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A small scale survey on which games kids play in private

Earlier in my project, we carried out interviews with teachers about teaching STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in their schools. My colleague Sanne van Loenen (LuGus Studios, Belgium) established the contact with one of them. The teacher asked her pupils if and which games they play in private, and for us it was interesting to hear why they play those games. Here, I want to give an overview of what the kids answered. (MD, Leuven, 27/01/2021)


The interviews took place in early 2019 and were made to get first insights into the “secrets” of science
teaching in primary schools. Further, and due to the gaming pillar of our project, 19 kids (14 girls and 5
boys), between 7 and 10 years, were asked about their favorite game they play at home, and why that is
(they were allowed to name more than one, just as it came to their mind). In the end, 12 different video
games were named concretely, and – who would have doubted – Fortnite (20%) was ranked first.
However, it shares the first place with Minecraft (20%), another not too surprising candidate among the
more popular games, even among adults. On the third place, Brawl Stars (16%) was named, which is also
very famous among a younger audience. Let’s have a short look at those three games and, more
interestingly: why did they name them? Can we find distinct differences, or rather a common denominator
on why they play them?

Definitely, Fortnite, released in 2017 by Epic Games [1], was not an unexpected outcome. Among other
prices, it won several categories of the Gamer’s Choice awards in 2018 [2] and it is also widely, if not
majorly, played among a younger community. It is one of the representatives of Battle Royal games, in
which you basically fight with other players to be the last survivor on the map. However, it is also strongly
debated due to its combative character, and it is often referred to be addictive, especially for kids [1,3].
In our small questionnaire, it was answered that they like the action, leveling up your character, it looks
appealing, there are always new things to come, you can build things, play and talk with friends, and finally
they liked the weapons, skins and dancing moves. The leveling and building character were among the
more popular answers, which is totally understandable. Especially, how you can individually design your
character seems to be attractive for the kids. It is hard to show what the game is about in just one picture,
but the following gives an impression.

Two major elements of Fortnite: fighting and building [4].

Coming to the next game, first published solely by Markus “Notch” Persson in 2009, Minecraft evolved to
a huge phenomenon which was brought to many gaming platforms and portable devices [5]. It was one
of the major factors to establish so-called crafting games, because that is what it is all about: building
things, literally everything! The kids naming Minecraft as their favorite game answered mostly that you
can build houses and other things, there are so many possibilities to play it, you can improvise, you can
set a goal and you can make a story out of it. To my surprise, three times it was said they like it because
there is no advertisement! I can sense a desire for undisturbed gaming there! In summary, the reasons
for the game’s appeal are probably that the inner builder/constructer within humans is addressed, and
because it provides such great freedom. Both aspects are proven by the picture below, in which we see
an entire rocket launch station built in Minecraft. Undoubtedly, the potential for creative works seems to
be endless and the internet provides many more (almost unbelievable) constructs made by the users.
Have fun discovering it by yourself!

A rocket launch station, entirely built in Minecraft [6].

Lastly, I shortly want to mention Brawl Stars, made and published by Supercell in 2017 first for iOS and
later for android [7]. It is a so-called MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), third-person hero shooter.
So it is, similarly to Fortnite, another representative for Battle royal games, but for mobile devices. Some
gameplay can be seen in the picture below.

Gameplay from Brawl Star [8].

On why they play it, the kids named the fighting aspect, the different play modes, and you can play it
alone or with friends. But predominantly, the kids seemed to be keen on the different avatars and
unlocking them. Again, this points out how individualization or personalization (the avatars), but also
collaborative play takes an important role in the appeal of games for kids.

One can conclude that the major elements which attracted the kids in all games were the competitiveness
or cooperativeness in fighting, the avatars/characters, and the ability to build things. All these answers
have been given from an entertainment perspective, but does this help us to make well-designed
educational experiences for chemistry? Indeed, in a sense it does.

From a scientific point of view, literature around Game-based Learning (GBL) also highlights elements of
adaptivity/personalization, collaboration and competition, or incentives as important components
beneficial for learning. It is out of the scope to explain those elements in more detail here, but for a more
detailed look, I can recommend the Handbook of Game-based Learning by Plass, Mayer and Homer [9].
How those aspects lead to well-designed chemical games concretely, is yet unclear. But certainly, we are
still working hard on planning and developing appealing and playable learning environments! Stay tuned
for chemical experiences to come!

References:

[1]          https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortnite  (last accessed 27.01.2021)

[2]          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamers%27_Choice_Awards (last accessed 27.01.2021)

[3]          https://sn56.scholastic.com/issues/2018-19/090318/debate-is-fortnite-bad-for-kids.html (last accessed 27.01.2021)

[4]          https://www.epicgames.com/fortnite/en-US/news/what-is-fortnite-beginners-guide (last accessed 27.01.2021)

[5]          https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minecraft (last accessed 27.01.2021)

[6]          https://i.imgur.com/FpwSG.jpg (last accessed 27.01.2021)

[7]          https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brawl_Stars (last accessed 27.01.2021)

[8]          https://www.androidauthority.com/brawl-stars-review-935330/ (last accessed 27.01.2021)

[9]          Plass, J. L., Mayer, R. E., & Homer, B. D. (2020). Handbook of Game-Based Learning. MIT Press.

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