Educational VNs - your thoughts?

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Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#1 Post by LRH » Sat Jun 07, 2014 7:36 am

Though I've yet to finish even one VN, I've been inspired by aqua.soo's educational math RPG, and umechan's Arcticus Somnia.

But I have a few questions...

How close to the truth should an educational VN be?
Would you prefer the actual facts to be presented within the story, or as an extra?
Would you like to be linked to relevant resources to further your education on the subject when you finish playing?
Would you like to see original historical photographs in addition to CGs, or would you prefer to see paintings based on the photographs?

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Re: Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#2 Post by LVUER » Sat Jun 07, 2014 7:52 am

How close to the truth should an educational VN be?
What do you mean close to the truth? Do you mean it's all based on fact? Of course, it's an educational material. Do you mean it should a realistic one? Not really, as long as you can get the point across (eg: you make sci-fi spacebattle where the starship fight it out using basic trigonometric).

Would you prefer the actual facts to be presented within the story, or as an extra?
Doesn't matter. Just do which one that better for your story.

Would you like to be linked to relevant resources to further your education on the subject when you finish playing?
Depending. The more serious, complex, and heavy your material is, the more resources/links is better.

Would you like to see original historical photographs in addition to CGs, or would you prefer to see paintings based on the photographs?
Original photographs. It's better to see the real things than the painting of it.
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Re: Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#3 Post by Hyraculon » Sat Jun 07, 2014 12:02 pm

It's really hard to answer these questions not knowing what subject you want to teach. If you're trying to teach a process of some sort (like math, language acquisition, etc), I'd say you could have as much leeway as you like with the story and simply concentrate on making the gameplay do the bulk of the work. But if you're trying to teach raw facts, you'll probably want to intertwine the truth with your story as much as possible.

Based on your questions, I'm guessing you want to do something historical?

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Re: Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#4 Post by LRH » Sat Jun 07, 2014 2:26 pm

Ideally, I would be looking at doing something historical, perhaps providing the player with a fictional third person to play, rather than playing one of two actual historic figures, in a rather famous race, though I'm loathe to reveal much more than that at this time.

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Re: Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#5 Post by peapodprincess » Sat Jun 07, 2014 4:02 pm

Using visual novels as a teaching tool is an interesting idea, and I think that applying it to learning historical events/time periods would be particularly intriguing.

If you're going to go the history route, I would say that keeping it as close to the truth (with some minor artistic license perhaps) would be best. Leaving out some of the little details that aren't suitable for your audience and don't add anything to the game (like, say, an unnecessarily in-depth look at how syphilis is spread during the Renaissance amongst the nobility when your game is kid-friendly and focusing on the daily lives of the peasantry).

I think that facts that can't be interpreted from what's provided (like statistics or additional information) should be extras. On a similar note, I think that resources and links at the end of the game would be good if they're not obtrusive or presented well. Perhaps putting them in the same place as the additional facts/statistics for access before the ending would also be nice.

On your question about photographs vs paintings, I would say that it could go either way depending on the tone and style you want to set for your game.

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Re: Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#6 Post by Caveat Lector » Sat Jun 07, 2014 4:15 pm

First off, I loved a lot of educational games from the 90's such as the Carmen Sandiego series, and I would love to see that genre get picked up again! :D As for each question:
LRH wrote:How close to the truth should an educational VN be?
If the purpose of an educational VN is to be educational then of course it should be as close to the truth as possible, especially if it's going to be based around history. You don't need to go into every microscopic detail (plus, as mentioned, you should also take into mind the age demographic you're aiming this at), but laying across the facts you're trying to get across should be fine.
Would you prefer the actual facts to be presented within the story, or as an extra?
Maybe you could do something similar to what educational games aimed at children in the 90's did--create games or plot devices within the VN itself that both forward the player's progress and also help them learn a few new facts along the way.
Would you like to be linked to relevant resources to further your education on the subject when you finish playing?
Maybe, but as cited in the end credits. Like maybe you could cite the books or resources you looked your facts up from under acknowledgements in case anyone wants to read these?
Would you like to see original historical photographs in addition to CGs, or would you prefer to see paintings based on the photographs?
Either or could work. Maybe you could include some kind of unlockable bonus extra where we can see the original photographs side-by-side next to the CGs based on these photographs as comparison?
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Re: Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#7 Post by Hyraculon » Sat Jun 07, 2014 8:47 pm

LRH wrote:How close to the truth should an educational VN be?/Would you prefer the actual facts to be presented within the story, or as an extra?
When I was a kid, I loathed history because the way they taught it in school was as dry and boring as possible, just endless lists of names and dates to memorize. If you create a game that concentrates on the story and portray the historical figures you're teaching about as interesting characters, you'll have a really compelling teaching tool.

So I feel like unless you're doing a kinetic novel, you should take the fact that you are making a "game" to your full advantage. Even as a historical piece, it could have different story paths. As important as it is to be close to the truth, it would be a lot more fun to let the player change the course of history and then weigh their choices against what really happened. That's the sort of thing that would have engaged me back when I was tiny and hating the subject.
LRH wrote:Would you like to be linked to relevant resources to further your education on the subject when you finish playing?
I'd link it straight from an option the main menu. That way your players can seek out extra information at their leisure.
LRH wrote:Would you like to see original historical photographs in addition to CGs, or would you prefer to see paintings based on the photographs?
It depends on whether they clash with the art style of the game. But definitely have the original photographs in the game somewhere, even if it's only in an extras section.

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Re: Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#8 Post by PyTom » Sat Jun 07, 2014 9:15 pm

LRH wrote:How close to the truth should an educational VN be?
I think the answer is that the game should be set up to be educational. Some ideas are:

* A game is set in a country with a different language. You'll have to practice your language skills to get around.
* A soldier is taking part in a campaign in the war. What he does matters - but to him, while the war goes on as it did in history.
* Teenagers flutter their eyes at each other while discussing math problems - wait, that one's already been done.

None of these things happened - and yet, the player is required to learn something important to proceed to through the game.
Would you prefer the actual facts to be presented within the story, or as an extra?
I'd avoid a Basil Exposition-like presentation of "facts". Instead, focus on a world where living in the world is educational in its own right - and perhaps one that is interesting enough that people will learn about the topics covered on their own.

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Re: Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#9 Post by Caveat Lector » Sat Jun 07, 2014 9:57 pm

LRH wrote:As important as it is to be close to the truth, it would be a lot more fun to let the player change the course of history and then weigh their choices against what really happened.
That reminds me of this awesome game from the 90's called "Titanic: Adventure Out of Time". In the game, you play a secret agent on board the Titanic, and you have to find four items to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands, and thus, prevent WWI, the Russian Revolution, and WWII (but alas, you cannot prevent the sinking of the Titanic). The best ending was if you successfully obtained all the items (or, at the very least, prevented two of them from falling into the hands of one of the antagonists). If you left with none of the items, history continues on course. If you left with some of the items but not all, history turns out a bit different (for example: WWI happens on-schedule as does the Russian Revolution, but not WWII).

The what-if scenarios were quite fascinating, but at the same time the "best ending" left me a little doubtful for...a variety of historical-political-social factors, but that's another topic. If you choose to add something like this, it could teach the player what factors contributed to a historical event, and understand the context a little bit better.
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Re: Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#10 Post by SundownKid » Sat Jun 07, 2014 10:11 pm

How close to the truth should an educational VN be?
Would you prefer the actual facts to be presented within the story, or as an extra?
Would you like to be linked to relevant resources to further your education on the subject when you finish playing?
Would you like to see original historical photographs in addition to CGs, or would you prefer to see paintings based on the photographs?
1) It should be reasonably close to the truth while still allowing some agency even if it means inserting fictional characters or events (though you could indicate as such). Just making a biography or straight retelling of events is a little boring for an adventure game where the player is supposed to have control. On the other hand, adding aliens to a wild west story would probably be non educational (though I'm sure there's a way to make it work).

I've seen a lot of games that could have used their source material to educate, but instead chose the easy way out and went with trope filled stories. For example, Jeanne D'Arc - a tactical RPG that used magic and monsters (why not give her miracles from God, instead of Firaga 1?). Or Glory of Heracles, which has British medieval villages in the middle of Sparta, Greece.

2) They can be presented in the story, but only if the player isn't beaten over the head with it. They should interweave well with the story, otherwise put them in a side encyclopedia entry or something.

3) I don't see why that would be harmful, though they could be located in an encyclopedia section.

4) Paintings, definitely. Photographs, while accurate, are jarring in a visual novel type game. If the graphics are 2D, use art that's based on the setting for a more professional feel. Stick the photographs in a side entry if the player wants to look at them.

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Re: Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#11 Post by Tempus » Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:23 pm

LRH wrote:How close to the truth should an educational VN be?
It doesn't need to true to be true. A lot of fictional works with fictional histories have a lot to say about history as a subject, as well as the past events it studies. They aren't necessarily true in the sense that they really happened, but they discuss real issues that are relevant to the chronicling and interpretation of our own history. Nothing in Nineteen Eighty-Four really happened; you won't get much use out of it trying to learn dates and names from our own history, but may gain insight into more abstract truths about the nature of history in a totalitarian state.

Artistic mediums are poor candidates for teaching a corpus of facts to students, even assuming they're willing. (And assuming it's a good idea to begin with, which it isn't.) What they are good at is what I highlighted with Nineteen Eighty-Four above: abstract truths or principles, rather than specific dates or names to remember. Another example of an element that could be incorporated into a history-oriented story is the great man view of history and how it diminishes the impact of, and empathy for, people who are not towering historical figures (which are typically rich white men in western discourse.) This is directly relevant to our own world where many people see the figureheads of political parties (e.g., Barack Obama) as the driving forces of history rather than as the collective actions of the members within those parties. Really though, history is affected by all people's actions and inactions. Distortion of the past is inevitable, but great man history can distort the past in particularly dangerous ways, such as by making Hitler and a few elite Nazis solely responsible for massive extermination. A more correct observation would be that anti-Jewish sentiment was common back then, and had been for a long time, inside Germany as well as outside, and that the Nazis were a product of and the ultimate realisation of that sentiment. (It is, of course, much more complex than that.) History isn't just a series of a few influential individuals making arbitrary choices, and viewing it as such prevents more complicated, but ultimately more true readings of what happened. The complicated parts don't necessarily need to be part of the story, nor do they need to be factual if they are. The great man view of history can be examined with simplified and fictional facts and figures, yet still tell us something true about our world.

To approach education as though it's the imparting of facts is fundamentally flawed. It fools people into thinking they know something about a subject because they know dates, names, army sizes, obscure trivia or formulas. The truth is that all those parts can be easily Googled and if your audience really is interested in them, they'd search for it themselves. What isn't easy is meaningfully contextualising those facts or understanding them via experience.
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Re: Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#12 Post by Lishy » Sun Jun 08, 2014 1:55 am

An educational VN doesn't need to be math or history. They can be about "21st century skills", such as communication and collaboration. Amazingly enough, many games such as RPGs are able to teach us these things even though they aren't what we tend to think as "educational"...

Extra credits has a few episodes on this topic. I suggest you check it out. Here's one of them:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hoeAmqwvyY
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Re: Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#13 Post by LRH » Wed Jun 11, 2014 4:17 pm

Thank you everyone who has replied. :)

I think in the interest of not boring players to death with presentation of facts, I'll make more of a game out of it, presenting historical facts, and materials such as photos, as additional extras linked to at relevant points in the game, and collected together in an Extras catalog from the Main Menu.

Special thanks for the link to the Extra Credits video, Lishy. Listening to that immediately highlighted a potential skills transference in the historical story (two in particular, one of balancing caloric intake with exercise, and one regarding resource management/logistics). I'll have to see what else pops up out of the historical facts, I suspect there are many more.

To test the skills learned by playing, I could run this a little like Starcraft, and make three campaigns - Racer 1 (first historical perspective), Racer 2 (second historical perspective), and Racer 3 (show what you learned and build your own team!)

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Re: Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#14 Post by wyverngem » Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:16 am

For my two cents your questions seem to be based on your target audience and their level. Maybe you should ask what is my target audience and how should I present the information?

As for your questions, this is what I can input. If you're going to present facts, present facts 1+1=2. If there are more theories on something then present the most accepted information and sub in though so and so thinks it should be this way. Actual facts should be in the story, but only if they add to the story and don't go on tangents. If you tell me about the other art I'll find in the Louvre instead of the Mona Lisa don't go on and on about the creation of the Mona Lisa. Always add the citation for your work, even if it's just looking further into the story. No point in having information if you can't prove where it's coming from. As for the cg art thing, I've seen it mixed depending on the audience. Children get to see a flash of the real thing and then it's presented in the cartoon for the rest of the video. Stick with a style and don't confuse people by changing it up.

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Re: Educational VNs - your thoughts?

#15 Post by TrickWithAKnife » Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:53 pm

Educational VNs have extra layers of complexity to them.
While I'm very far from completion, I've been slowly working on my own VN for a while, and work as an educator for a living.

Here's a few things I've learned along the way. Many of them may be obvious, but they are still easy to forget during the design process:
  • Know your target audience.
  • Players need personalised feedback. Software makes it possible.
  • Learning styles vary wildly. A multi-media educational tool like VNs offer unique opportunities and challenges.
  • Test test test. Seriously, play-testers are wonderful. Listen very closely to what they say.
  • Know your goals. Know your methodology. Now hide them in an engaging game.
  • Review is important. Spaced repetition is very useful. Making that interesting is not easy, but it is worth the effort.
  • Don't overload the player. It's extremely easy to do unintentionally.
  • Inspiration > Education > Teaching. You don't have to bombard the player with facts to be effective. Make them think. Inspire them to find out more. Include some optional resources so they can do that easily.
  • Milestones are helpful. Not only can they help the player be aware of their progress, but it also gives them a chance to take a break. Breaks are vital for processing information.
Edit: Everything I wrote is just theory and humble opinion. Take from it what you will.
Last edited by TrickWithAKnife on Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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