Why I Love Gaming
Is This a Game?
One of my favorite video games of all time is Portal. At the start of the game, your character wakes up in a small enclosure with glass walls. In your enclosure you find a futuristic-looking bed, a radio playing an upbeat Latin-sounding tune, a toilet, an empty coffee mug and a clipboard containing a paper with some esoteric symbols. Suddenly, a computer voice is heard over a PA system: “Hello and, again, welcome to the Aperture Science Computer-Aided Enrichment Center. We hope that your brief detention in the relaxation vault has been a pleasant one. Your specimen has been processed and we are now ready to begin the test proper. Before we start, however, keep in mind that although fun and learning are the primary goals of the Enrichment Center activities, serious injuries may occur. For your own safety, and the safety of others, please refrain from [voice becomes garbled]. The portal will open in 3 … 2… 1.”
At this point, a mysterious orange ring appears on one of the walls. Looking around, you also notice that a blue ring has appeared on one of the walls outside your glass enclosure. When you walk through this orange “portal,” you find that you have been teleported from your small glass enclosure to the larger room outside this enclosure through the blue portal. You have now learned the main premise of the game, the use of portals, and entered the testing center, which is a series of rooms that challenge you in a variety of ways. The ultimate goal of each challenge is to reach the exit door. However, you find yourself separated from this door by increasingly difficult obstacles, including large chasms, locked doors, and automated turrets. Your only tool is the Portal Gun, which allows you to create orange and blue portals two connect two locations in your room. You must place these portals strategically, often exploiting the laws of momentum to propel yourself through the room toward the exit door.
As you progress through the levels, the challenges become more difficult and take more strategy and use of physics to find that exit door. At the same time, the robot voice that “guides” you through the levels becomes less helpful and increasingly sadistic. You soon realize that you are not just solving puzzles, but also fighting for survival as a test subject in this bizarre and often humorous Enrichment Center.
You will fail many times along the way, but luckily your death is not permanent, and you can try as many times as necessary until you reach the exit. I have played this game through at least three times.
What Makes Portal 2 A Game?
In, “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction,” Karl Kapp defines a game as being,“A system in which players engage in an abstract challenge, defined by rules, interactivity, and feedback, that results in a quantifiable outcome often eliciting an emotional reaction. Portal has all the elements listed above. When designing our professional deveopment program these are the key ingredients we included to captivate educators as they achieve the goal of becoming 21st cenutry educators.
My only complaint was that it was too short. I wanted more than the 15 levels the game provided. I was therefore thrilled when the game maker, Valve, released Portal 2. Both games are challenging but not impossible, have an interesting and engaging story, and allow you to fail as many times as you need before you solve the puzzle that each room presents. Portal 2 even has a cooperative mode that you can play with a friend to work through the puzzles together.
To me, Portal has everything that I look for in a gaming experience. It helped that it was centered on a science theme and scientific principles, which particularly engaged me as a scientist. It also subtly teaches, which the teacher in me absolutely loves.”
In Part Three we’ll take a closer look at the essential elements of gamification that we included in our professional development program.
In part two of the four part series on the Gamification of Professional Development, Dr. Rebecca Osborne introduces us to her favorite game and why it can be a powerful learning tool.