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Using Games to Explain Science (and Complexity)

January 31, 2011

Here is my proposition – that games are a great way to explain science. Why? Because games are an interactive experience and true science is too. No I’m not saying that by playing a game you negate the need to read about that subject, not at all. Nor am I saying that games would replace real-world experiments, because it wont. I did all these, learning science myself and think they are important.

But science requires an understanding of concepts that are dynamic – and what better medium to help explain these than a dynamic one. Let me give you an example. Say you wanted to a group of students to understand the complicity of a microchip. You could tell them how complex it is. Or you can let them see for themsevles. The video below is from a LittleBigPlanet level called ‘Little Big Calculator’ (which runs of Playstation 3) and shows Sackboy (the game’s cute character) moving a few levers to perform a simple calculation. Then comes the reveal; Sackboy dons his jetpack and flies up to show the huge number of linked ‘switches’ that have been used to power this most simple of calculations…

This demonstrates the complexity of a microchip, by showing a virtual difference engine. But it also shows the simple units that are aggregated to build the complexity. It’s an elegant way to make the point. You can also see the ‘innards’ of the level to ferther explore how this was created.

LittleBigPlanet is based on User Generated Content (UGC) – so it is easy to make your own levels to illustrate whatever aspect of science you wish. All you need is a Playstatrion 3, a copy of the game and Intrernet access. Not only that but you can share your creations with other users! And we’ve not event got into the additional creative power of LittleBigPlanet 2 yet…

LittleBigPlanet is not the only game help explain science – far from it, but it is an example of how we can get creative in explaining science…

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