Nintendo publicly released a patent yesterday — that they filed in July of 2008 — that enables a user to stop playing the game, watch someone else (a developer) play the level for them — demonstrating what levers need to be pulled, who needs to be talked to, and where the hidden items are kept — then rewind the footage back to the player’s current place in the game, and play through the level like usual.
It’s called “Kind Code,” and it’s Nintendo’s attempt to get casual players to play video games that are normally reserved for hardcore players based on the level of difficulty and video game knowledge usually required to play them. Nintendo has already cornered this share by having the #1 console in the country, and selling 1 million Wii’s in November, proving that there is a market for casual gamers. But, what I find even more interesting is the impact this may have on our students who (in case you didn’t know) play quite a lot of video games.
I am a firm believer in the positive attributes that accompany our children playing video games. Just like adults, kids need an entertainment outlet. When I was a kid, it was mostly television (with a smattering of original NES thrown in here and there), which is a truly passive and slightly brain-dead activity (“Low Alpha Waves While Watching TV can Lead to ‘Mind Fog”). Now, children are filling the previous TV time with video games. There are quite a few studies showing that this isn’t necessarily a good thing, either, but it is far more engaging than watching television.
With Nintendo’s new hint system, allowing players to watch someone else play a video game for them, and then have the option to return to the start of the level and play it themselves, there arise quite a few issues. First of all, does it turn video games into a passive medium? It does, in some respects, in that the player is watching, rather than playing; however, the purpose of the watching is different from television. They are not watching to enjoy a show, and then move on after 30 minutes to another activity. They are watching in order to understand what needs to be done in order to reach a goal in the game.
This leads to another issue. While this system is more passive, is it teaching our students cause and effect? As a 5th grade teacher, cause and effect was a difficult concept to teach. It’s quite simple to show the students how one action affects another, but it was a struggle to help them understand that different causes can create shades of effects (i.e. yelling at someone when you don’t like them, as opposed politely explaining why you don’t like them, will have the same effect of them not caring too much for you, but one will result in a much more amicable solution).
By our students using the “Kind Code” hint system, they can be shown where the hidden treasure chests are, and just how far apart the two ledges are before they jump, but ultimately it’s up to them to put the character to the task, and experiment with what would happen if they chose not to follow the path laid out before them. It’s this experimenting with unknown results that can create a child who is much more comfortable making mistakes. Your child can say, “Yeah, the hint system told me to jump from ledge A to ledge B, but I wondered what would happen if I did a Long Jump from ledge A to ledge C.”
In addition to toying with cause and effect, our students would also be demonstrating great strengths of comprehension. To be able to watch, take note of, and remember all the steps needed in order to complete a level can be a very daunting task. But, rewind the system, and let your child have a go at it, and you’ll be quite surprised at the success they’ll have in completing the objectives. This shows that the child comprehends (yes, at a lower level of cognition, more akin to “Application,” Bloom’s Taxonomy) what is being asked of them.
But, referring again to cause and effect, what if the child decides to not follow the path that’s been put before them? The child has been shown that this succession of choices will lead to completing the goal, but they decide to experiment with other ways of reaching that objective. Well, that takes the child’s thinking straight to “Evaluation,” which is the highest level of cognition we look for in our students’ reasoning and questioning skills.
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