Using a game to learn a large body of knowledge.

Discuss game development design and post your game ideas

Post » Wed Mar 05, 2014 1:36 am

Greetings,

I am new here, and to programming in general (started HTML ~2 weeks ago, JS ~1 week ago), but am a pharmacist by trade. While trying to keep up with the thousands of medications out there, I find myself losing ground on the large amount of information to know. This type of information is factual in nature (drugs have a mechanism of action, side effects, unique things). I want to build a game that helps commit this stuff to memory and help use the information in a practical way. I was actually inspired by playing Pokemon one day, how much I could remember various stats and types with the hundreds of Pokemon, but struggle more with drug information. I realize the types of information somewhat different, but I would like develop a process to make it similar. I have discussed this with a friend of mine and we have identified some features that might help a person remember information such as repetition, aural and visual cues, spatial arrangement, and rewards.

Recently coming across some game development tools like this has given me a lot more hope to get a small prototype quicker (like within the next year). I think I am going to start with Construct 2 as it seems to have great documentation, fully featured as a free product, and a helpful community.

Questions I would like to pose to you fine people:

1. What kind of game might accomplish my goal of commiting to memory many facts?
2. Would a game similar to Pokemon be buildable with Construct 2? What are the strengths and limitations of this program building such game? Any tutorials?
3. How well would this sort of game translate to touch screen platforms?


This probably spans several forum topics, but I am hoping to get the most feedback on design. I can post somewhere else if it is more appropriate. Thank you in advance for anything you can offer.

TC


PS. Below is a short concept I have written for the game. You can see the similarities to Pokemon.

The player needs to acquire the ability to use each drug. This would be done by somehow proving their knowledge of the basic information about each drug within a central hub area. After they have acquired the ability to use the drug, they can take the drug out into the world to use it for a variety of purposes. There would be 'lay' people to help with simpler questions, and health care professionals for more difficult questions of the drug. A less frequent, more challenging section would be patient case scenarios, in which it would simulate decisions that are made in the clinical setting. I am hoping that it would be scalable for use on a more basic level for pharmacy students, up to be more challenging for clinicians working towards certification (like myself). There could be different installments to cover cardiology, infectious disease, top 200 drugs by sales (often need to know for student exams), and such.
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Post » Wed Mar 05, 2014 2:09 am

- Player is using anticoagulant on migraine
- it's very effective!

That said, the idea could work and it could take many forms, you could do a RPG, a tower defence, a stealth game, a beat'em up, a puzzle game... whatever you wish. The less literal you are on the drug part, the better it would work, but it's the number of factors to take inconsideration and how to represent them that would be daunting.
...but this is mostly psychological.
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Post » Wed Mar 05, 2014 6:09 am

@Tomc,

great idea using a game to learn job related information.

i think a possible way could be a card game; tcg tactical card game or ccg collectible card game. where you could use stats and icons on the cards to represent your information. you could gamify making safe combinations with the cards and recognizing unsafe combos.

just a thought...
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Post » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:00 am

@TomC : very good idea to use a game to learn something new (after all, that's why natural selection invented "playing" : to let us learn new skills without lethal downsides...)

There's a vast body of knowledge about gamification, games for learning and everything around it. The sad thing is that nobody trully understand what's going to 'stick'. In fact, you need to be a master of two field to do something good like that : be a true expert of your field (to provide the content to learn and divide it in understandable chunks, with a logical progression) and be a very good game designer. If not, you're going to provide a glorified multiple-choice questionnaire...

The most basic way to learn new things is by unconscious absorption : everybody knows the musical theme of Mario, and can hunt-and-peck the keys on a keyboard to match the tones, even if they have no musical inclination nor seen the printed musical score.
You just "learned" it by being presented the material all the time while playing.

The next step is to fuse the objects to learn inside a gameplay mechanism. For example you can find japanese kanji learning games that ask you to match tiles on which the kanji and their meaning are drawn. It's a memory game (and not a very fun way to learn that information).

A step further is to add a narrative and real game outside the learning part. In that kind of setup, you use what you are learning as a tool inside the game to do some actions, but not all of them. The stuff you are learning are one kind of gameplay mechanism. (An example of that kind of game is 'Knuckle in chinaland', where you play some kind of a JRPG game with Knuckles from Sonic & Knuckles. You move around, talk to people, try to find your way and you battle with ennemies by using kanji cards that you are learning).
Another example : with Adventure Bar Story, you are learning recipes of japanese meals by doing the job of a... japanese meals maker (sort of...)
In SpaceChem, you learn chemistry interactions and bondings as a side product of playing the game.

The more abstract the game, the less graphical content you need to provide, but the more intelligent you need to be in creating a mechanism to learn that is not boring (and if you are bored, you're not going to learn anything).
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Post » Wed Mar 05, 2014 4:12 pm

@sved. Yeah, I thought about that sort of direct correlation too..."A wild syphilis appeared! You used doxycycline, it's super effective!" It could be quite hilarious. I will have to consider the "less literal on the drug part," because I think you have a very good point. I would still like the information to be very relevant, so I don't know how much that will be achieved.

@harrio. I hadn't thought about using a card game system specifically as I don't play them really. But I suppose it is similar to something like Pokemon. I will have to investigate some more because that would provide a way to organize the information.

@Pode. Thank you for the great insight. I really appreciate it as it gives me a lot to chew on to be more intentional about certain aspects of the game.

Pode wrote:In fact, you need to be a master of two field to do something good like that : be a true expert of your field (to provide the content to learn and divide it in understandable chunks, with a logical progression) and be a very good game designer. If not, you're going to provide a glorified multiple-choice questionnaire...


I definitely agree with this statement. I am actually studying for a certification that would make me more of an 'expert' in pharmacy, but being able to break it up with a logical progression and implement it in a game would be need to take it to the next level. But that is what I want to do, I want this monotonous information to be more learnable. The term "glorified multiple-choice" I will put on the top of my list of "Things That Don't Describe This Game!" I think it will be easy to fall into that, but I also think there should be a way to use information rather than just pick it out of a list.

Taking all of your other points into account I think I need to do [i]a lot[i] more game design. I will also need to do very small chunks in the development part to see what will be effective. Thank you!

Tom
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Post » Wed Mar 05, 2014 7:26 pm

I remember helping a friend in med school study for the pharmaceutical stuff by making mnemonic devices for all the root words for various drugs, and turning them into creatures. They were pretty terrible and probably not helpful (I remember LobStar, but I don't remember what he was supposed to help us remember!) All the same, the idea of turning pharmaceuticals into mnemonic monsters always stuck with me, so your pokemon analogy sounds delightful.

Specifics:
1. What kind of game might accomplish my goal of commiting to memory many facts?
I think your idea of turning memorizable facts into stats is a good start. The challenge you may face (and the challenge of many educational games), is these attributes may not directly translate into a well-balanced game experience. But like I said, educational games deal with this all the time, so it might be worth it to check out something like theIGDA Learning and Education Games SIG, or a similar group, to address that angle of it

2. Would a game similar to Pokemon be buildable with Construct 2? What are the strengths and limitations of this program building such game? Any tutorials?

I think Construct 2 would be fine for this, because the logic is very turn-based, so you wouldn't need super high performance. No tutorials come to mind offhand though.

3. How well would this sort of game translate to touch screen platforms?

If it's very menu-based, I don't think it would be a problem at all. For the "moving around the world" part you could experiment with more touch centric controls (touch a place and the player moves to that spot, for example), but you could go either way.
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Post » Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:24 am

Pokemon is one thing, but the theme is strong enough to be carried on many ideas:

- A Professor Layton style where you go from people to people and solve their case through small puzzles
- A Phoenix Wright style where you solve one big case through hints and methods
- A tower defense that takes place inside the body, fighting virus invasions
- A Diablo-like in the body where you use drugs as elemental attacks against sicknesses
- A rhythm game where you need to create chemical combinations to synthesize drugs
...
...but this is mostly psychological.
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Post » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:42 am

@TomC : from th etop of my head, two books that can help you do what you want :
Challenges for Game Designers : http://www.amazon.com/Challenges-Game-D ... 921&sr=1-1
A very good book helping you build the skill needed to be good at game design. It's universal, what works on paper and tabletop and what works onscreen (often they are the same mechanisms).
First 30 Hours Learn Anything http://www.amazon.com/First-20-Hours-Le ... 1394094908
How to dissect and prepare material to learn new skills in an optimal way. The book is a quick read (and you learn some fun informations about various activities).
The strategies presented here are summarized from a large body of techniques developped over the last twenty or thirty years in rapid learning, NLP and stuff like that. The good thing with that books is that it spares you all the 'pseudo-scientific' babble you usually find in the 'rapid learning' books category
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Post » Thu Mar 06, 2014 5:59 pm

I thank everyone for their help. All of this continues to give me inspiration and confidence to create a game!

@Wertle Thanks for the info. It looks like that group has some good links to check out. It would be good to find some more groups based on this. Using creative names would make the more game fun...amlodisaur (amlodipine), Seroquertle (Seroquel/quetiapine), levothyroxizard (levothyroxine)...could be interesting

@sved Those are some awesome game ideas! I had thought of some of those, but this gives me some inspiriation to mix it up within the game, to use the same drugs in different situations.

@Pode These look like they could be very helpful. I'll have to take a closer look at them later. Thanks again.
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