One of hottest free games in the mobile space right now is called Rage of Bahamut. Unlike its name and graphics suggest, this is a card collecting and card battling game. There is no visible violence, blood, gore, or for that matter character animation. Based on that description, it is somewhat surprising that it has turned into such a phenomenon. But the success of it is not what I want to talk about. Instead I have learned a great deal from teaching my 10 year-old daughter to play it. My daughter is not an avid learner. The process of learning does not excite her. And so far I have yet to discover something that she desperately wanted to master. It has been quite difficult to find the opportunity to teach her how to learn.
I started the game a couple of months ago. She watched me played a few times and wanted to participate. The first thing she wanted to do was to help me poked the screen during questing. It was mechanical and un-rewarding mentally to say the least but it was a good bait. I also showed her the process of evolving (merging) cards and let her help me with it. With my old iPhone (no SIM card, just WiFi connection) in hand, she asked if she can have it installed on “her” iPhone. She took the bait!
One of the first thing I had to encourage her to do is to READ the screen. Every word, every sentence is there for a reason. Being a lazy learner, this was something she has to overcome. I have come to terms that nothing will encourage her more than a subject matter she’s interested in. Of course, the opposite is true. I had to hold myself back and let her read, comprehend, and understand at her own pace. I just had to make sure she actually read the pages rather than just clicking through the tutorial.
Since she had been watching me play, the easiest thing for her to master was questing. She accessed the function, poked poked poked, very self-evident, involving, and rewarding. With more cards, the next thing she mastered was evolving. She also learned how to improve the attributes, how to obtain friendship points on a periodic basis, among other things. In addition, she had learned some of the terminologies: “feeder cards”, “fully-evolved cards”, etc. With a proverbial bag of cards begging to be used and the questing/evolving starting to lose appeal (I’ve come to recognize these warning signs on whatever subject she got in and out of), she asked what to do next. BAIT!
With the basic mechanics mastered, now comes areas that are more cerebral. I introduced her to the rarity concept and how she can work on building her attack and defense cards. With a few premium card pack tickets, she got a hold of some rare cards and started to get excited. With the concept of evolving under her belt, I explained to her enhancing, leveling, and various more complex concepts that involved a great deal of math. The actual mathematics is actually not important but her grasping of the concepts were. (For those of you that knows the game, I explained to her the difference between 8-15, 6-11, 4-0, and potential outcomes.) Even though the gratification is not as instant, she started to understand.
I recommended her to focus on doing 6-11 on one card and she decided on a Holy Knight. Which card she chose really wasn’t that important. The fact that she had one and that she made the choice herself were. As she applied her feeders enhancing this card, her eyes lit up watching the card’s stats improving. Instant gratification at work! Somewhere along the line, the fact that she needs 6 of the same cards to-be-drawn randomly seemed to create an angst. BAIT! I then introduced her to trading. Using other cards she was not interested in, she was able to find trades from the marketplace and was able to get her hands on 3 Holy Knights, free! Knowing that nothing (except time) can stop her from achieving half of the 6-11 caused her to regain her excitement.
During our drive to meet a friend yesterday, she started to ask questions and I answered them. I’ve now observed her listening, comprehending, practicing, and asking questions. I sweetened the pot a bit more by telling her that 1) she and I now speaks a language that mommy doesn’t understand, and 2) if she listen in on my conversations with my gaming friends, she would start to understand what we are talking about. Evidently, access to exclusivity has a certain appeal also.
Today, she came into my cave and announced that she’s going to check the market and see if she can find a trade. After 5 minutes, she jumped into my view and cheered that she was successful and now have 4 Holy Knight cards. Again, apparent progress excited her. I told her, “I’m very proud of you of learning.” She replied with a puzzled look, “You are proud of me for learning a video game?!” Her mom (within earshot) promptly cracked up. And I said, “No, I’m proud of you for learning, period.” She was obviously amused.
While playing together is rewarding in a certain way, I think I’ve gained more by observing her learning behavior. People often complain about certain activities are addicting, including gaming. What I found is that other activities like studying, school, etc. are not addicting because they don’t have the correct mechanisms in place. They are not appealing to a child’s (or even an adult’s) learning cycle:
Interest spawns focus, focus spawns learning opportunity, learning opportunity spawns chance for accomplishment, fast turn around in accomplishment (a.k.a. instant gratification, no, it is not always a bad thing) spawns reinforcement, reinforcement caused mastery, mastery leads to boredom (a cliff), complexity steers people away from the cliff and create additional interests. And the cycle repeats. I hear from time to time that parents are amazed how quickly their children can master complex gaming concepts and complex gaming mechanics. My take is that children actually have very high capacity for learning but if the mechanisms are not in place or if the complexity isn’t there, they lose interests quickly.
Looking at how complicated this game actually is, I think I can squeeze a few more weeks of teaching/learning out of it.
Filed under: Apps, education, Games, Learning, Uncategorized | Tagged: education, gaming, learning, Parenting, Rage of Bahamut | Leave a comment »