Interactivity in Practice: Practicum 4/7

In our lifetimes, video games and play have become a fundamental piece of popular culture and, as a result, a powerful tool for learning. For this week’s practicum, I will be looking at examples of video games, game editors, and interactive applications, including the ARIS Editor, Smithsonian’s Will To Adorn, and the game Do I Have the Right?

ARIS Editor:

ARIS Editor is a game creation site that, rather than requiring a software download, can be used on any device with Flash. The Editor is a part of the larger ARIS project, an open-source software project with source code fully available to the public.

There are three sections to the ARIS project: the Editor, the Server, and the Client. Essentially these are the places you create your game, the place your game “lives,” and the app through which users can play your game. The login and initial game creation (which simply requires a name) is easy. However, for users not used to the interface, the setup might be a little confusing.

The interface opens on a blank screen with a set of tabs at the top listing: Scenes, Locations, Quests, Conversations, Media, AR Targets, Notebook and Game Settings. In each tab there is a sidebar with “Game Objects.”

To start, you have to create a scene. While you can create multiple scenes, it is easiest to learn ARIS within a single scene. From here, the creator can add objects and triggers.

Objects are the items you want players to see and interact with inside the game, while Triggers are the avenue through which users access an object (i.e. most objects you create will require a trigger).

There are different trigger types that can be used in the ARIS editor: Location, QR Code, and Sequence. Two of these are rather obvious: location means when someone is at a certain location physically, and QR codes that require people to scan the codes to access the object (good for inside spaces or something more intricate, like a museum exhibit). Sequence triggers are triggers that allow an object to “appear” for a viewer once they have taken another specific action within the game that you choose as the catalyst for your object to appear. This type of trigger requires Locks (another type of game object).

Other objects include:

  • Plaques: a virtual plaque that offers information to the user
  • Locks: locks are “the logical glue you can use to give your games structure.” They allow any trigger or other items to be locked, giving your game a literal narrative and progression.
  • Conversations: Created conversations between your user and characters/places in the game
  • Items/Attributes: Objects your users can collect, or that you can give them after certain triggers.
  • Webpages: exactly what you would expect, webpages embedded into the game experience that open with a trigger

These objects can incorporate media, and a series of objects and triggers can be incorporated into different “quests” created in the editor.

While this editor certainly comes with a learning curve, it is a good entry point for people who have no experience creating a game or who have no coding skills. I do think that the website would pull in more users if they found a way to make the interface a little more tangible and user friendly. There is a lot of terminology that doesn’t explain itself within the interface at all, and it was difficult to visualize what something might look like in gameplay based on the interface experience.

The Will to Adorn:

Will to Adorn is a research and public presentation project created by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The project represents the work of scholars and cultural practitioners to explore the aesthetics of African American identities as represented through artistic expression of the body, dress, and adornment. While there have been various programs and papers associated with this project, the project primarily lives on the Will to Adorn website and app.

Unfortunately, the website itself has been stripped down to not include all of the items it previously held, including some of the Research Tools, Field Notes, Events, etc. However, it still offers some resources with their research guide and access to contacts users can reach out to for questions.

The app is also still running, and functions in two ways:

  1. Users can tell their story. You offer the app basic information about your age, gender, etc. and then choose a question to answer. Once you have chosen a question, you create an audio recording of your answer that is submitted to the app.
  2. Users can listen to stories from other users and from fieldwork about dress and adornment.

The website and app are great examples of how digital tools can expand the reach and impact of a project, but it does also offer a lesson in terms of the longevity of the project. Perhaps upkeep on the site, for example, would allow for users to continue the project.

Do I Have A Right?

iCivics, a nonprofit organization created by Sandra Day O’Connor, works to promote civics education and encourage youth involvement in active citizenship. To do so, they create lesson plans and educational video games like “Do I Have A Right?”

The game allows students to run their own firm, focused specifically on constitutional law. The more cases won for each client, the more your law firm grows.

In the game, users have the option to play either the “Full Edition” or the “Bill of Rights Edition,” i.e. the cases you receive are only about the original 10 amendments. For this practicum, I decided to play the Bill of Rights Edition.

The game then takes you to create your avatar; I would say there was general success in using inclusive practices by iCivics, including avatars of multiple races and genders, as well as add on options of glasses or a wheelchair.

You then pick a partner and open your firm, with the aim to match cases with lawyers who specialize in the relevant amendment. Each potential client that walks in must be evaluated by the user, who decides whether or not the case is an infringement on the person’s rights. The game should ultimately help students gain a better understanding of their rights, and how they are protected by the judicial system. Overall, I found this game very engaging, while also remaining simple enough in design to allow for learning. However, some of the time constraints that make the game feel “high stakes” does prevent users from fully reading into each amendment.

7 Replies to “Interactivity in Practice: Practicum 4/7”

  1. Thanks for showing us these tools! The ARIS editor has definitely caught my eye. It seems like it could be a versatile tool for organizations that want to put out interactive content, but aren’t willing or able to put in resources to create a full game. You bring in a good point about the learning curve, though. Many tools like ARIS are usually designed by and for people who have some level of technical proficiency. Some kind of video tutorial or guide could provide great help to many potential users.

    1. Thanks for your comment Shaan! I completely agree, it definitely offers a platform for game creation to those who ordinarily might not be able to do so. I also that I think widens the field for those who maybe don’t have the money or resources to create interactive content as well! To the point about the tutorial: YES! I tried to look up some video tutorials but no major help there as far as I could find from a quick google search; the written explanations help, but for a tool like this I think a really well done tutorial would make it much more accessible to those without tech experience or who just don’t find this system intuitive.

  2. Thanks for sharing these resources! I’ve played around with the the iCivics game that teaches you how to be an informed voter and included it in an activity for students before, and I agree with your assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. They seem like pretty engaging tools for students, but I feel like it also sits in a difficult spot. For the voting one, the tone feels very accessible to a younger audiences, but it also feels like an overwhelming amount of information for younger audiences since they had to go through several rounds of elections to complete the game.

    If they wanted to revisit them or improve on their format, I wonder if they could release different levels within each game or different lengths that could suit the needs of different students more easily.

    1. Mia, I think the idea of game levels would be so great for iCivics to implement! That way they can scale the information, and perhaps the difficultly of the games as well, for different grades and age ranges. The concept is all there, but some fine tuning would make their games even more successful.

  3. Hi Sajel, these resources look really interesting! I was wondering what your opinion on using these sites in a classroom? Do you think they would be effective? What ages do you think they would best suit?

  4. Hey Amanda, great questions!
    I do think these would be wonderful to use in the classroom; I think as a teacher these games offer the opportunity to either build a portion of the curriculum around the games (ie. maybe you spend a week on the creation of the Constitution and include the Bill of Rights version of the game as something they do throughout the week) or as a small addition for when you need something to fill a little time, games to play during a computer class or library session (which some schools have still I think?).

    In terms of age range, it depends on the game, but for Do I Have A Right I think this game would probably be best aimed somewhere around the middle school age? Probably around 5-8 grade. But I think it would also be great if iCivics included that integrated into their site listed with each game as well!

  5. Thanks for this great post, Sajel! It’s really interesting to see these kind of resources like iCivics and Do I Have a Right. Schools are implementing more and more digital resources and are emphasizing tech education at a younger age. I think we are only going to be seeing more of these types of simulations for learning. I’m wondering if you think there are any downfalls to using these types of games in the classroom? I also think your point about longevity on the Will to Adorn site is really important.

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