PlayThinkLearn Redux

Updates to this blog have been notably inconspicuous over the past eight months. This is primarily due to the arrival of Offspring #2 back in January, compete with sleepless nights, more poo than I care to remember, and general child-related chaos. If in doubt, blame the baby.

Well, I’m finally back; bigger, better, bluer, and with 100% more beavers (long story, see here).

It’s difficult to know where to start: so much has happened in the world of games and learning since the start of the year, and I’ve missed most of it being elbow-deep in infant sick. However, lists are always a good place to start; so here goes…

Five things that I saw in the past year, and meant to blog about, but never round to (in no particular order):

  1. Blockly. I did some work on languages for teaching programming at the end of last year, and found this interesting, particularly the maze example (which – to my shame – I still can’t solve). One of the problems with teaching programming is meaningful problems, and I love the way that this demo integrates the puzzle with the means of solving it (reminds me a bit of the wonderful Bytes Brothers).
  2. The lovely people at Popcap Games have always been super-helpful when I’ve needed permissions or images, and it was great to read this recent article about the ten secrets of casual game design. I think that the educational game design community has a lot to learn from casual gaming, and I love lists. All good.
  3. The Gamification of Education Infographic. Personally, I think that ‘gamification’ is getting far too much prominence over the ‘games-as-constructivist-learning-spaces’ idea, but I have to admit that the former is just a little bit more catchy (therein lies the problem). However, I do like visual ways of expressing stuff, and this provides a nice overview of the gamification world (albeit a world that only contains America).
  4. Digital Ninja. Okay, now this is long past, but I still think it deserves an honourable mention. This was a video created for the JISC Elevator experiment for crowd souring ideas for funding, by a group from the ALT Games and Learning SIG. It didn’t get funded, but I still think it’s brilliant (and it did get the requisite number of votes in the fastest time). I think there’s still a lot of mileage in this one.
  5. Tiny Zoo. It’s boring, repetitive, trivial, and completely pointless. Yet compelling. And did I say boring? Really boring. So why am I still playing it three months after installing it to ‘see what all the fuss is about’? I haven’t spent any money on it (yet), but I’ve been tempted (and I know some very clever people who have parted with real cash for zoo dollars). There’s definitely something going on here that warrants further study. Offspring #1 just loves the zombies.


  1. Katie Piatt

    I got over Tiny Zoo. It took a while. I wanted to quit sooner but I couldn’t, then I reached a point where collecting the income became SOOO BOOORRRING I found myself a substitute (Tribez) and managed to move on. I want to blog about this too, what one earth makes grown adults stick with the game, and how do we make use of that!

    Oh, and I love the levitating rodents.

  2. Yohmoh

    <3 <>

  3. nicola (Post author)

    @Yohmoh Happy days ;o)

  4. nicola (Post author)

    @Katie I’m sure there’s a paper in here somewhere… there’s a fair bit written about the ‘grind’ in World of Warcraft, and how players will put up with it to get the eventual rewards (xp, cool stuff, etc.) But it’s not like there are even any worthwhile rewards in TinyZoo!

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