Educational designers hope to learn from Valve's popular puzzle-platformer.
This week is the 9th Annual Games For Change Festival, a conference addressing the unique potential and needs of educational games. During a talk yesterday about science learning games, GameGuru's Scott Kirk and EdGE's Jodi Asbell-Clarke addressed one of the biggest challenges educational games face: by and large, they simply aren't very fun. To fix this problem, many edutainment developers are looking to commercial games for lessons on player engagement. Valve in particular is mentioned for Portal's developer commentary, which contains incredibly detailed information on how to simultaneously engage players while orienting them to the game world.
"They're telling you why they built the pedagogy they did, what happened in the play-testing that gives you their level of learning," Asbell-Clarke explained to the audience. "I've been an educator for 20 years, and I learned so much from that game."
Valve isn't a stranger to the educational games industry. Valve President Gabe Newell was actually a keynote speaker in 2011, and the company has since released a free version of Portal 2's Perpetual Testing Initiative for use in the classroom. While it's easy to think of Portal as a fun game, to teachers it's also an entertaining way to get kids thinking about spatial reasoning, problem solving, and physical principles. There's even a chance these kids will go on to develop sentient A.I. that act more like Atlas and less like GLaDOS.
Valve's staff also attended the festival this year, where they held a workshop on how teaching kids science and math through Portal 2 would function in a classroom setting.