Monday, February 25, 2008

Building Artificially Intelligent Learning Games

Games and Simulations in Online Learning: Research and Development Frameworks By David Gibson, Clark Aldrich, Marc Prensky
Chapter XIV Building Artificially Intelligent Learning Games
Richard Van Eck,
online, earlier version?

He asks:

1. What mechanisms exist in other fields that can be used to present content within a game in a way that is compatible with the game and game principles?
2. What mechanisms exist in other fields that can support the principles of scaffolding, question asking, and problem solving?
3. How must these mechanisms be modified according to the principles outlined here and other theories or approaches?
4. How, assuming we can answer the first three, can we make sure that intelligent learning games are extensible to multiple problems and domains, and ensure that any content expert can generate content for these games without “sucking the fun out” of them?

He believes that one partial solution to the first of these questions lies in an area of study in cognitive psychology and instructional design called pedagogical agents. Pedagogical agents are typically used in computer-based instructional environments where learners interact with a computer-based character to get advice, feedback, or instruction.

As an example, he refers to the infamous Microsoft talking paper clip “Clippy” as a pedagogical agent. He believes that such agents can deliver information without interrupting “flow

I believe that this is related to misconceptions of endogenous fantasy which I have discussed before. Yes, having to read tracts of information in a game breaks flow, but not because it breaks the fantasy, rather it breaks flow because it is not honest, because it breaks the authentic problem solving process of the game.

When players are playing World of Warcraft, they will often break out to third party help sites such as Thottbot to find where particular items are more likely to drop. Flow is not broken, the interrogation of Thottbot is an integral part of the problem solving process. The break in fantasy is of no great significance to the player's attention to the problem being solved. The gameplay is what is of primary importance, the fantasy is just icing on the cake. Flow has more relationship to

  • the ability to match challenge to ability,
  • suitable interim rewards,
  • an authentic and relevant challenge
  • and a supportive community which can facilitate a ZPD.

The talking paperclip is an example of exactly what is not required, when problem solving in MS Office, the user wants quick and efficient access to the necessary information to solve the current challenge which may be writing a letter, they do not want to enter into a social relationship with a talking paperclip. The paperclip breaks flow, though the fantasy of a paperclip may be relevant to the endogenous fantasy of a paper based office, it is an unauthentic impediment to the problem solving process, the gameplay of writing a letter.

So what mechanisms can be used to present content within a game in a way that is compatible with the game and game principles? The instructional content itself should be consistent with with the game goals.

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