What Is a Game?

  We probably all have a pretty good intuitive notion of what a game is. The general term "game" encompasses board games like chess and Monopoly, card games like poker and blackjack, casino games like roulette and slot machines, military war games, computer games, various kinds of play among children, and the list goes on. In academia we sometimes speak of game theory, in which multiple agents select strategies and tactics in order to maximize their gains within the framework of a well-defined set of game rules https://totoscan.com/. When used in the context of console or computer-based entertainment, the word "game" usually conjures images of a three-dimensional virtual world featuring a humanoid, animal or vehicle as the main character under player control. (Or for the old geezers among us, perhaps it brings to mind images of two-dimensional classics like Pong, Pac-Man, or Donkey Kong.) In his excellent book, A Theory of Fun for Game Design, Raph Koster defines a game to be an interactive experience that provides the player with an increasingly challenging sequence of patterns which he or she learns and eventually masters. Koster's asser-tion is that the activities of learning and mastering are at the heart of what we call "fun," just as a joke becomes funny at the moment we "get it" by recognizing the pattern.


Video Games as Soft Real-Time Simulations


Most two- and three-dimensional video games are examples of what computer scientists would call soft real-time interactive agent-based computer simulations. Let's break this phrase down in order to better understand what it means https://ttattack.com/. In most video games, some subset of the real world -or an imaginary world- is modeled mathematically so that it can be manipulated by a computer. The model is an approximation to and a simplification of reality (even if it's an imaginary reality), because it is clearly impractical to include every detail down to the level of atoms or quarks. Hence, the mathematical model is a simulation of the real or imagined game world. Approximation and simplification are two of the game developer's most powerful tools. When used skillfully, even a greatly simplified model can sometimes be almost indistinguishable from reality and a lot more fun.


An agent-based simulation is one in which a number of distinct entities known as "agents" interact. This fits the description of most three-dimensional computer games very well, where the agents are vehicles, characters, fireballs, power dots and so on. Given the agent-based nature of most games, it should come as no surprise that most games nowadays are implemented in an object-oriented, or at least loosely object-based, programming language.


All interactive video games are temporal simulations, meaning that the vir- tual game world model is dynamic-the state of the game world changes over time as the game's events and story unfold. A video game must also respond to unpredictable inputs from its human player(s)-thus interactive temporal simulations. Finally, most video games present their stories and respond to player input in real time, making them interactive real-time simulations.


One notable exception is in the category of turn-based games like computerized chess or non-real-time strategy games. But even these types of games usually provide the user with some form of real-time graphical user interface.


What Is a Game Engine?


The term "game engine" arose in the mid-1990s in reference to first-person shooter (FPS) games like the insanely popular Doom by id Software. Doom was architected with a reasonably well-defined separation between its core software components (such as the three-dimensional graphics rendering system, the collision detection system or the audio system) and the art assets, game worlds and rules of play that comprised the player's gaming experience. The value of this separation became evident as developers began licensing games and retooling them into new products by creating new art, world layouts, weapons, characters, vehicles and game rules with only minimal changes to the "engine" software. This marked the birth of the "mod community"-a group of individual gamers and small independent studios that built new games by modifying existing games, using free toolkits pro- vided by the original developers. Towards the end of the 1990s, some games like Quake III Arena and Unreal were designed with reuse and "modding" in mind. Engines were made highly customizable via scripting languages like id's Quake C, and engine licensing began to be a viable secondary revenue stream for the developers who created them. Today, game developers can license a game engine and reuse significant portions of its key software components in order to build games. While this practice still involves considerable investment in custom software engineering, it can be much more economical than developing all of the core engine components in-house. The line between a game and its engine is often blurry.


Some engines make a reasonably clear distinction, while others make almost no attempt to separate the two. In one game, the rendering code might "know" specifi-cally how to draw an orc. In another game, the rendering engine might provide general-purpose material and shading facilities, and "orc-ness" might be defined entirely in data. No studio makes a perfectly clear separation between the game and the engine, which is understandable considering that the definitions of these two components often shift as the game's design solidifies.


Arguably a data-driven architecture is what differentiates a game engine from a piece of software that is a game but not an engine. When a game contains hard-coded logic or game rules, or employs special-case code to render specific types of game objects, it becomes difficult or impossible to reuse that software to make a different game. We should probably reserve the term "game engine" for software that is extensible and can be used as the foundation for many different games without major modification.


Clearly this is not a black-and-white distinction. We can think of a gamut of reusability onto which every engine falls. One would think that a game engine could be something akin to Apple QuickTime or Microsoft Windows Media Player-a general-purpose piece of software capable of playing virtually any game content imaginable. However, this ideal has not yet been achieved (and may never be). Most game engines are carefully crafted and fine-tuned to run a particular game on a particular hardware platform. And even the most general-purpose multiplatform engines are really only suitable for building games in one particular genre, such as first-person shooters or racing games. It's safe to say that the more general-purpose a game engine or middleware component is, the less optimal it is for running a particular game on a particular platform.


This phenomenon occurs because designing any efficient piece of software invariably entails making trade-offs, and those trade-offs are based on assumptions about how the software will be used and/or about the target hardware on which it will run. For example, a rendering engine that was designed to handle intimate indoor environments probably won't be very good at rendering vast outdoor environments. The indoor engine might use a binary space partitioning (BSP) tree or portal system to ensure that no geometry is drawn that is being occluded by walls or objects that are closer to the camera. The outdoor engine, on the other hand, might use a less-exact occlusion mechanism, or none at all, but it probably makes aggressive use of level-of-detail (LOD) techniques to ensure that distant objects are rendered with a minimum number of triangles, while using high-resolution triangle meshes for geome-try that is close to the camera.


The advent of ever-faster computer hardware and specialized graphics cards, along with ever-more-efficient rendering algorithms and data structures, is beginning to soften the differences between the graphics engines of different genres. It is now possible to use a first-person shooter engine to build a real-time strategy game, for example. However, the trade-off between generality and optimality still exists. A game can always be made more impressive by fine-tuning the engine to the specific requirements and constraints of a particular game and/or hardware platform.


Engine Differences Across Genres


Game engines are typically somewhat genre specific. An engine designed for a two-person fighting game in a boxing ring will be very different from a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) engine or a first-person shooter (FPS) engine or a real-time strategy (RTS) engine. However, there is also a great deal of overlap-all 3D games, regardless of genre, require some form of low-level user input from the joypad, keyboard and/or mouse, some form of 3D mesh rendering, some form of heads-up display (HUD) including text rendering in a variety of fonts, a powerful audio system, and the list goes on. So while the Unreal Engine, for example, was designed for first-person shooter games, it has been used successfully to construct games in a number of other genres as well, including simulator games, like Farming Simulator 15 ( FS 15 mods ) and the wildly popular third-person shooter franchise Gears of War by Epic Games and the smash hits Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City by Rocksteady Studios.

The "Wikipedia problem" which means children turning to internet for readymade answers is the new age phenomenon baffling teachers and mentors globally. There are almost equal numbers of teachers who consider technology to be a solution as much as a problem. While a common belief is that technology is hindering the students' capacity to think and analyze, there is also a strong opinion in favor of video games and digital gadgets' ability to engage students and enhance learning by using more than one sensory stimulators. In spite of the growing concern about the students' deteriorating attention spans, institutions are incorporating them in the process of classroom learning.


Children are inherently inquisitive creatures. They have a curiosity to discover new things and learn by way of discovering and experimenting even before they are subjected to methods of formal education such as reading or writing. Science is a discipline of experiments and discoveries. The National Science Education Standards emphasize that "science education needs to give students three kinds of scientific skills and understandings. Students need to learn the principles and concepts of science, acquire the reasoning and procedural skills of scientists, and understand the nature of science as a particular form of human endeavor. Students therefore need to be able to devise and carry out investigations that test their ideas, and they need to understand why such investigations are uniquely powerful. Studies show that students are much more likely to understand and retain the concepts that they have learned this way ". Hence, it becomes imperative to engage children in science education at an early stage.


Digital games are more capable to gain students' interests and attention than other conventional means of imparting education in a classroom. However, some educationists also regard them as culprits of exponential decline in the attention span in children. The next sections in this article discuss the involvement of children in games in the tech age, types of games available in the market and the impact of digital gaming as learning aids in classrooms.


Gaming and the New Age Kids


Digital technology has expanded the horizons of video gaming in the modern world. Kids are subjected to far more complex and challenging technological environment than their counterparts were from over half a century back. Involvement of kids in digital gaming is a result of many significant changes in the lifestyle and culture of the modern society. Easy accessibility of technology, dispensable income due to dual income families and lack of infrastructure for outdoor activities in many cities are some major contributors in making screen games an important part of the children's' lives. A study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010) found that only 20 percent of the census blocks are within half a mile of a block boundary. Also, the effect of peer pressure cannot be undermined in these times of social networking.


The digital gaming market is one of the fastest growing segments of the global entertainment industry. US is witnessing unprecedented penetration of digital games amongst youngsters. In the US, 97% of the teens play some type of game on a regular basis. In India, the gaming market has grown manifold in the last few years. Hence, it is imperative that educationists are continuously contemplating the use of digital gaming as a learning tool in classrooms. Institutions are also employing innovative ways to leverage the digital advantage for enhancing the learning experience at schools.


What are Digital Games?


There is no concrete definition of games as it may vary with an individual's preference and profession. Games can be defined as a "system in which players engage in artificial conflict, defined by rules, which result in a quantifiable outcome". Technology and digitization add new dimensions to games where simulations, interactivity, augmented reality, alternative reality, collective intelligence and sensory stimulators such as sound and visual effects. Digital games are also characterized by their portability and limitless accessibility.


Role-playing games, simulation games and puzzles are some of the most popular digital games. In role-playing games, the player enacts the role of a particular character in a virtual world moving from one level to the other based on the outcome of the earlier level. RPGs can be single player such as the dungeons and dragons from earlier days of gaming or multi-player games such as Diablo III, Xenoblade, Final Fantasy XIII-2 or Mass Effect 3. MMORPG or the Massive Multiple Online Role-Playing Games are an extension of the RPGs where large number of players interacts in an online virtual world. Simulation games create realistic situations in virtual worlds. The outcome will depend on the player's decision-making and responsiveness and will be closely similar to what may happen in a real world in the same situation. Widely used in training and analysis, simulation games are also popular due to their unpredictable and personalized outcomes. Flight Simulator X, Live for Speed (LFS) and Need for Speed have been extremely popular simulation games for a long time. Puzzles genre of digital games involves problem solving and analysis with varying degrees of difficulty depending on the nature of the game. Crosswords and treasure hunt games are basic forms of puzzle games in both physical and digital form.


All types of digital games involve a social involvement of players. Some need collaborative efforts to play while others may be discussed or analyzed socially. In spite of some games being accused of outright violent visual effects, a well-designed game can accelerate the thinking process by motivating, engaging, involving creativity and developing a meta-game i.e., social interactions inspired and enhanced inside or outside the game. Incorporating digital gaming in the basic education framework can lead to augmented competitiveness and multi-dimensional growth in children.


Digital Games in Science Education - Why and Why Not?


The 21st century requires the mentors and the students to integrate technology into the curriculum. Though the ultimate goal is to benefit the students in terms of learning and experience, unsupervised, unorganized or irrelevant application can lead to complete failure or have negative effects. Some of the negative impacts of digital games in general and in context with the education are listed below:


Digital games have been facing constant rebuke for allegedly enhancing aggression amongst kids and developing a violent streak at an early stage. In a study by Anderson and Bushman (2001), Children involved in violent video games are more likely to have increased aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and decreased prosocial helping. Use of weapons and being rewarded for being violent is a cause of widespread concern.


Digital games can be addictive for children and make them physically inactive. Digital games, other than social networking, are considered for reduced physical activity leading to obesity in kids and postural and skeletal disorders.


Addiction to games is also known to make kids socially secluded. Impulsive behavior, depression and increased anxiety levels are largely attributed to excessive gaming in children. Some studies also suggest that the children playing games are unable to concentrate for a long span and have reduced attention span.


Children are prone to absorbing socially unacceptable behavior through some digital games such as using profanities and ill-treating the fairer sex. Lack of adequate knowledge about screening the material available online is a growing concern amongst the parents.


Digital games are considered a hindrance to better performance in academics. Students are often found to skip homework to play games leading to deteriorated performance at school. However, despite their reputation as promoters of violence and mayhem, digital games have in fact been shown to help children learn skills, content, and vital "21st-century" skills. From digital games children can learn: content (from rich vocabulary to science to history), skills (from literacy to math to complex problem-solving), creation of artifacts (from videos to software code) and systems thinking (how changing one element affects relationships as a whole). Strong arguments in favor of using digital games as learning aids in secondary education are summarized below:


Digital games involve extreme hand-eye coordination and enhance motor and sensory skills. Sensory stimulation theory proposed by academician Laird (1985) validates that effective learning occurs when the senses are stimulated. While some studies show that digital gaming reduces attention span, there are strong evidences of improved concentration in short intervals of time. Digital games involve keeping an eye on every detail, follow the rules and respond proactively to the given situation. Complex digital games help is developing problem-solving and decision-making skills. Some games also involve logical analysis of the situation and pattern recognition and improve memorizing thus assisting in the cognitive process. Playing by the rules teaches children to accept and respect a certain level of discipline.


Multi-player digital games develop a sense of constructive competitive attitude. Collaborative games also improve team-building attitude. They develop time management skills in a team and train the players to cooperate for mutually desired goal. They teach the players to accept defeat as well as strive for better results. Digital games provide an avenue for hyperactive kids to direct the energy in a constructive system based game. They also provide an outlet to release aggression and frustration, thus helping in diffusing stress. Some games also involve physical activity such as Nintendo Wii boxing helping kids to engage mentally and physically with the kids. Complex digital games involve high level of multitasking thus improving brain's natural learning process. Brain based learning theory proposes that multi-tasking is an inherent activity of the brain and learning is enhanced by challenges at various levels. Digital games develop efficient situational analysis and strategy making in children. Since games have certain objectives at every level and a final objective of the game, it teaches players to devise short term and long-term strategies such as scoring points, retaining energy and reaching the ultimate goal of the game. Simulation games and the role-playing digital games help players gain expertise or learn by experiencing in replicas of real world situations. Experiential learning and action learning theories are based on the premise that individuals learn faster when they by experiencing and actually participating in action.

"Games require the kind of thinking that we need in the 21st Century because they use actual learning as the basis for assessment. They test not only current knowledge and skills, but also preparation for future learning. They measure 21st century skills like collaboration, innovation, production, and design by tracking many different kinds of information about a student, over time.





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