Skip to content

Posts from the ‘game’ Category

Geometry, by eye

October 7th, 2008


A quickie: here’s an interesting game from Canada where users have to find various interesting geometrical properties by eye and are assessed programmatically on their accuracy:

My score as about 3.03, having frustratingly crepty above an accuracy score of 3 with a shocking 9 in my final problem.

Science Museum Game

October 11th, 2007


Launchball is a game produced for the Science Museum website. It is an excellent and well thought out little game that has highly transparent educational content. Despite this, it it fun to play.

Most of the puzzles deal with the concepts of power and force, both in terms of their generation and their effect. The aim is to make a little (metal) ball reach a particular goal. It can be done by using wind power to blow the ball, magnetism to attract it, or ‘rollers’ to move the ball along. Some or all of these effects require power, and the different mechanisms for generating and transferring power are really interesting and innovative.

This game is a wonderful way to introduce physics.

Computer Games in Education

September 19th, 2007


Firaxis Games, the makers of one of the greats of computer gaming Civilisation, discuss on their website the growing trend for computer games to be used in the educational arena. It is encouraging that educators are starting to understand the potential of technology to educate, though I suspect that the use of commercial games as educational tools is an transitional step before bespoke educational games begin to be produced with production values that begin to approach those of commercial games.

One of Firaxis’ contributors Kurt Squire proposes Civilisation as a good model for learning about World History. There is an interesting tension here. On the one hand, a game like Civilisation engages students in such a way that they build a sophisticated model of the game in order to succeed at it. That is good educationally to the extent to which the game models genuine historical processes. It is not clear that the ‘history’ that Civilisation presents is particularly convincing.

While Kurt Squire argues that Civilisation “represents world history not as a story of colonial domination or western expansion, but as an emergent process arising from overlapping, interrelated factors”, it does still give an essentially American – or at least New World – view of history. Land is virgin territory until moved into by the great civilisations; pre-colonial Afrians, native Americans, native Australian Aborigones do not have a story. Intellectual and technological progress happens linearly; the Middle ages and the loss of Roman and Greek learning cannot happen. There is no potential for a European type of historio-political scenario; states are the size of continents.

On the other hand, if one ignores the problems with the historical model, it does offer a ‘big picture view’ of history. Could such a grand model of historical processes be so readily expressed without the means of technology? Certainly the answer is yes, though it would take an extremely talented teacher, and those are notoriously thin on the ground.

The pipedream is for someone to create a game with production values on a par with Civilisation, but which takes as its starting point an historical model that aims at accuracy. This of course, is rather like desiring an historically accurate documentary that looks and sounds like a Hollywood movie, but there will surely be moves towards higher production values in educational software in the future.

Puzzling Simplicity

August 24th, 2007


Problem solving should feel like this: Sliding Block Puzzle. At the time of writing I haven’t yet worked out how to finish the puzzle. However, I’m fairly certain that it involves getting the red square out of the hole at the other end of the puzzle.

Getting students to play this, and getting students to talk about strategies, and recognising medium and short term goals would be a wonderful way to get them to while away some time while thinking furiously.


August 6th, 2007


Plupon is a strange little game, but it is a good concept. With a bit of work, this could be a real gem of a game. The instructions are not that clear: you have to add number bubbles up to multiples of 10, but you can also in the interim add lower denominations to a value under 10, so if you see a 0, 1 and 2 floating down you can combine them to make 3 without a penalty. In fact, the first couple of levels are very dull unless you do!


August 6th, 2007


Bloxorz is another interesting puzzle-based game which deserves attention. It is a very clever concept, though it takes some levels before you approach a level which cannot be done very easily by trial and error.

As with most such games that are purely designed for entertainment but which have educational problem-solving potential, the number of tries again is too great. Fewer moves would mean that players would need to develop more of a strategy and to think of multi-step solutions. However, we can’t have everything. Well worth a look.

By the way, if you are in any doubt as to the problem solving potential, please try to work through to Stage 11, which is an absolutely lovely puzzle! I did it… eventually… and I have to admit that I used squared paper to help me work it out!

ReMaze Puzzle

July 31st, 2007


ReMaze is a small Flash game which has some fascinating puzzles to stimulate problem-solving, and which is really quite engaging. This is well worth a look.

My only concern about a game such as this for education is that too often while I was dimly aware of the sort of strategy I should employ to solve the puzzles, I was too often relying on trial and error to solve the problems. To convert this into a thorough educational game would require careful thought about how to make the problem-solving more explicit.

Apparently there are 21 levels!

Gravity Pods Game

July 30th, 2007


Gravity Pods is a 50-level game which requires a great deal of problem solving and creativity.

It is a good example of a game which is educational in the sense that it requires students to problem solve and explore the structure of the game. It is certainly not intended to be educational, and has some elements that are not perhaps suitable for an educational scenario (the name of the website for example).

Nowhere on the curriculum could you pinpoint an aspect of mathematics or any other subject which this game addresses. However, if that is a necessary criterion for you as an educationalist, you are in the wrong place! I do not believe that what is learned in mathematics classrooms can be meaningfully described in terms of the criteria prescribed by the national curriculum.

Oh, and I was unable to do the 50th level. It is really, really hard.