Assess(ment) as Play?

Photo Credit: http://Craker.wordpress.com
Photo Credit: http://Craker.wordpress.com

With playful learning becoming more common, it makes sense that student assessments might also follow suit. Playful possibilities for assessment: Fluffy Ducks and the Queen’s Gambit by my CU Denver professor Remi Holden emphasizes that static rubrics are not effective measures of dynamic, playful learning. His argument speaks of his experience revamping the Educational Technology Master of Arts program at the University of Michigan-Flint. 

 

Lofty Goals of Educational Technology

This is not your ordinary program in educational technology. The goals of the program included the following (Holden, 2013):

  • Transforming how teaching and learning intersect with technology

  • Helping “pro-social tech-tinkerers” develop media that just might change the world

  • Sustaining communities of educators committed to immersive learning experiences

 

Playful Teaching & Learning

Remi and his process-oriented colleagues actively worked to experiment with their designs, embrace failure, and commit to reflection. Their focus was to engage students playfully over eliciting the “right” answers. In their process of playful pedagogy, the following principles were applied to courses (Holden, 2013):

  1. Play requires the acceptance of constraints

  2. Students should be playing with things (applications, codes, etc)

  3. Play assumes failure

  4. Playful teaching and learning fosters community

 

Products of Playful Learning

Playful learning can generate a generous variety of outcomes that challenge standards and think outside the box. Holden’s experience with the Global Program at Michigan University produced the following outcomes (2013):

  • An online economic justice simulation for high school students

  • Website & curricular resources about human rights in China

  • Community gardening in Michigan

  • Environmental conservation in Mexico

  • Global citizenship in the Congo

  • Social studies through digital and analog tools

Of course these projects have been dramatically simplified, but it is important to understand the grand scope of what can be produced from playful teaching and learning. There is no way to group these projects into categories, let alone assess them with a single rubric. It appears that self-directed learning and educational pull shaped the projects.

 

Assess(ment): Verb Over Noun

Playful learning is active and should be measured as such. Using a standardized rubric in any of the above examples seems a bit trite and could potentially squash their brilliance. What rubric standards could begin to capture a project’s essence?

  • Engaged learning?

  • International citizenship?

  • Courage within the possibility of failure?

  • Forward thinking?

Actively assessing a project insinuates it is alive and allows for discussion of the idea’s greatness. Additionally, assessing the product of playful learning requires an engaged educator. An educator who cannot simply check a box and never know his/her student’s abilities. By playfully challenging students to give their best effort, the same can be asked of teachers in assessing such learning.

Playful assessment completes the playful teaching and learning cycle..

 

 

References

Holden, J. (2013). Playful possibilities for assessment: Fluffy Ducks and the Queen’s Gambit. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/4414832/Playful_possibilities_for_assessment_Fluffy_Ducks_and_the_Queens_Gambit

 

Why am I Afraid to Sound Dumb in my Nurturing Affinity Space?

I have been playing Code Combat for about a month now and still haven’t broken out of lurker mode in the affinity space. How is this happening?

Perhaps:

  • I’m experiencing adult onset shyness syndrome (AOSS is a real thing)
  • I secretly fear middles schoolers (we ALL should)
  • I don’t understand the game well enough yet (coding is SO easy)
  • I don’t want to ask a dumb question (they really DO exist)

As much as I joke about not diving into questions on my affinity space, I am excited about one of the discourse discussions. There is a challenge called the Flower Grove and I’m not sure what level contains it. However, it is fueling my progression because I really want to participate in the flower design discussion. Here are some of the designs:

Photo Credit: discourse.codecombat.com
Photo Credit: discourse.codecombat.com
Photo Credit: discourse.codecombat.com
Photo Credit: discourse.codecombat.com
Photo Credit: discourse.codecombat.com
Photo Credit: discourse.codecombat.com

As I was snapping images of the designs I actually made a baby step towards participation.

I started liking people’s images – Success!

As a general overview of my progress, I am plugging along in the second world. If you look below that means I’m in the Backwoods Forest. There are six more worlds after that. 

Photo Credit: Code Combat
Photo Credit: Code Combat

I am trying to make coding a practice in my daily life. When I’m tired of working on school work, I take a break and play Code Combat. One a planning note, if I were to complete Cloudrip Mountain by the April 24th (before final project is due), I would have to complete approximately five challenges a day. This seems like a really tall order given that the coding is getting harder and it takes a great deal of concentration on my part.

But I’m up for the challenge.

Games Taken Seriously = Serious Players Learning

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Alhambra Palace
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Alhambra Palace

Building Upon Past Critiques

In my last scholarly critique of Taking Serious Games Seriously in EducationI leaned that such a thing a research-based learning progressions existed. My professor, Remi Holden, asked if the learning progression was spelled out in detail. It was not. He then suggested that I look into other serious game research and read an article that his mentor, Jeff Kupperman, coauthored.

It Matters Because It’s a Game: Serious Games and Serious Players was a collaboration of Jeff Kupperman, Michael Fahy, Fred Goodman, Susanna Hapgood, Jeff Stanzler, and Gary Weisserman. This serious research pulled from such academic institutions as University of Michigan-Flint, University of Michigan Interactive Communications and Simulations, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and University of Toledo. The researchers concluded that serious games can miss the mark by focusing on end results rather than creating an opportunity for learners to completely immerse themselves in play that is taken seriously.

The Stage

Players Out Of Time (POOT) is a prime example of developing serious players and for this reason was used as the game of study for Kupperman and team. POOT is an online simulation of a diplomatic trial set in Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain.

This hallowed space sets the stage for students to play the roles of a wide variety of historic characters such as Martin Luther King, Jr, Edgar Allen Poe, King Henry VIII, or Madame Curie. Students asynchronously communicate with other characters through guided discussions that occur in the “Great Hall” or “Courtroom”. They may also write a speech in the “Foyer”, offer  “presentations of evidence,” or blog individually. Most importantly, students are challenged to fully embody their character’s mindset and tone voice in all their interactions.

Photo Credit: Place Out of Time
Photo Credit: Place Out of Time

The Power of Anonymity

With students getting to play a character, they are free to say things that might otherwise be critically judged if said outside of character. For example, when a discussion question asked if violence is necessary, Ptolemy I Sofer responded,

 

Of course violence is necessary! What should I do? Sit there like a duck and fall through the hierarchy like a knife through papyrus? No! I claimed king ship like a alpha wolf claims his title: he has to fight for it, and as a reward, he is feared, respected, noticed for being strong, for having the strength to be a leader, the leader of the pack. And as a reward he is first in line for food, first in line for hunting. So I have to be like a wolf: I have to fight for the right to be king,” (Kupperman et. al, 2011, p. 25).

 

The student playing Ptolemy was able to take huge risks in acting out his character’s historical stance. He took his role seriously and this is where the real learning took place.

 

Emerging Leadership

Heated debates provoked impassioned students to go above and beyond the assignment. The host and mentors introduced benign intrusions of authority. In one instance, the character, Edgar Allan Poe worked to form a watchdog committee by the name of Alhambra Security Committee (ASC) in order to uphold order in the trial. Though Edgar’s character did not have the top dog mentality of Ptolemy, the student playing Edgar realized his ability to lead through organizing and fighting for justice in the serious game.

 

Conclusion

In the majority of today’s schools, many students do what is asked of their teachers in order to reach the end goal and earn their grades. Their work is not impacting anyone outside the classroom. Kupperman and team studied how to shift this dynamic to a position where students voluntarily attempt overcoming obstacles, and in fact, impact change beyond their classroom.  POOT harnesses this learning magic: students become serious players and embody the role of serious learner.

 

 

References

Kupperman, J., Fahy, M., Goodman, F., Hapgood, S., Stanzler, J., & Weisserman, G. (2010). It Matters Because It’s a Game: Serious Games and Serious Players. International Journal of Learning and Media, 2(4), 21-30. Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.jkupp.com/ijlm_serious_games.pdf

 

 

 

What Kind of Jedi are You?

Photo Credit: Potentium Album in Imgur
Photo Credit: Potentium Album in Imgur

 

Rather than enjoying dinner and a movie out this past weekend, I coerced my boyfriend, Ben, to dinner and a board game at home. Our low key night entailed a quick walk down to Ben’s sister’s house to select a game. One thing was certain, with Isabella being an avid Star Wars fan, the game would have an epic theme. We narrowed it down to either Star Wars Battleship or Star Wars Life. The Game of Life: A Jedi’s Path won.

 

Although the game mechanics are very similar to the original Life version, I found the storyline to be much more imaginative and thought provoking. Players do not strive for marriage, children, or the accrual of wealth, but to develop the force within themselves. Will the young Padawan (Jedi in-training) choose to walk on the light or the dark side? Whether one becomes a Jedi Knight or Sith Lord the goal is to be the last man standing.

 

Rob Daviau and Reuben Klamer, the game designers, built many options and opportunities for choice into the game. Choice as a learning principle is best when offered from the start, (Gee 2004). I enjoyed getting to choose the following options throughout the game:

  • Padawan Pawn

  • Clan

  • Life Skills: Intuition, Fighting, Energy, & Logic

  • Dark Path Shortcuts vs Consistent Light Path

 

I chose to be Choobakka of the Kaadu Clan and Ben was Luke of the Bantha Clan. Both Ben and I took short cuts on the dark side because the rewards were enticing. However, I took too many short cuts leading to my demise as a Sith Lord. Ben went on to become Luke the Jedi Knight who defeated me. Even though I know it was only a game, I felt bad that I chose the dark side. The games ability to stir such a deep moral question surprised me.

 

“Is the moral dilemma to choose light over dark an innate quest?”

 

Star Wars is the classic coming-of-age story. The protagonist faces a series of challenges, which force psychological and moral growth between youth to adulthood. This story resonates with all of humanity because we all have to make choices and decide what type of people we want to be(come). The Game of Life: The Jedi Path provoked far more thought about my life choices than I could have fathomed.  

 

“Am I making choices that lead me toward the light?”

 

Players get to decide which life skills to gather throughout the game. The rule book briefly touches on different types of Jedis, but isn’t prescriptive. I would like to have seen more reasoning as to why I might choose one skill over another. For example I leaned more towards the skill of intuition, while Ben tended to chose logic. However, at the end of the game it didn’t matter what kind of skills we had, it only mattered how many total skills we gathered. I think it would be more meaningful to chose skills in order to become a specific type of Jedi over simply accumulating skills.

Photo Credit: Dorkly
Photo Credit: Dorkly

 

I did not mean to think so deeply about a board game, but I must say the game design got me thinking. In one hour, Life: A Jedi Path made the choice between light and dark very clear. It was a good reminder that our character in life is a summation of all our choices: large and small.

 

References

Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated language and learning: A critique of traditional schooling. New York: Routledge.

 

 

A (D)iscourse for Be(com)ing a Gamer

Photo Credit: Nordic Game Bits
Photo Credit: Nordic Game Bits

 

Discourse has been my educational quandary of the month. I find the concept particularly difficult to grasp when it comes to immaterial things such as online communities or video games. Even in hosting the annotation of Gamestar Mechanic: Reflections on the Design & Research of a Game About Game Design, I struggled with why discourse is important and how it plays out. In the following Hypothes.is conversation, I was asking for clarification from my professor, Remi:

In the above conversation, I learned GameStar Mechanic was able to teach learners how to be game makers by immersing learners in digestible pockets of discourse. By acting as game makers, learners become game makers. They are learning the Discourse, which includes the actions, language, and mannerisms of game makers in order to one day become full blown Game Makers.

 

Relationship between Games and Learning

This month’s group game, Exploding Kittens continued to teach me the larger discourse of gaming to learn. Not being a gamer prior to this course, group play allowed me to learn the discourse of gaming. I have learned that our discourse is supportive and curious about the design. So much so that the game can stop and hands can be revealed in order to better understand potential outcomes. We dissect the game design together and my peers are essential to my learning. 

 

Changed Preconceptions about Games

I have always been very competitive, but find my new gaming discourse to favor curiosity over winning. With competition off the table, I have found a new appreciation for gaming. In fact, gaming to learn can build community and teach communication. In fact, my gaming to learn experience is making me ask the questions:

  • “How can I incorporate more games into my life?”

  • “How can I become a (G)amer?”

 

My Affinity Network

 

My classmates and colleagues continued to help me decide upon my chosen game discourse, but it took a couple tries. My first suggestion on financial awareness was a dud because I focused on a boring topic that had no educational pull for me. However, my classmate, Lisa Dise, was incredibly helpful in finding a great affinity space for this topic. When I got permission to switch gears, I relied upon guidance from my boss, Brad Hinson heeding the importance of understanding the fundamentals of code. Then I continued to ask questions of my peers, Kirk Lindsford and Lisa Dise around which coding language, game, and affinity space would be best. As experienced in group play, they were incredibly helpful. 

Playing an online game and joining an affinity space allows me to step out of game theory and step into game experience. This is the only way for me to truly understand such a challenging and intangible topic. I am be(com)ing a gamer through immersion and (d)iscourse at its best.  

 

 

 

 

Challenging Myself to Something New: The Code Combat Discourse Community

The synergistic effect of joining an affinity space in my Game Theory class and trying something new in my Social Media class led to my bold exploration of coding. To some, this is not a big deal, but to me, it’s a massive challenge. This endeavor has made me feel really vulnerable mostly due to an untrue belief that coding is an elite language that only especially smart people learn. Plus, it didn’t help that I hated every minute of my coding class in high school.

Photo Credit: Code Combat
Photo Credit: Code Combat

In my state of feeling very awkward as an adult learner of code, I decided to join a coding game and affinity space geared towards middle and high schoolers. Code Combat has been surprisingly easy to play right out of the gate. As a lurker on the affinity/discourse space I figured out how to change my coding language to JavaScript. The discourse space allowed me to search for key words, which allowed me to find my answer from a previous conversation. As my confidence grows, I excel to higher levels, and I cannot find simple answers on the discourse space, I will branch out and ask questions of the community.

The discourse community for Code Combat has what James Paul Gee and Elisabeth Hayes would term a nurturing affiinity space. All newbies are welcome and it is made clear that respect is key as seen below.

Photo Credit: Discourse Code Combat Although I haven’t joined a clan yet, I appreciate the fact that clan comparisons, insults, and anything forbidden by the rules are clearly stated. The boundaries are clear and everyone knows what is expected.   It took me a while to decide upon which game and affinity space to join, but I feel quite good about my decision. I am actually excited to dig into the game, create an image in code, and learn what the community has to offer. Code Combat’s onboarding and design have shifted my gaming perspective from, “I think I can,” to “I know I can.”
Photo Credit: Discourse Code Combat Although I haven’t joined a clan yet, I appreciate the fact that clan comparisons, insults, and anything forbidden by the rules are clearly stated. The boundaries are clear and everyone knows what is expected.   It took me a while to decide upon which game and affinity space to join, but I feel quite good about my decision. I am actually excited to dig into the game, create an image in code, and learn what the community has to offer. Code Combat’s onboarding and design have shifted my gaming perspective from, “I think I can,” to “I know I can.”

Equity & Coding for All Children

Educational equity for all children, privileged or not, was urged by James Paul Gee in their preparation for today’s increasingly high tech world (2004). Though his message is over a decade old, it is still relevant. Not all children have the same access to a computer, a smartphone, the internet, or food for that matter. The article Fixing the Bugs: Teaching Kids to Code on a Zero-Dollar Budget by Mary Jo Madda highlights Google’s grassroots effort to make coding classes available to underprivileged children. The Google program, named CS First means Computer Science First and “provides free, easy-to-use computer science enrichment materials that target and engage a diverse student population,” (CS-First.com).
In my CU Denver master’s level games and learning course, we are dissecting game theory. One major lesson I’ve learned is that opportunity is key. All children can easily learn specialist varieties of language, or code, as part of assimilating popular culture (Gee, 2004, p. 11).  CS First is providing such an opportunity for students to learn coding who otherwise would not have access to the technology or guidance.

Madda demonstrates how CS First is a great example of clever scaffolding versus reinventing the wheel. CS First’s Program Manager, Kate Berrio said, ““We didn’t just want to create [a new program], we wanted to look at what’s out there and what we could piggyback off of or scaffold around,” (Madda, 2014). SC First piggybacked off three key program components: a quality coding program, themed curriculum, and community mentors. As a supplement program, SC First’s target markets include after-school program, summer camps, and community outreach.  

CS First scaffolded curriculum around the free online coding program, Scratch. With Scratch as the coding foundation, Berrio then took special care to integrate other subjects or interests into learning Scratch, such as fashion or music. Classes offer inviting names like “Scratch Music & Sound” or “Scratch Game Design.” Softening the term computer science proved to recruit more students.

Mentors of the program are called Gurus and, from my perspective, I find them to be the most pivotal component of the program. CS First says interested volunteers can learn alongside the students and offers a easy, well-planned lesson plans for each class. This is also assuming the hosting program has the “minimum requirements:

  1. Access to a computer lab or laptops
  2. Reliable internet/wifi connnection
  3. Access to students” (cs-first.com).

What’s even more exciting is CS First gathered data from all their pilot programs in Charleston, South Carolina, the third lowest state for wifi connectivity in homes. These are the exact children who more than likely, don’t have access to technology outside of school. Google collected pre and post club survey data to capture 1200+ students reactions to coding in their pilot programs from August 2014 to April 2014. Students responses included the following:

  1. “‘I can create things with Computer Science’ increased by 25%.
  2. ‘Yes, I do like programming’ increased by 29%.
  3. ‘If I get stuck on a computer problem, I might know how to fix it’ increased by 22%.
  4. ‘Yes, I think computer science is cool’ increased by 26%.
  5. ‘I don’t really understand computer science’ decreased by 34%,’” (sc-first.com).

I am most excited that Gee’s wisdom is being heeded at the very core of CS First mission to make computer science accessible to underprivileged children. Way to fight for equity Google!

References:
Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated language and learning: A critique of traditional schooling. New York: Routledge.

Madda, M. J. (2014). Fixing the Bugs: Teaching Kids to Code on a Zero Dollar Budget (EdSurge News). Retrieved February 23, 2016, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2014-07-21-fixing-the-bugs-teaching-kids-to-code-on-a-zero-dollar-budget

Photo Credit: http://www.moultrienews.com/article/20150611/MN01/150619924/1036

The Science Behind Serious Games

Taking Serious Games Seriously in Education [Research] by Dr. Kristen DiCerbo offers the unique perspective of how the industry leader, Pearson, designs and builds games as learning tools. As she shares her experience in research and game innovation, DiCerbo also demonstrates how well-designed games can address multiple curriculum needs, enable pain free assessments, and offer immediate feedback for students. Such games can enhance not only the learning experience for the students, but the teachers as well.
Her scientific stance to games offers hope in comparison to Blake Montgomery’s article, Is the Education Industry Falling Into the Same Trap It Did 20 Years Ago? He talks about the previous collapse of the edutainment industry due to poorly designed games and to the misuse of the word “educational”.  Conversely, DiCerbo’s explanation of design decisions and careful use of language around today’s serious games exemplifies what all learning games should strive to become.

DiCerbo (2015) highlights new benefits of serious games in her words, “As learning scientists have engaged with them, games have become stronger learning tools because of:

    1. Tighter ties to research-based learning progressions,
    2. Better links to elements of professionalization, and
    3. Better design for assessment,” (2015).

These principles lay the foundation for exemplar games such as Mars Generations One: Argubot Academy EDU.

Mars Generation One was a collaborative effort by GlassLab, the Educational Testing Service, and Pearson. This futuristic game teaches middle schoolers skills in reasoning, persuasion, and decision making. In order for the students to influence the construction of a new civilization, they must arm their robots, also called argubots, with arguments for battle. The best argument wins. As students build their arguments, learning progressions, introductions to professionalization, and assessments are being seamlessly built upon and tracked.

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 6.31.07 PM.png

A key feature of Mars Generation One is that it relied upon research to set the predefined learning progression. This means the game assesses what level each student is at and how s/he is improving. DiCerbo provides the example that students begin their learning journey with a single reason in their argubot, next progress to multiple arguments in an argubot, then continue to multiple arguments with supporting evidence, and so on as they learn to more effectively argue their points.

Another clever feature of Mars Generation One is that there is a component of role play and/or identity. The games touches on the professions of astronauts, politicians, lawyers, engineers, and writers. These early beginnings of identity formation are similar to identities taken on in commercial games such as a wizard, but have a more applicable stance in the real world (DiCerbo, 2015).

The coolest aspect of Mars Generation One is the use of invisible assessment. Rather than employing the old method of quiz making, taking, and grading, students are assessed as they play the game. Teachers and students have immediate feedback on progress as well as how a student solves problems. This is a huge benefit since old testing methods are time consuming and do not show the student’s thought process.

DiCerbo’s article illuminates game making as a science. I have learned it is critical to implement high standards of learning progressions, professionalization cues, and invisible assessments for both a positive and credible learning experience for all involved. May all educational games and their marketing efforts strive to keep serious games seriously credible.

 

References:

DiCerbo, K. (2015). Taking Serious Games Seriously in Education. Retrieved February 14, 2016 from http://www.pearsoned.com/education-blog/taking-serious-games-seriously-in-education-research/

Montgomery, B. (2016). Is the Educational Games Industry Falling Into the Same Trap It Did 20 Years Ago? (EdSurge News). Retrieved February 14, 2016, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-02-07-is-the-educational-games-industry-falling-into-the-same-trap-it-did-20-years-ago

Can Chess Make or Break a Relationship?

 
Set Up

I opted to play chess with my boyfriend, Ben, for the sake of game reflection, dissection, and journalling in my Games and Learning course at CU Denver. When we began to play at a quaint coffeehouse, I felt quite confident that I could showcase a couple interesting moves, but Ben did not mention that he was quite skilled at the game. What began as fun, turned into a fierce competition and ended in checkmate, Ben’s favor.

Key Questions

I asked myself the following questions while playing the game:

  • What is Ben’s skill level?
  • Are we comparable?
  • What is is Ben’s strategy?
  • How many moves ahead is Ben planning?
  • How long does he take to decide his next move?
  • How should my strategy change to combat Ben’s strategy?

 

Difficulties & Surprises

As we played, I realized Ben was much better than he let on. I quickly saw by his third move, he was playing the long game. He wasn’t interested in my pawns, but more about setting the board up to his advantage. This posed as both a surprise and increased difficulty for me. I gathered that he was planning more than three moves out, which was beyond my mental capabilities. His moves began to put me on the defense rather than the offense. Not long after that, I was begrudgingly obliterated.

 

Game’s Design

Chess is the perfect game that requires strategy, planning, composure, and skill. I was constrained by my lower skill level and inability to hide my emotions. I kept telling Ben to play his game and not let me win. Ben kept asking if I was sure about that, indicating that his constraints were to not upset me. I might go so far as to say the game was a reflection of our relationship. We both can play the game, but I want a partner who will challenge me. Ben certainly does just that!

 

Scholarly Connections

Ben and I achieved the first question of Will Wright’s litmus test for a game’s engagement and success, “Can we try?” (Salen, 2008, p. 11). There was also a critical moment for Ben when he decided to fully play his best even though he knew he had the advantage. As the game progressed and I began losing, I asked the second important game question, “Can I save it?” (Salen, 2008, p. 11). I played my best until I realized I couldn’t save the game. After my ego healed, I felt I needed to learn from Ben’s superior chess playing abilities.

 

We have not yet played again, but our next game’s goal is to employ Gee’s theory, “learning should be a collaborative dance between the teacher’s guidance and the learner’s actions and interpretations,” (2004, p. 68). I see Ben as the teacher since he has a better grasp of chess. If we slow the game down and talk through moves, then I have a greater opportunity to learn. Our last game was not necessarily fun for either of us because we came from a place of competition rather than curiosity. True, I learned a bit, but I would benefit much more by learning Ben’s skills than acting like I can play at his level.

 

Implications

My experience of playing chess seemed like inception. Chess is complex even without the added challenge of playing one’s significant other. I learned about the dynamics of our relationship through play. One major realization being that I sometimes ask for what I cannot handle. It would be wise to remember this experience and apply it in my daily life. I should ask myself, “Am I really capable of challenging Ben now or would this be a better opportunity to slow down, communicate, and learn from Ben?”

 

Photo Credit: http://www.motaen.com/wallpapers/source/id/38025

Outer Space Needs You

Who hasn’t dreamt about becoming an astronaut? The Right Stuff, Online: Space Agency Crowdsources Astronaut Test by Susanna Speier explores how the European Space Agency (ESA) is leveraging the general public to aid in their astronaut selection process. Although ESA’s crowdsourcing tests are not meant to find new space agency talent, playing the game gives the average person, like myself, an opportunity to play the role of astronaut. It is also a thrill to get to say I am helping with ESA’s space efforts.
 

Games can solve today’s complicated problems by harnessing the human brain’s limitless potential to solve puzzles. ESA is maximizing on games and gamers to verify the effectiveness of the astronaut tests, which I find to be reminiscent of FoldIt. FoldIt thrives on crowdsourcing solutions for complex protein folds and potential cures for diseases. I believe it is genius to challenge the general public with complex problems to find a solution in such a win-win fashion.

 

Speier accurately explains the complexity of the games, yet until actually participating in the game, it is hard to understand how difficult and disorienting the space simulation can be. I took advantage of Speir’s direct link to the ESA gaming website only to find I could not progress past the second level. I believe there are four levels total.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 7.45.02 PM.png

 

The ESA test game has elements of solving puzzles, planning, and visualizing, all, while being timed. You can attempt each challenge as many times as you like. Completing level one took me about an hour and by the end of it, my brain was toast. In level two, I attempted to land a spaceship on the earth, but spun out and couldn’t get my ship back. I decided this was my definitive game over moment and retired my imaginary space helmet.

 

The largest constraint  of the game was that there is no gravity, which makes sense when mimicking space. This was incredibly perplexing when the option to hover up or down is not part of one’s daily existence. All movements had to be determined prior to executing the movement. Not only was I moving objects according to the top, side, and back view, but taking into consideration which axis the object needed to rotate on. There were three axis to consider: x, y, and z. Of course, the best way to understand the test is to give the free online ESA game a try.  

 

I have absolutely no suggestions for redesigning the game and wouldn’t mind taking another stab at level one to decrease my overall speed. What’s left to be desired for me is to know how ESA plans to extract the game’s data and what next steps will be taken with that data. I would love to know how a laymen’s execution of the game will actually help future astronauts. Perhaps Speier will continue to write about the game’s findings on Space.com.

 

Photo Credit: The Astronaut Selection Test