Alternate Reality Gaming – The Virus

Watch the students below working together to solve a puzzle that requires logical thinking & abstract reasoning. I love the part when one of the students says, “Guys, we can do this!”

This video was taken from students who were participating in our Alternate Reality Game (ARG) ‘The Virus.’

Read more about  ‘The Virus.’

Gaming Graph Theory

The Seven Bridges of Königsberg is an important historical problem in mathematics, explored by Leonhard Euler in 1735, that laid the foundations of graph theory and topology.

The city of Königsberg in Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia) was set on both sides of the Pregel River, and included two large islands which were connected to each other and the mainland by seven bridges.

 Mathematically the problem can be stated like this:

Given the graph above, is it possible to construct a path (or a cycle – a path starting and ending on the same vertex) which visits each edge exactly once?

Euler proved that it was not possible. He proved that for the existence of what he coined “Eulerian trails”, it is necessary that no more than two vertices have an odd degree; this means the Königsberg graph is not Eulerian. Mathematically, if there are no vertices of odd degree, all Eulerian trails are circuits. If there are exactly two vertices of odd degree, all Eulerian trails start at one of them and end at the other. A graph that has an Eulerian trail but not an Eulerian circuit is called semi-Eulerian.

This type of mathematics can be quite abstract for students (and teachers) and most find it quite difficult even when presented in context of network optimization, railway systems, traffic flow, shortest path problems etc. 

One Touch Drawing by Ecapyc Inc. is a nice puzzle game on iOS that deals exclusively with Graph Theory. It could be a nice way to get students thinking about Graph Theory before the topic is introduced and then used as a context for discussion and problem solving to give the topic more meaning to students. I have only played the first few levels, the the difficulty ramps quite quickly. Recommended.

Teacher As GameMaster

Imagine, for one minute, that education is a Massive Multiplayer Role Playing Game. The teachers are the game developers.

After years of trying to control their player’s experience, this is their new manifesto…

“While we sometimes imagine our game as a contained space and experience in which a player sits down, examines the rules, and begins to play (or begins to play and then examines the rules), we have failed by insisting on an outdated mindset of control and have not looked at the way our game space is co-constructed by a variety of agents.

Time & time again, we find that activities based on our often unconscious assumptions about player behavior, had completely unexpected outcomes. Sometimes these outcomes were complete failures.

It is clear that we are not in control. The more people we involved in something, the more money we spent on consultants and technology, the less in control we were. This illusory feeling of control made us lose sight of what our role really is.

We want people to continue to play our game well after reaching the win state. We can influence things, we can ask good questions, set up interesting situations, we could provide opportunities for things to happen – but we cannot dictate the outcome because it isn’t our game to play. It’s the player’s game.

We are teachers. We are but Gamemasters.”

(Note – A GameMaster’s role is traditionally defined as someone who weaves participants stories together into an over-aching aesthetic and narrative, someone who facilitates and creates environments in which players can interact and solves player disputes. They don’t control the players actions.)

Hauppauge HDPVR

Currently running a Hauppauge HDPVR through it’s paces with the sole intent of recording console game play. The HDPVR records video from a video game console or cable TV or satellite set top box. The recordings are made onto a computers hard drive in a compressed H.264 format. It uses component video, S-video or composite video (but not HDMI), and will record at resolutions from 480i to 1080i, at data rates from 1Mbit/s to 13.5Mbit/s. Setup is very simple:


Recording video is very simple too – have your TV switched to PC, load Arcsoft Total Media (that comes with the HDPVR), click capture, switch your TV back to Component and play whatever game you have in your console. Once you have captured enough video, turn the TV back to PC, click stop capture and video will be saved to your hard drive. Using a PS3, the file format output is .M2TS which is a H.264 format that will load directly into your video editing software or to Youtube. This is my first recording. 

The quality isn’t spectacular – it was recorded at 5Mbit/s at 720 x 480. This 20 second video comes out at 17.9 Mb. The computer I have connected at the moment is an Intel i3 3.3Ghz, 4GB of RAM with onboard graphics. I think this is currently the issue – I will test it again by connecting to my AlienWare M14x to see if I can get an increase in quality.

Gaming: Using Text-Based Adventures

Text-based adventures describe software that simulates environments in which players use text commands to control characters and influence the environment. These types of adventure games with text-based input and output were popular before the advent of personal computers with strong graphics capabilities. Perhaps the most influential text-based adventure of this era (early 1980’s) was a game titled Zork. The game is set in the ruins of an ancient empire lying far underground. You are a dauntless treasure-hunter venturing into a dangerous land in search of wealth and adventure. In this game, the player uses commands, such as “take lamp”, “open mailbox”, “go north” etc.

The culture of interaction, if harnessed by schools can be a tremendous force in promoting learning. What we should realize as educators is that students don’t want to be given “information”, they want to learn by doing where they synthesize their own understanding and this is usually based on experimentation. I believe that these types of games can improve literacy and spatial awareness, increase motivation and student engagement and promote problem solving and higher-order thinking.

An extension to this is to use freely available and easy to use software to get students to create their own text games and get them to think in detail about characters and settings. One example is Inform 7 which is a design system for interactive fiction or text-adventures based on a natural language environment. Using this type of environment allows students to think about narrative in a novel way, because each story can have multiple narratives depending on what the player decides to do. Also, because the output will be actively interacted with (perhaps by fellow students), it encourages students to carefully consider the audience for their writing.

Play Zork and a host of other text-based adventures online at