“Aliens shrink cupcakes!” in Hopscotch & coding experiences/thoughts

Aliens shrink cupcakes!” in Hopscotch–

Gameplay consists of two characters–an alien sprite and a cupcake sprite, each of which move at slightly different speeds and “bounce” off edges at different angles. When the alien collides with the cupcake, it shrinks it. Tapping the cupcake causes the cupcake to grow. (Players can do this either in response to shrinking or pre-emptively.) Tapping the alien only gives feedback that it’s been tapped (meaning you can’t pause or alter the alien’s course).

As far as the experience of learning coding (which I’ve done a little of before, but not much) with Hopscotch vs. learning coding with Hakitzu goes…. I think Hakitzu lead me to automate the language a little quicker–that is, I stared to “think” in JavaScript terms a bit more quickly and automatically than I did with Hopscotch, though I think that automation might be fairly particular to JavaScript. Hopscotch, on the other hand, changed my way of thinking about coding general more comprehensively (even if only to a modest degree), I think, in large part because I was able to experiment and test more easily (with fewer consequences, so to speak) than with Hakitzu.

Playing as a “kid,” I found myself having to roll out some basic math and geometry knowledge…! (For example–what value should I set both of the sprites to move if I wanted to ensure that they never changed course without hitting an edge. In other words, I had to remember how to calculate the hypoteneuse of a right triangle.) I (as a kid) wanted to make sure that my game could be fun, made sense, and was at least a little chaotic. Difficulties (over which there were many) were overcome by much testing and re-testing. No fiero moments, unfortunately, because (both as a kid and not) I had much more that I wanted to do with my game and making even simple stuff work started to feel like a bit of a slog after awhile. This disappointment, however, did give me  (kid and adult) a added respect for game designers and programmers.

Hopscotch Certificate of Completion

It’s official–I’m big!

Jordan Shapiro, “Here’s Why We Need Video Games In Every Classroom”

I found Shapiro’s argument in this talk extremely compelling, and not just because he seems a good–dynamic, effective–lecturer. The notion of “scaffolding for emptiness” also strikes me as something much more than just a catchy phrase. This notion calls to mind, as well, one of the central arguments of the Narrative Game Studio course I’m taking this semester: that good narrative game design, design that is both efficiently produced and engaging to the player, contains “gaps”–in the main story, in the world the game has built around it–for the player to fill in for himself/herself. This is also, I think, one of the principle ways that science fiction can be so compelling.

I’m also glad I watched this video because it provided a much smarter formulation of my own skepticism about digital badges and the like in Shaprio’s assertion that gamification (as he defines it in his argument) is “built on the assumption that what we need is a better competitive, commodified motivation system.”

I do disagree with part of Shapiro’s argument (which he does qualify a bit in the Q&A), though, wherein he claims that players don’t really care about levelling-up (and points, achievements, etc.). I’m thinking here of RPGs, where much of the appeal of the game is in determining a path for development of your character, which I think can feel very empowering, part of that empowerment being the exploration of different kinds of self.