Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Playing LBP with my 3rd Grader

One day last week my third grader got out of school early due to winter weather. I brought her into work with me, and down to Ruby's office where she got to play LittleBigPlanet (LBP) on the HASTAC research PlayStation3. She'd never played on a PlayStation before--her only gaming experience was with the Wii and some American Girl and PopTropica games on the internet. It was interesting for me to watch her learn and play. It was fun for her to play a game she'd heard about from a bunch of her (boy) friends. (In fact, she only has one girl friend who she knows plays on a PS--and she has an older brother.)

We talked together about the experience, below. I'm "M" (me) and she's "D" (daughter).

M: So, what did you think of LBP?
D: I thought it was really fun and cool. It was a whole new experience.

M: Your Sackgirl was pretty adventurous looking. Did you think of her as a character acting in the game or was she you?
D: I just put together crazy things. I thought of her as me, sort of. But sometimes she was someone else.

M: How about when you got stuck and got frustrated? You killed yourself so you could continue with the game.
D: I thought it got pretty frustrating, but once I got to this thing where you have to grab and that was pretty hard. So I killed myself then and went back to my pod.

[As her mother, this concerned me, I have to say. I think it would be good for there to be an eject button or something like that so that she didn't have to kill her Sackgirl to start over. I don't really like that message. In fact, it made me very uncomfortable. This is exactly the sort of gaming aspect that many parents don't like and won't buy into. It's not super violent, but she's 8 years old. There's no violence that's good violence at that age (at any age?).]

M: What was your favorite part about LBP?
D: I liked where you could get points, and talk to people and do cool things when you got the points. But I also liked when the people talked to you and told you clues so you could put the clues together like a puzzle.

M: Do you think you would've been able to figure out the things they told you on your own?
D: Maybe. When I had to dress Charlie, one of the guys told me I had to dress him. So I had some sneakers and a torso, so I put those on Charlie then the bridge fell down. So I sorta had to figure out some stuff on my own. It was like puzzle pieces.

M: What did you think of earning prizes and stickers and stuff?
D: My favorite part was when you earn stickers, cuz you had a long line of bubbles that you bang into.

M: Do you think you learned anything?
D: Not really. It was fun and I sorta learned how to grab things, but that's not exactly educational.

M: Would you like to play games like this even if there were some educational parts to it?
D: Yeah. It would be still fun. It wouldn't be as fun, but it would still be pretty fun. So I take that as a yes.

D: I thought LBP was really fun. It was cool how you could stick things almost everywhere and how you had a poppit that could pop out. At first it got really frustrating but then it got really easy. Once it got easy I moved on to the next level but that level was HARD.

M: I'm sure that playing LBP would be even more fun for D if she were playing with her friends. And I can see how that might bring interaction and collaboration into the game in ways that were nonexistent as she played by herself. I hope that we can bring a friend or two in to play with her sometime soon, and if so, we'll write about that.

I also think it's telling that when I asked her about whether she thought she'd learned anything, she had already positioned "learning," "not learning" and "things educational" in a very specific category, and "fun" wasn't in that category. Meeting challenges doesn't count as learning in her current paradigm. This is exactly the problem that our competition addresses: How can we make it so that learning is not segregated to specific subjects and situations, but is more integral to everyday life? And maybe even fun.

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