Updates about the current stages of development for our iPhone/iPad and Android game.
Our project focuses on the SAT I exam’s math section as a jumping off point. We chose this test not only because we have extensive personal experience with them, as well as demonstrated success, but also because they allow students across the nation to demonstrate their learning in a standardized format to colleges. Our product is a full-immersion educational environment for these exams. It’s an educational social game that utilizes advances in technology and research in neuroscience to increase learning efficiency and “stickiness,” or how memorable a lesson is. Our product exists as a cross-platform web, mobile, and tablet application so that the user can move seamlessly from a home computer platform, to a phone on the go, and a tablet upon arriving at school.
The application we’ve developed is a monster-collection-based role-playing-game reminiscent of Nintendo’s Pokemon franchise that we grew up with. The game is set-up so that all of the parts of Pokemon that made it such a successful and revolutionary game have been kept – the aspects of monster evolution, choosing your own personalized starter, a massive world to explore populated by a variety of monsters, the ability to capture and obtain enemy monsters, different elemental affiliations between monsters, and a strength/weakness combat system. We felt that the universal weakest point in the monster-type role-playing-game franchises was the boring combat system. The reward system in the games is very very strong, based not only on incremental level-ups, but evolutionary changes, different attack acquisition, and defeating various captains/bosses at different points in the game. However, the combat system and experience system, that involved running through areas of the game map encountering random enemies and often defeating tens, or even hundreds of enemy monsters with a simple click-and-attack-to-defeat setup, came across as relatively weak. This is the part of the gameplay where we’ve integrated SAT I Math.
We've named our combat system "touch-and-play". SAT I Math has four different sections – arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and statistics. For each of the sub-areas within each of these four subjects, we've developed interactive examples. When a player wants to initiate an attack, they're given a time frame and a graphical representation of the problem on the screen. Then, the player can tap different numbers in the equation to figure out where to start. If they tap an area that isn't correct, the number vibrates, irritated, before settling to a stop again. However, if the correct area is tapped, the player can solve that part of the problem, and their progress is noted below. The player must completely solve the problem to properly finish an attack.
We believe this system creates the perfect balance of gamified learning. Math problems are inherently step-based, so gameplay is set up so players explore the screen trying to find the place to start the math puzzle. Then, upon discovery, the interactive, intuitive animations illustrate the math concepts and the progress bar fills up. This reinforces the player's incremental improvement as each part of the puzzle is completed.
Now, to insure that players remain motivated to play, we have several different aspects of the game in place. The first is difficulty scaling – large amounts of research in gamification shows that players have the capacity to repeat about 10 to 20 tasks in a row before being frustrated or bored, and that the ideal success rate for players is between 25% and 75%. Above 75% is too easy, and below 25% is too hard. Our game scales both the difficulty and the rewards so that players are accomplishing small, incremental goals every step of the way.
The reward system is further augmented by the social nature of the game. Once reaching an appropriate level/experience-cap, players will unlock the ability to fight against other players on global scoreboards, challenge their friends, and challenge large bosses in team-based battles for unique enemy acquisition. Gaming research has found that there is almost nothing more motivating than play against and with not only your friends, but with other people. We think that the interplay of respect and position combined with the demonstration of academic merit inherent in our gameplay creates a very powerful cocktail of motivation.
Lastly, in order to insure effectiveness – the incredible amount of data points from our game – of what questions players got right, in how long, at what difficulty level, and even their preferences for different areas of math, will allow us to use big data learning algorithms to help them better progress. For example, if a player seems to have a habit of missing one type of question, we can use our database to target what other questions players with similar question-answer profiles have missed. In this way, the advantages of having a large data system actually allows us to target what areas of math players will have difficulty on before they’ve even touched those subjects. This not only creates a customized learning experience, but, combined with the motivational aspects outlined above, provides what we believe will be an incredibly effective way to learn.