Wanted: beta-testers of interactive stories to learn science

Hi all,
I write interactive stories to help people learn science.
The stories are in the Choose Your Own Adventure format (with a few black and white images).
I have two stories up at the moment, with more planned:

  1. Fido (the dog with green legs) - pitched at UK school year 7 (age 11-12) - so everyone should be able to handle this!
  2. Ms Teri (she’s a mystery) - pitched much higher at undergraduates in physiology and medicine. Still worth a go!
    All stories playable in the browser - no downloads.
    Would love to know what you all think!
    Mark Carew

I tried out the Fido game. I was impressed with the smoothness of the webpage and the good visual design.

The scientific experiments were fascinating. But I found the choice structure difficult to work with at times. My first playthrough, I encountered no experiments because I was trying out unusual options. I thought I’d be able to change my mind about different choices and come back, but instead it felt like the game was just trying to catch me doing the wrong thing. In the terms that Sam Ashwell uses in his article, “Standard Patterns in Choice-Based Games”, your game seemed like a Gauntlet when I was expecting a Quest structure.

Overall, I believe your basic concept is sound, and the finished product will be fantastic. This seems like it could be a fun way to learn science.

If you want more specific suggestions, I’d be willing to look through the game in more detail and send you a private message. I’m very impressed by your visual presentation, which is similar in quality to the best IFComp games, and I think it makes the science a lot more fun.

Thanks Craig.
Glad you liked it.
Thanks also for the links to the article on Choice-Based Games. Fascinating stuff. I’ll also have a read of your draft book when I get the chance.
The plot was designed in the style of a serial TV drama, with the action moving relentlessly towards the final outcome (although there are a couple or more fail-states). So yes it is Gauntlet style because of the need for completion, rather than a Quest. Not to say I can’t try other styles in future!
It’s funny what you say about the game trying to catch you out. Especially in the kitchen, kids of that age can either use a saucepan to boil an egg (for example), or instead are a danger to themselves, so I wanted to show how easy it was to do something silly! When I supervise undergrads in the lab I often ask them if they like to cook and do they like working in a kitchen.
I’m pleased overall that the concept of teaching by interactive stories is valid. My approach is to immerse the reader in the world, so that next time the school biology lesson is on photosynthesis, then the player is reminded of the time in the greenhouse! And hopefully the science involved.
Thanks again.

Hi Mark,

I also looked at the Fido game, and thought that the presentation was fanatastic. Another really good point was how clear the learning outcomes were, both throughout the game and in the way they were presented at the end. I haven’t studied biology for years, so I actually learned something (how plants synthesize glucose) which I will probably remember, as it was in the context of a story.
I did feel that the story ended rather abruptly both times - it was almost as if I was forced into completing the game, when I would have liked to go back and try some more puzzles, but within the same round of the game. I also thought that the cut to the sub-plot with the ‘Choose your own adventure’ book within the game was clever, but potentially a bit confusing - I got it because I’m familiar with the genre, but I think it would have thrown someone who wasn’t.
What did you use to write it? It looks like Twine?
I’m also working on using IF for education BTW, and it’s good to see that other people have realised the potential. I’m experimenting with a parser-based system for teaching academic English and critical thinking to undergraduates. If you get time, feel free to check out my game Ward Z - it’s on IFDB or just click through to:

Very nice use of Wordpress and Twine. The graphics are well done and the story line is interesting. I will visit again this evening when I have time. I am working on the same kind of thing, though I am using a parser based system with the main goal to enhance abstract thinking with middle school students.

Thank you,