Visual Learning and Game Maps

Now that I have my article on digital game-based learning out the door and the semester is gradually coming to an end, I have had much more time to spend on Blender and creating 3D models. Although directly related to the research I am conducting on 3D-DGBL environments and their eventual application for second language acquisition, I have been pleasantly surprised (but sometimes also frustrated) by the demands that this project has been placing on the right hemispehere of my brain. In a way, however, the project is moving me towards a holistic fusion of research, art, and creativity that I have found lacking in my academic career up to this point. Here is the result of this fusion thus far:


Feeling that the video was by itself rather boring, I also spent a few hours this last weekend mixing sound loops and samples from FlashKit and The Freesound Project. Granted, I probably will not have a career in techno any time soon, but it certainly was fun trying to line up the images with the music.
Working with images, sound, and the unstructured nature of 3D game environments has led me to ponder how best to teach with new and emerging media. A lot of what we do in the classroom today is print-based and very linear: Students and instructors move from Point A to Point B, whereupon a test is administered. New media requires us to step back and look at the whole environment as a potential platform for learning, one that is not contrained by previously employed instructional paradigms. For instance, the anti-capitalism graffiti I grabbed off the Web and applied to the side of the fountain (did you see it in the video?)
also tells a story in itself, and these small, individual, visual components need to be harmonized with the overarching story of the 3D-DGBL environment. The challenge, I suppose, is recognizing (and somehow working with) the fact that some instruction will be delivered through a visual channel via images and other instruction through a purely audio channel via spoken language. The final instructional package, so to speak, will be a uniquely individual syntehsis of these different channels. So, how will I fit this image into the game I am planning and its story arc? I’m not sure. Perhaps as an underlying tension between leftist and right-wing elements similar to what was experienced in the Weimar Republic during the 1920s and 1930s.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about the spatial flow of the game, and how all the well-received professionally developed 3D games use the virtual space and NPC action as a way to direct the player. These thoughts have been fueled in part my my own work in developing a 3D game, in part by the book on video game spaces by Michael Nitsche I am currently reading. The map I have developed so far (see related post) seems a bit too open-ended and may not give the player/learner enough direction in order to accomplish specific level tasks. I’ll certainly revisit this topic at a later date as I start to crank up my Unity3D training. In any case, I’ve been thinking of narrowing down the pedestrian zone into which the player/learner is first insterted at the beginning of the game – something based on a small German town like Harburg, Bavaria or Neuhaus an der Pegnitz.

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