A video game is a prepared space (Kurt Squire’s term, I believe) where people can see what you have prepared for them. A classroom is a place where teachers prepare a lecture, a discussion and group activities that should lead a group of students all together, at the same time, through a set of concepts. A game is a prepared space where players can read, play with, re-read, explore objects, investigate situations and choose to take on quests and meet objectives. A game is a lecture that the user can adjust to their own speed. A game is a simulation that has really nice feedback for the user. A game is a manual the user can refer back to again and again.
A game draws in people who do not have any prior knowledge and do not have any prior interest in the game’s topic. A well designed game gives small rewards for each step the user takes. A well designed game creates interest! The simple tick to making a game is to give the user positive reenforcement for engaging. The positive reenforcement is not points, badges, or ranking: the positive reenforcement is having a meaningful affect on the characters in the game!
In Immune Defense, we give players positive reenforcement by showing the a clear response from the cells to player’s actions. Cells move in the direction of cytokines and so as soon as possible, we get the player to make the cell move. Seeing the cell move and knowing you caused it give the you a really happy, excited feeling. Once it happens, you are engaged, you want to find out what else your new fantastic friend can do.
To make the cell move, in Immune Defense, you basically just need to click were where the green arrows point. You do not need to know what a cell is, or what a receptor is. This is why games are terrific teaching tools. In Immune Defense you get to make magic happen: you make a cell move in response to external stimuli, before you read a single word.
You will play Immune Defense and you will want to show it to your mom, your kid, your friends. You will want them to have the same funny experience that you did.
We want to ensure that this funny, engaging feeling is sustained. After playing 15-20 minutes, players become more interested in the actual names of things in the game. After playing a while, players read the “almanac” that describes all the characters in the game. *AFTER* becoming engaged, players want to read the manual. This is the magic of using games to teach.