Critical thinking games - anyone interested?

Methods and means of supporting critical thinking in education
The abnormal thinker
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Critical thinking games - anyone interested?

Postby The abnormal thinker » Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:25 am

... And when I ask if anyone is interested, I mean not interested just enough to write a short response to this idea like - "Ah nice, good idea, I guess it can work",
I mean interested enough to be willing to devote hours (or days or weeks or months) to contribute to the execution of this idea.

I've already introduced the idea in this thread, but just in case I haven't explained it there clearly there -

the idea is games where the player argues against a hypothetical opponent. Like a dialogue where the player plays one of the sides and needs to constantly choose arguments to respond to the opponent.

Those kind of games can be used by high school and college students to improve their critical thinking and understand the scientific method. As you can see by reading the thread I linked to earlier, there are already a few games like that.

While scientific skepticism can probably be taught to some extent just by using existing games for genres that involve any type of problem solving - adventure games (which, from the examples Nikki Nyx showed me, can help to practice the Identification of causality in tangible stuff, which is somewhat relevant to the scientific method), and possibly RPG (role-playing games) and games that include puzzle-solving.

However, the concept of a game that includes mainly arguing, in my opinion, fits more for teaching philosophy and abstract concepts. For non-abstract (scientific) concepts, there's no need for a game that revolves around arguing/debating.

Is anyone here interested in helping to make this kind of game from some aspect (graphics/music/design/programming), or just discuss in depth the idea (and its different possible designs), or help by providing information on some topic? Any topic can be included in the content of this kind of game, although it better not be very controversial so that the player can have a "winning pattern".

I participated in the development of one of those games, and I am now considering writing an "interactive argument" to add it to one of those games, about the topic that some may call "the disease of more"/"rat race"/"hedonic adpation" - all about the endless pursuit of wanting more and more pointless things and never being satisfied, whatever its more money, more possessions, more achievements, and basically more of anything. But I don't know enough on the matter in order to write an argument with 2 opposing sides. All I know is that some might argue that this endless race is good because it stimulates endless growth and improvement (at least in economic aspects), while others would argue that this is a certain road to eternal depression, but the 2 arguments are not necessarily directly related.

I can discuss this game concept from dozens of aspects, but I won't do that if I see that nobody on the forum cares.

If anyone is interested (expect for you, Nikki Nyx..), reply here and/or PM me.

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Re: Critical thinking games - anyone interested?

Postby Io » Mon Mar 05, 2018 4:34 pm

I've been sat here for a while now trying to compose a response that's both comprehensive and coherent... without much success - I'll never get everything into here that's in my head. The scope of the proposition is so vast that I end up getting lost in the complexity of any approach you'd make to devising, let alone implementing this sort of game, whilst keeping it playable and interesting.

I guess initially there should be some hard edges on the topic by enumerating/grouping the various aspects of critical thinking that might be the focus of any one game/sub-game. No reason why a game can't have a series of sub games, but picking just one fairly narrow aspect at a time initially is, I think, vital to taking away the indecision that comes from the vagueness of 'hey I've got a great idea'. There's a danger of trying to put in so much of what we might want that it becomes too unmanageable a task.

I'm thinking out loud with all this so it'll read as quite fragmented, so I apologise for that.

I like the idea of something that revolves around logical fallacies (as mentioned in that other thread) as these are very common, easily understood concepts that can have fairly immediate and recognisable outcomes that ought to be quite easily translatable to scenarios that can be portrayed simply with a minimum of text (at least in micro-steps of a conversation). They are basic and fundamental to critical thought that everyone would benefit from learning early in life and everyone has encountered the results of them being applied... and failing to be applied. They don't really need to be age-dependent either so a game doesn't have to necessarily specifically target an age group.

I'm a big fan of the gamebook that was popular in the 80s and 90s and I've often thought that, given enough realistic variety of options, trying to win an argument with a credulous opponent would make a good subsection of one of those books. Should work just as well electronically!

The key aspect would be in devising enough permutations to make things realistic, which will require both thinking critically and thinking like someone who doesn't think critically - in order to make enough traps to fall into and to make the virtual conversations seem reasonably realistic. (I hate encountering multiple choice question/responses where I end up screaming *I don't want to say ANY of those options you moron! can't you think up the very very obvious things that I'd WANT to say???* Very common in games and questionnaires). The more branches a conversation can go down, the more complex the coding needs to be. This is where the first-person adventure games that Nikki likes so much excel - because they are able to parse English there can be a greater apparent complexity than you'd get with multiple choices, or even point n click. They can also have far greater longevity in their gameplay - I never completed Leather Goddesses of Phobos or the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy!

I've played a few of the sorts of games we're talking about and I easily lose interest when the method of progressing becomes quickly obvious without having to worry about what your choices are. Point n click games like the venerable Monkey Island series would make a good vehicle. Or 3D first-person world-explorers with encounters with AI characters would also work. They'd need to involve critical thinking as a major part of progressing in a game, but should they form the entirety of one? That might struggle to hold the attention of a lot of people - particularly the people who are in need of this sort of learning!
I'm sure you could combine the puzzle-oriented style of play of the likes of Myst in a game world with encounters with characters that explore thinking/argument interactions.
There are certainly game engines out there that can be used to develop both of these things together in one game (such as Game Guru or Unity to name but two).

Well, I've waffled on for long enough.

As for continuing the conversation... I think that keeping this thread alive, whilst taking some relevant private conversation to PM would be best - if the thread dies (or appears to) it won't bring in new people.

Apologies for any typxs. :)

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Re: Critical thinking games - anyone interested?

Postby Poodle » Mon Mar 05, 2018 4:50 pm

Io wrote:... There are certainly game engines out there that can be used to develop both of these things together in one game (such as Game Guru or Unity to name but two) ...

... and Godot is worth a look (completely free).

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Re: Critical thinking games - anyone interested?

Postby Io » Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:33 pm

Poodle wrote:
Io wrote:... There are certainly game engines out there that can be used to develop both of these things together in one game (such as Game Guru or Unity to name but two) ...

... and Godot is worth a look (completely free).


Oh that one looks quite interesting. Not come across it before. I'm much more at home with C# than with Lua. And license-free end-product usage too. Nice.

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Re: Critical thinking games - anyone interested?

Postby The abnormal thinker » Tue Mar 06, 2018 3:35 am

@lo, your respond appears to start a discussion about how to do it, which is good too. Thanks. I'll respond here to the points you made, and we can continue in PM to avoid distracting this thread too much if you want an in-depth discussion about any of those points (would you also prefer that?) -

1.

I guess initially there should be some hard edges on the topic by enumerating/grouping the various aspects of critical thinking that might be the focus of any one game/sub-game.


I can't agree more. There's just way, way too many aspects of critical thinking that can be covered, and games need **simple** feedback systems to work.

2.

I like the idea of something that revolves around logical fallacies (as mentioned in that other thread) as these are very common, easily understood concepts that can have fairly immediate and recognisable outcomes that ought to be quite easily translatable to scenarios that can be portrayed simply with a minimum of text (at least in micro-steps of a conversation). They are basic and fundamental to critical thought that everyone would benefit from learning early in life and everyone has encountered the results of them being applied... and failing to be applied. They don't really need to be age-dependent either so a game doesn't have to necessarily specifically target an age group.


Pretty much agreed again, logical fallacies is a fantastically simple approach in this regard, which allows to build a simple feedback system based on the existence or non existence of logical fallacies in a given argument.

Then again, we an also probably make similar feedback systems based on the scientific method (for arguments about scientific topics), so it's not the only good approach.

I may also agree with the some of your reasonings, as logical fallacies indeed can appear often in arguments we may stumble across in everyday life, but I think that's off-topic as that's about why logical fallacies matter, so I won't address most of what you said about it.

3.

I'm a big fan of the gamebook that was popular in the 80s and 90s and I've often thought that, given enough realistic variety of options, trying to win an argument with a credulous opponent would make a good subsection of one of those books. Should work just as well electronically!


Gamebook? Interesting, never heard of such a thing. According to the Wikipedia article about it, it's basically an interactive book. One of the games I linked to in the previous thread, is EXCATLY like this - reading a ton of text and then making a certain choice out of a couple of offered options at certain points.

So, I guess it can also be printed as a book. This can (maybe) be done with the game I linked to above. Nice idea.

4.

The key aspect would be in devising enough permutations to make things realistic, which will require both thinking critically and thinking like someone who doesn't think critically - in order to make enough traps to fall into and to make the virtual conversations seem reasonably realistic. (I hate encountering multiple choice question/responses where I end up screaming *I don't want to say ANY of those options you moron! can't you think up the very very obvious things that I'd WANT to say???* Very common in games and questionnaires). The more branches a conversation can go down, the more complex the coding needs to be. This is where the first-person adventure games that Nikki likes so much excel - because they are able to parse English there can be a greater apparent complexity than you'd get with multiple choices, or even point n click. They can also have far greater longevity in their gameplay - I never completed Leather Goddesses of Phobos or the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy!]The key aspect would be in devising enough permutations to make things realistic, which will require both thinking critically and thinking like someone who doesn't think critically - in order to make enough traps to fall into and to make the virtual conversations seem reasonably realistic. (I hate encountering multiple choice question/responses where I end up screaming *I don't want to say ANY of those options you moron! can't you think up the very very obvious things that I'd WANT to say???* Very common in games and questionnaires). The more branches a conversation can go down, the more complex the coding needs to be. This is where the first-person adventure games that Nikki likes so much excel - because they are able to parse English there can be a greater apparent complexity than you'd get with multiple choices, or even point n click. They can also have far greater longevity in their gameplay - I never completed Leather Goddesses of Phobos or the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy!


True, I've played some text-based games myself and most of which were able to parse my commands and understand them, without offering me specific options. This, by the way, is similar to the approach the other game I linked to in the other thread takes - it offers the player a bunch of possible "actions" per turn rather than specific responses. This can make the gameplay a lot less annoying. I'll keep this in mind.

5.

I've played a few of the sorts of games we're talking about and I easily lose interest when the method of progressing becomes quickly obvious without having to worry about what your choices are. Point n click games like the venerable Monkey Island series would make a good vehicle. Or 3D first-person world-explorers with encounters with AI characters would also work. They'd need to involve critical thinking as a major part of progressing in a game, but should they form the entirety of one? That might struggle to hold the attention of a lot of people - particularly the people who are in need of this sort of learning!
I'm sure you could combine the puzzle-oriented style of play of the likes of Myst in a game world with encounters with characters that explore thinking/argument interactions.
There are certainly game engines out there that can be used to develop both of these things together in one game (such as Game Guru or Unity to name but two).


Well, unless our aim would be for the game to get as much attention as possible from all the population (like game companies may want their games to to maximize profit), I don't think the design have to be such complex concepts that would take the average person 10 years of hard work to execute (Eric barone needed 4 years to make something easier than that). There are some much easier approaches, that don't even demand using a game engine, although we'll definitely need to program the game by ourselves (I'm experienced mainly with #C, by the way).

Not to mention we can try beforehand an x4232330 easier approach than all of the above, which is, to make a "mini-game" that can be used in a middle of a lecture or something. That won't require much time. We can start from that.


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