Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Shoes Worth Walking a Mile In


You are worthless. You are nothing. You will never amount to anything. You are not alive. Kill yourself.
Every minute, hour, or day; imagine a voice telling you these types of hurtful, emotionally damaging phrases, over and over. Imagine not being able to escape your own negativity. Imagine feeling trapped inside your own thoughts, and those thoughts told you, your very existence is worthless. We can imagine all we want, but eventually we fall back into our “safe” lives, maybe never thinking about what it is like to live with such a disorder. The truth is, we only truly engage deeper conversations and thoughts when issues become our own reality. The lens in which we view the world is our lens, and sometimes we only want to view what matters to us. I am 100% guilty of that. I think on some level we all are. When I first took an interest into the Syrian war I wanted to discuss the ramifications of such a conflict with anyone who would listen. It was a hot topic, until it was not. Slowly I began to forget about Sarin chemical attacks, millions of displaced children and geopolitics. It was not that I stopped caring; it was because my life was not being affected by this. I am ashamed of that feeling. The problem could center around never having the “experience” of a war torn country. A simulation that engages on all of the senses can move people, think of the power a drunk driver simulator has.
I was privileged enough to recently visit one of the most disturbing, unsettling, virtual spaces ever created for educational purposes in second life. Like most other disorders and diseases, I have only ever read about Schizophrenia. Never once did I truly “experience” what it was like to live with such a disorder, until the Virtual Hallucinations Tour in Second Life.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that has affected people throughout history.
“People with the disorder may hear voices other people don't hear. They may believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. This can terrify people with the illness and make them withdrawn or extremely agitated.
People with schizophrenia may not make sense when they talk. They may sit for hours without moving or talking. Sometimes people with schizophrenia seem perfectly fine until they talk about what they are really thinking. Families and society are affected by schizophrenia too. Many people with schizophrenia have difficulty holding a job or caring for themselves, so they rely on others for help. Treatment helps relieve many symptoms of schizophrenia, but most people who have the disorder cope with symptoms throughout their lives. However, many people with schizophrenia can lead rewarding and meaningful lives in their communities. Researchers are developing more effective medications and using new research tools to understand the causes of schizophrenia. In the years to come, this work may help prevent and better treat the illness.”
Everything you just read are words. Words are empty until you fill them with meaning. That is where the power of the Virtual Hallucinations Tour captivated and moved me. I have never once felt as uncomfortable in my own skin as I did during this tour. I came away at the end of the tour with an overwhelming sense of ignorance about schizophrenia. For those who could never imagine what it is like to live with this disorder, you should really take the time and experience what Virtual Hallucinations has to offer. In my opinion, it is worth downloading second life.

Schizophrenia. (n.d.). NIMH RSS. Retrieved April 5, 2014, from

Monday, April 7, 2014

Platforming for Education

Action Games: Platformer.
Beyond just moving from point A to point B platformers offer the chance for players to feel accomplishment quickly at the end of each level.  Quick reflexes, high scores, and the feeling of accomplishment all factor into what makes platformer games popular. While other games also offer gratifying rewards, platformers do so with simple controls, and evolving levels or stages.  This accessibility is one of the reasons I feel platformers can have the most success as an educational tool, when used in the correct context.  Many times a deep game experience comes at the cost of a deeper learning curve. The ability to simplify is also an incredible trait successful educator possess.   Platformers can offer a similar experience with an easier learning curve. Most platformers have simple control schemes, which allows the art style, and game experience itself to be a driving factor.
For example, the Game Limbo, was considered a puzzle/platformer that had a dark, artistic vibe with easy pick up and go controls. When you take the static that trying to learn a control scheme presents out;  the game play itself can take a front-and-center approach. This will then engage the player who does not have to remember complex controls, or “when here, do this” scenarios.  A similar schema can be attached to education.  When too much is put on the student all at once and that student is no longer free to enjoy or scaffold the lesson for themselves, the student will shut down. Similarly, the interference with controls and learning control schemes could turn off players. When there is a certain freedom to the lesson or learning that student is then able to advance at his or her own pace and engage faster.