'm not sure if you want it *written* in Inform, or
just know *how to write* it in Inform), there are

L - A Mathemagical Adventure by the Stitching(?) Mathematical Society and
Giant Killer by Peter Killworth, both of which are still being sold.

-- Gunther
-- http://www.fourcoffees.com

john...@nospamearthlink.net

unread,
May 17, 2001, 9:31:42 PM5/17/01
to
I'm specifically looking for ways to write educational IF in Inform.

-John

Emily Short

unread,
May 17, 2001, 10:28:22 PM5/17/01
to
In article <3b045f27...@news.earthlink.net>,
john...@NOSPAMearthlink.net wrote:

> I'm specifically looking for ways to write educational IF in Inform.
>
> -John

How you would write it would depend on what you want to teach, no? I can
think of two things you could mean by this question:

1) What are some educational uses to which Inform games could be put?
Please brainstorm.

or:

2) How, technically, would I go about writing a teaching game in Inform?

The second one is hard to answer unless you specify more clearly what you
have in mind. The first one -- well, I could see a number of
possibilities. You could consult baf's guide (http://baf.wurb.com) for
Educational and Religious games to see some examples of this done before.
So far as I can tell, they mostly fall into these categories:

1. Teaching programming itself (Lists and Lists, the Informatory, etc)
2. Teaching religious ritual (the Pesach Adventure)
3. Teaching basic language skills (London)

I could see expanding the possibilities with games designed to teach about
mythology or history, though designing the latter kind of game to be both
accurate and interestingly playable might provide a challenge of its own.
Still, games like Jigsaw have attempted it, not for specifically
educational purposes; you might learn something from looking at those.

As it seems to me the most difficult things to render in Inform would be
the abstract sciences for which mathematics and graphics are a better
representation: Electrodynamics.z5 wouldn't do much for me, I think.

--
Emily Short
http://emshort.home.mindspring.com/index.htm

john...@nospamearthlink.net

unread,
May 18, 2001, 1:39:26 AM5/18/01
to

>How you would write it would depend on what you want to teach, no? I can
>think of two things you could mean by this question:
>
>1) What are some educational uses to which Inform games could be put?
>Please brainstorm.
>
>or:
>
>2) How, technically, would I go about writing a teaching game in Inform?
>

I definately mean both. I'd like to open a discussion about theme,
subject, execution, and implimentation.

Here is the idea that sparked it.
What if a gnome asked you a question.. to cross a bridge..
Different prompt? Phototopia style converstion?

Then I thought.. what if he asked you a math question.. and kept track
of what you could and couldn't answer.. and the place was called
Mathematica (yea I know.. it's taken) a magical place where...

Then I came to and thought, how can one make a learning game of ANY
kind in Inform. It had certainly been done, but I've never seen it as
a genre. There's more talk about puzzleless IF than Educational IF.

Could one be put in Rome and learn about it? What about a time
machine where you must learn things (like a Text only WITW is Carmen
Sandiego).

So step one would be brainstorm. Could someone create something in
Inform (or TADS or HUGO for that matter), that a teacher would give to
their students... keeping it mind that IF runs on ANY computer a
school might have (or even a palm pilot that a student may have).

I think IF is a great medium for story telling and puzzle solving, but
I'd like to see the triangle completed with a learning experience.
Both school.z5 and lists.z5 have points I liked and did not like.

What about a game with periodic mispellings [sic] that the student
would have to spot? Sound boring? It probably is, so how could we use
story and puzzle to make a great learning game.

I'm not to worried with how to impliment it. The community here makes
me feel ANYthing is possible to program (after seeing a Z-machine IN a
Z-machine and playing tetris for a while).

Just note a few things. Guess the verb would be deadly in a learning
experience. One must never think they got something wrong because
they typed the wrong verb to impliment it. I'd personaly steer clear
of simulationistic work for teaching (ie pick up chalk, write answer
on board.)

Ok .. so there are some brain droppings.. any ideas?

-John

Emily Short

unread,
May 18, 2001, 3:31:01 AM5/18/01
to
In article <3b04962f...@news.earthlink.net>,
john...@NOSPAMearthlink.net wrote:

> I'd like to open a discussion about theme,
> subject, execution, and implimentation.
>
> Here is the idea that sparked it.
> What if a gnome asked you a question.. to cross a bridge..
> Different prompt? Phototopia style converstion?
>
> Then I thought.. what if he asked you a math question.. and kept track
> of what you could and couldn't answer..

IF as glorified flashcard program isn't a concept that feels like the wave
of the future to me. On the one hand, flashcardy programs have been done
a bazillion times before; on the other, it seems like the age range at
whom this could usefully be aimed would not take much interest in a game
requiring such fiddly interface. My assessment would be that IF is
unlikely to hook kids much younger than, say, 9 or 10, as a rule.
(Admittedly, I was playing IF when I was younger than that, but I'm
thinking of averages here.)

> and the place was called
> Mathematica (yea I know.. it's taken) a magical place where...

... where what? Just at the moment it might become interesting, the idea
vanishes in a poof of smoke. Still, I had a momentary vision, before it
faded out, of something like the Phantom Tollbooth: a world where
mathematical concepts are rendered as characters to be interacted with, or
perhaps spells to be incanted.

IF is good at teaching systems. But look at the spells in Enchanter, the
tools in Spider and Web: the player learns how to use these things and
then applies them to situations. This same kind of thinking is the stuff
of geometric proofs, for one thing: if you think of various laws as your
tools, then you can call upon them one after another to make your way from
A to B.

Now, I'm not sure that a text-based medium is the place to teach geometry,
either. (Side moment to plug: two of the best pieces of teaching software
I have ever seen already cover this. One was merely called "Geometry,"
and ran on our faded Mac Plus when I was twelve or so. It's out of
print. The other is the "Geometer's Sketchpad," available from... I don't
remember whom. But it allows you to define point and line and line
segment objects, explore the relationships between shapes, create
animations... all sorts of nifty things, all with a very charming and
shiny user interface. A web search would probably turn it up, but if
anyone cares and can't find it, email me and I'll find the info again.
</plug>)

Nonetheless, it seems possible that with sufficient vision -- and one
would have to be fairly careful -- one could render some abstracts, even
logical abstracts, as IF. Syllogism Building for Dummies!

One would have to be fairly careful, I said. It wouldn't be easy.

IF is also good, of course, at presenting stories, which is why I could
see a fun game based around presenting the mythologies of one or more
ancient civilizations. One wouldn't want to do this to Tolstoy, but if
one wanted to get the names of the Norse gods into the brain of a
10-year-old, this might be an approach.



> Could one be put in Rome and learn about it?

Sure -- but again, you're going to have to find the balance between
simulation with nothing to do for the sake of being historically accurate,
and game with no historical value. On the other hand, I could see doing
some interesting slice-of-life stuff this way. I learned a fair amount by
playing "Oregon Trail" addictively when I was younger, and I can see other
games centered on resource management or some similar issue set in a
particular historical period.

> What about a time
> machine where you must learn things (like a Text only WITW is Carmen
> Sandiego).

This again feels less than novel to me, if only because it can be summed
up as a text version of something else. But Carmen Sandiego never worked
that well for me to start with. I think I can sum it up as follows: if
the substance of your game consists of having the student find bits of
information somewhere and spit them back, then it a) doesn't actually
demand that much concerted thought and b) at least in my experience
doesn't WORK that well. I don't ACTUALLY remember things that I learned
by typing them back at Carmen Sandiego. I remember geography best if I
learned it in the context of some other thing -- a story, a bit of history
-- and best of all, of course, by actually traveling it myself. If you
have to interact with the knowledge, use it for something other than just
putting it back into the computer on request, then you learn it.
Otherwise you just give it temporary storage space in your brain and wipe
the neurons when you're done.

Or such at least is my own experience.

But this sounds like an ORDINARY game, you're saying, not an EDUCATIONAL
game! Well, yes. Is that such a bad thing? Kids are pretty good at
noticing sugar-coated pills. But a game that really is fun as a game and
just happens to immerse them in a historically accurate environment, have
puzzles revolving around some scientific principle, or relay a knowledge
of famous literary traditions -- that'll go over better. As mentioned, I
played Oregon Trail to the point where I internalized a lot of geography
and had a sense for where you had to be at what stage of the year and was
able to recognize various landmarks when we actually took a trip through
Colorado and Wyoming. Heck, for that matter, I learned a fair amount
about golf by playing Textfire Golf. Not enough to play it, but enough
finally to have some vague clue why the game might be interesting. And I
bet you could also build interesting and powerful games around some of the
diplomatic crisis points of history, with a subtle portrayal of the
various forces pressuring you (as the representative of some country or
other) and the outcomes that would result from your success or failure in
various departments. Granted, at this point we're talking about a game
that would educate high school or college students at the least, not
something your twelve-year-old is likely to get very interested in, but
one can aim for different levels.

> What about a game with periodic mispellings [sic] that the student
> would have to spot? Sound boring?

Just set them to correcting the comp games. ;)

> Just note a few things. Guess the verb would be deadly in a learning
> experience. One must never think they got something wrong because
> they typed the wrong verb to impliment it. I'd personaly steer clear
> of simulationistic work for teaching (ie pick up chalk, write answer
> on board.)

That's not quite what I would use simulationism for in this context.
Obfuscating the means by which students present answers is annoying.
Simulating real life problems is somewhat more interesting.

ES

Dennis G. Jerz

unread,
May 18, 2001, 1:18:28 PM5/18/01
to
<john...@NOSPAMearthlink.net> wrote in message
news:3b04962f...@news.earthlink.net...
>[...]

> Ok .. so there are some brain droppings.. any ideas?
>

Roger Kenyon, who posted recently regarding Douglas Adams, is using ALAN
with middle school kids -- his plan is to have students write simple
scenarios to demonstrate lessons (I presume, something like building a
simple circuit or getting a machine to work -- typical IF puzzles). Brendan
Dieselts has also published on watching middle-school kids playing IF.

I have toyed with the idea of creating an IF simulation of a scenario, with
randomized components, that would generate an assignment for my technical
writing students. I'm not entirely sure that this would actually teach any
more or any better than a textbook assignment, but there might be some way
to determine how thoroughly the student investigated the scenario, whose
opinions they seek, etc.

The problem is that, truth be told, IF appeals only to a small set of the
population. Some students might be so put off by the genre/interface that it
would only cause added stress.

--
Dennis G. Jerz, Ph.D.; (715)836-2431
Dept. of English; U Wisc.-Eau Claire
419 Hibbard, Eau Claire, WI 54702
------------------------------------
Literacy Weblog: www.uwec.edu/jerzdg


John E

unread,
May 18, 2001, 2:38:13 PM5/18/01
to
>doesn't WORK that well. I don't ACTUALLY remember things that I learned
>by typing them back at Carmen Sandiego. I remember geography best if I
>learned it in the context of some other thing -- a story, a bit of history
>-- and best of all, of course, by actually traveling it myself. If you
>have to interact with the knowledge, use it for something other than just
[snip]

>But this sounds like an ORDINARY game, you're saying, not an EDUCATIONAL
>game! Well, yes. Is that such a bad thing? Kids are pretty good at
>noticing sugar-coated pills. But a game that really is fun as a game and
>just happens to immerse them in a historically accurate environment, have
>puzzles revolving around some scientific principle, or relay a knowledge
>of famous literary traditions -- that'll go over better


So how about a game that happens to teach something invisibly. I find when
kids learn best when they don't know that they are learning.

Sometimes the puzzle to move forward could be an understanding of the
knowledge. Instead of finding objects, one needs knowledge to move forward.

Just as "get key open door" can be boring, I would not want the knowledge to
be "get info use info" but rather a collection a information found by
exploring, story, and maybe just a cut scene or two.

Then the player would have to take all that information and make some leap
of logic to move forward. This would be fun to do with history or
mythology.

So is teaching something like math still out of the question? I wonder how
it could be done where someone must use their math skills and it still be a
fun story.. or at least a story OR fun :-)

-John


Urbatain

unread,
May 18, 2001, 8:22:49 PM5/18/01
to
"John E" <john...@NOSPAMearthlink.net> wrote in message news:<TAXM6.12377$Az.11...@newsread2.prod.itd.earthlink.net>...

A friend of mine use IF to teach his blind pupils to use a computer, or just to typping correctly.
Is an example that all IF could be a learning tool

Urbatain.

David Glasser

unread,
May 18, 2001, 10:58:37 PM5/18/01
to
Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:

> The other is the "Geometer's Sketchpad," available from... I don't
> remember whom. But it allows you to define point and line and line
> segment objects, explore the relationships between shapes, create
> animations... all sorts of nifty things, all with a very charming and
> shiny user interface. A web search would probably turn it up, but if
> anyone cares and can't find it, email me and I'll find the info again.
> </plug>)

Looks like it's at http://www.keypress.com/sketchpad/ nowadays, and much
more advanced when I used it in my geometry class some years back. Even
then, it was the best piece of software I'd ever used. I wish I had a
copy.

--
David Glasser
ne...@davidglasser.net http://www.davidglasser.net/
rec.arts.int-fiction FAQ: http://www.davidglasser.net/raiffaq/

Jonathan Blask

unread,
May 19, 2001, 7:15:45 PM5/19/01
to

> In article <3b04962f...@news.earthlink.net>,
> john...@NOSPAMearthlink.net wrote:
>
> > Could one be put in Rome and learn about it?

There was a game written for the SUDS adventure system that takes
place in Rome back in the day. I'm not sure about how accurate it is, but
it did seem sort of educational. I thought it was entertaining, too. I
should get back to it.
-jon
"If I got stranded on a desert island (with electricity)/
And I could bring one record and my hi-fi/
I'd bring that ocean surf cd (Relaxing Sound of Ocean Surf)/
So I could enjoy the irony." - Dylan Hicks

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages