User:Rmyers/Bad 'Educational' Games
Een schip op het strand is een baken in zee.
[A ship on the beach is a lighthouse to the sea.]
- Dutch Proverb
Fredrick Brooks used this proverb as the introduction to the first chapter of his seminal work on Software Engineering "The Mythical Man-month".
It's meaning there and here is that examples of bad practice can still be very useful examples.
Here are some 'educational' games my son and I have stumbled upon, and some comments as to why we think that they are bad. If you are considering creating games for the XO, take some time to look at these and think about them.
First up is the game that gave rise to the idea of this page: "AlphaAttack". This game asks you to type characters to match (and safely detonate) bombs that are falling on you. Teaches typing, eh? Well, not really. First, the characters just seem to be random letters, they do not correspond to anything like the 'easy' level being the home row or anything that would encourage you to learn how to type. Second, you can just button mash. I'm not sure that lower accuracy doesn't affect the score, but it doesn't stop anything, so you can just run arpeggios over the keyboard.
 Space Racer X
I stumbled over this one while I was looking for some "Asteroids" references. In "Space Racer X" you are to solve a simple multiplication problem to move your ship left or right to avoid asteroids scrolling in from the top. This actually isn't that bad if you want to drill the multiplication facts. But again, the problems seem random -- the program doesn't go from simpler to harder problems, it goes from slower to faster speeds. On the XO the speed seem glacial, there is a lot of time between needing to solve problems, during which time there is nothing interesting happening on the screen, just some stars drifting past.
If you know of any other good (bad) examples, add them here.
 So, what are we learning?
A couple of early takeaways.
- A learning skill based game should progress through skill levels.
- A learning skill based game should penalize or prevent random input.
- Keep things happening to hold the child's interest.