Musikinésia, a game that teaches you music theory

Musikinésia is a game about mastering the telekinetic powers of a dusty piano by learning how to play a real one. Not long ago, Rock Band 3 (2010) had a plastic keyboard that let players get the hang of rhythms on the piano, and Synthesia (2013) got a little closer to actually being a pack of lessons by using the whole range of a MIDI keyboard as a controller. None of them, though, teach players about music theory as Musikinésia attempts to. “I think that, first of all, [these games] pique the person’s interest for music,” said Rogério Bordini, game…


Civilization is coming to classrooms, and that’s a bad idea

If you wanted to find a small, distilled encapsulation of the Civilization series of grand-scale strategy games, you need go no farther than the musical trailer for Civilization IV’s (2005) original game and its theme song, “Baba Yetu.” The trailer depicts—as only Civilization can—the vast scope of human history, from the construction of the pyramids to the eventual exploration of Alpha Centauri. The song itself was the first piece of videogame music to win a Grammy. But even as the video portrays Civilization’s ambitions, it also demonstrates the series’ handicaps—namely, a kind of Western parochialism through which the series understands…


New videogame asks: do we really need academics to study videogames?

When I was born late into 1990, the Super Nintendo had already been released in its home country of Japan. Over here in the States, Super Mario Bros. (1985) had already been entertaining my parents for years. Pong (1972) had entertained my pastor, and Tron (1982) had already hit theaters to the collective “meh” of audiences worldwide. As such, I have only ever known a world with videogames. But it’s worth pointing out that, relative to text or music or even film, videogames are still a fairly new medium. And as with any new medium, its invention has lead critics and academics to…


How scientists are using MMOs to study sexism in videogames

For the past few years, one of the more common debates to be found on social media has been over whether women are discriminated against within videogames. This can relate to a number of factors, including skill, female presence in the community, and how women are represented within games, but conversations in these topics are often noticeably hostile and difficult to conduct. However, recent scientific studies on the topic have provided new insight into if and how discrimination presents a problem for women in and around videogames, as well as what difficulties sexism in games poses for women in tech in…

Twilight Princess

I Took My Outdoor Education Professor On A Canoe Trip In Twilight Princess

When you think of outdoor educators, someone like Z (name changed to protect privacy) probably comes to mind: grey hair in braids, wearing a wool sweater with jeans and mukluks, she uses her university email account with reluctance and sees devices as a harbinger of the end-times. Her pedagogy born out of her environmental activism in the 70s, Z will talk your ear off about “indoor kids” and the “wired generation,” and how the only solution to the oncoming apocalypse is taking technology out of kids’ hands. She’s also curious about The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006). I’d applied…

1979 revolution

1979 Revolution is a history lesson for the Netflix generation

As a school-aged kid in the 1990s, I didn’t spend a lot of class time talking about Iran. The name Ayatollah Khomeini meant more to me as a reference to a joke from The Simpsons than as an actual historical figure. As an adult, I became marginally more aware of Iran’s contemporary position within Middle East quagmires and U.S. international tensions, but my understanding of its recent history grew no more sophisticated. So when I sat down to play 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, I felt both curious and ignorant of the world I was entering. And, to developer iNK Stories’ significant…


An upcoming puzzle game tasks you with decoding classic literature

In the world of Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, books have been outlawed and are burned en masse by the state, only kept in small collections by the occasional revolutionary. Instead of reading, the majority of people spend their free time in “entertainment parlors,” rooms lined with massive screens that constantly broadcast Dora the Explorer-style call-and-response programs meant to elicit the illusion of interactivity. It’s a pointed premise, conceived during the early years of the television’s rise to prominence in the American household. It also reflects a constant theme in Bradbury’s work: that with advances in technology, culture tends…


Finals Fantasy creates game design lesson plans anyone can use

As tablets continue to move into schools and games like Minecraft (2011) are repurposed to educate, the idea of gamification, or using games to teach students about the world, has been gaining popularity as of late. However, as an increasingly diverse artistic medium of its own, others are developing new ways for students to learn about games themselves. Described as a series of “speculative projects for game art students,” Finals Fantasy has gathered together a small group of notable artists, educators, and critics to challenge and expand how game design is taught. (Oh, and so you know, Kill Screen founder Jamin Warren…


Fighting game will pit Darwin against Tesla in brutal fisticuffs

Science Kombat, an upcoming newsgame created by Fred Di Giacomo Rocha and Otavio Cohen from Brazil’s Superinteressante science and culture magazine, aims to teach players about some of history’s greatest minds not by handing them a dry quiz, but by having a select group of notable scientists beat the crap out of each other in one-on-one fights. It’s education by way of the WWE, hearkening to playground debates of who-would-win versus battles more than classroom lectures, and the result is a game that aims to be both educational and yet also features Albert Einstein shooting people with lasers. In the style of…