I played about 20 campaigns on casual mode in StarCraft II before I realized I wasn’t being challenged or learning much anymore. Out of the 20, or so, games, I only had to save and retry one. The next logical step, if I wanted to learn more and become a better player, was to play live games online.
It was a completely different experience.
I let my buddy set up the game parameters. He hadn’t played StarCraft II in a year or two, but was eager to play. Our first match was on medium difficulty. He played as Zerg, I as Terran, and we were playing together to defeat two A.I. teams, one Zerg and one Protoss. It wasn’t a very long game. We were defeated after about 30 minutes of play. We played three more games after that, each time with slightly different settings on different maps. We lost every game, but the games lasted longer each time.
I noticed that in each game different things were available. One game you can have medics, the next you can’t have medics. Each game was pretty unique, outside of getting our butts kicked.
This play experience definitely made me think and work faster during play. It was like a starting pistol went off at the beginning of each round. We’d be catching up in between games and while they loaded, then it would get silent for a minute as we started building our bases and infantries. After things started rolling, the conversation was mostly utilitarian.
“You want me to send some units over?”
“They killed all my units that could fire at their air units.”
And so on…
At the end of the match, it was nice to socialize for a minute. Online games really are an excellent way to communicate. You can text chat, voice chat, video chat, all while collaborating on something or challenging each other.
So, I just looked at what I wrote. I’m learning. I don’t even like video games much, but I’m learning the language and my speed and strategy are getting much stronger.
Learning is a sustained thing. In formal education, a teacher hopes that they instill that desire in a student to continue engaging and learning a given topic. They hope that they can make something come alive to a student in the process of educating. For designers, it’s capturing that notion and creating content that achieves those goals.
It is important for there to always be a next step or a new challenge for the student in order for that engagement and learning to continue. It is difficult to design a course that will reach different people at different levels, challenging each person in the most effective way.
For me, in this course and in this game I’m playing for the course, playing online was the challenge I needed. Playing the game had come to feel like a chore. It would be 10 pm on a Thursday, and I’d think, “I really should play for a couple hours because I haven’t played this week.” It wasn’t that I wanted to play, it had become a chore because it wasn’t challenging anymore.
Adding another human player to the mix really added to the engagement. Oftentimes, in school, homework, and work, you’re not always lucky enough to work with people you actually like which is where the difference between practical things like school and work don’t necessary parallel online game play (unless you’re playing with strangers online, but you can always leave the game).
After playing with my friend online, he was ready to play again the following night. I was more than happy to play again this week.