26 November 2012

Why Can't Everything Be Like Coaster Crazy?

Just like any weekend, I planned on taking advantage of the extra time to try to get ahead in grading and prepping. Instead, I found Coaster Crazy. The gameplay is genius, but most genius of all is how the challenges are made and presented.

Like most apps, it starts you very slowly, with the most basic of skills, slowly getting more and more complicated. All of these coasters are in Australia. But before you finish Australia, you have enough to open up North America, and maybe even the Moon. North America has more open challenges, and the Moon is a playground to do whatever you want.

Then there's the money. It costs money to build coasters, but when they're finished they bring in money, kind of like rent. Fancier coasters cost more to build, but bring more in. Despite being a freemium game, you can actually earn enough money quite quickly without having to spend actual money.

Obviously I'm going to throw in my usual educational theory. This is how school should work. You start off limited to the easy challenges. For quick learners, you don't have to stay there too long. For slower learners, you're not forced to advance before you get it. In fact, it's built so you can't advance until you get it, making the harder challenges more approachable.

Back to the Moon. It's fun to have total freedom, but not as much fun as completing challenges, nor do you earn any money from building on the Moon. However, when you're working on the Moon, your other coasters are earning money. Once again, perfect for education. Using the coaster analogy, on the Moon you're free to work on roller coasters. So in an English class, you're free to work on anything English-related. You can get points for what you do during that time, but the real points (and progress) come from doing the structured challenges. Although most people would think that they prefer freedom in this case, in actuality they don't. Creativity needs boundaries to truly flourish. The better you get at something, the fewer boundaries you need, but usually because you're good enough to create your own.

In the end I suppose it's just another form of gamified, blended learning. Like the fancy coasters, it'll initially take more effort, but the payoff will be swift and lasting.

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