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  • How Commercial Video Games Develop Players' Skills

    - Matthew Barr

  • Speaking to Daniel Bryner and Jeff Wajcs, level designers on Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (Crystal Dynamics 2010), a similar picture emerges: while the game was not designed with the intention of developing useful skills in players, the application of certain skills is central to the game's design. Bryner explains that the game was built "from the ground up for couch co-op", meaning that players must communicate constantly in order to succeed - as was observed and commented upon by participants in the experimental study. Wajcs also highlights the cooperative nature of the game:

    The Guardian of Light is a cooperative game that encourages players to work together to solve its puzzles and working cooperatively is another valuable skill in the real world.

    Wajcs is clear that The Guardian of Light was not intended to develop attributes like communication skill, resourcefulness, or adaptability, expressing surprise that this may be the case. He can, however, see the potential for the transfer of related skills, such as problem-solving:

    Certainly, using a bomb to knock a boulder onto a pressure plate is not a skill that has many real-world applications, but problem-solving and ‘thinking outside the box' are two very valuable skills in a wide range of fields. Perhaps in solving these puzzles, the players are waking up and exercising specific problem-solving muscles in their brains that they could then apply in other contexts.

    However, while the developers "worked very hard to add plenty of moments of player cooperation" to the game, Wajcs notes that the potential to subvert this spirit of cooperation might result in a life lesson of a rather different sort:

    At the same time, The Guardian of Light also encouraged players to ‘grief‘ each other relentlessly. My favorite moments in that game have been using bombs to knock my partner into a pit of spikes or letting go of the rope and letting my partner fall into lava. Hopefully, learning to never trust another human being ever again was not a lesson that players were taking away from our game!

    This post is an extract from Chapter 7 of my new book, Graduate Skills and Game-Based Learning - check it out for more developer interviews and lots more!


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