Educational games are my passion, but this “quiz show style” game I just did for Kent State is a little different: instead of directly teaching concepts or information, it teaches people about each other, and thus supports the teaching of communication principles. It will now be used by the Communication department, as well as for incoming first-year students to get to know their roommates better before coming to campus.
It originally started as a board game invented by Dr. William Gorden and others, and then a few years back someone made a limited Flash version of the board game. This year they wanted a modern online multiplayer adaptation of the game, and so I proposed starting from scratch with this new concept. It uses the questions from the board game’s card deck, but in a new cooperative format: the better you know each other, the higher BOTH players score. (Although pairs of people can also compete with each other.)
Since the bulk of the game play is trying to predict your partner’s answers to questions, it’s a lot of text (and some photos). To add visual interest, Dr. Gorden and I came up with the idea of a kaleidoscope that becomes increasingly wild and colorful as your score goes up. I designed a minimalist, transparent UI to be overlaid on the animation, and generated some simple sound effects for right vs. wrong predictions.
The other, unseen aspect to the game is how customizable it is: I programmed it so that entirely new games can be made from the same “template,” without needing a programmer at all. A set of easily-readable text files defines the scoring, the categories, the questions, and even the title of the game and the animation of the background. Anyone can open those files, edit them using natural language, and create a new game based on the same principles.
A game takes about 10 minutes to play (unless you play against yourself!) and requires two players at two computers. Or, at the least, two browser windows open on the same machine (but then you can just cheat: you see the other player’s answers). One person clicks Start, the other clicks Join. (And multiple pairs can play at once. Rather than making people exchange IP addresses, I use 3-letter codes that are easy to convey.)
PREDICTION: A Game of Hunches and Intuition
The front end is Flash, and the back end is PHP and MySQL. Players have been enjoying it so far—and their ever-increasing scores show that they’re learning about each other too!
Note that game histories are tracked (at least temporarily) for possible future analysis and development. None of the questions are all THAT personal, but if you’re worried, make up a nickname :)