Edutainment in LittleBigPlanet

Site Maintenance Update

Something horrid must have happened to the old auto-set-up database that Letters was based upon, because one day the site just stopped working due to database issues. Because the old database had been helpfully locked by the “Easyapps” service that helped set up wordpress in the first place, I couldn’t do anything about it, and trying to back up and restore the database encountered similar issues.

Ultimately, I solved it by just copying all the table entries to a new database and pointing wordpress at that database instead. Much better solution than fixing the old one, because at least this database is 100% unlocked. Phew, back to unreliably timed scribbles about obscurity.

I’ll post more than a website update I guess.

The Interesting Part: LittleBigPlanet and Edutainment

I’ve spent much of the day considering the didactic potential of games; in other words, how might we use games to teach nowadays?

Specifically I’m thinking of LittleBigPlanet, a game with so much potential it’s dizzying. The capacity of custom levels to exceed the designer’s imaginings is sometimes funny, sometimes intriguing; someone was able to make a fully functional calculator in LittleBigPlanet that could integrate, something the designers never considered. When they were making a game for whimsical platforming, Charles Babbage didn’t enter into things.

So, I’m thinking of other applications still; why limit ourselves with strictly meaningless platforming when we can make something fun and pointed? I am considering designing a level myself that would guide the player through some dioramas of Climate Change and personal responsibility, while dressing it up as a puzzle platformer and having the player solve things to permit advancement.

Such an approach could take a topic that many people unfortunately see as boring or unengaging, and introduce it to a wide audience in a receptive and inquisitive frame of mind (as playing LittleBigPlanet tends to do to people I think).

Taking things past activism and awareness and into pure edutainment, a level could also easily be assembled that illustrates difficult concepts or theories such as genetics and inheritance, or the physics of the LHC, or the mechanisms of evolution. The scale of the level can change as the player progresses, so the sackperson can one minute be running along a string of nucleotides and the next be dragging chromatids together for “mitosis”, which when arranged properly will lead to the next stage opening.

I see a lot of potential in LittleBigPlanet, obviously, but more broadly any game with flexible level design and a player-defined goal can be employed in this manner to teach even a little bit. A player could be guided through an RTS level with a single Hero-type character by a guide and narrator, and watch the scenery changing as the narrator describes how the world’s oceans are going to rise with temperature changes, or how the deserts will spread.

Anyway, in real life I am late for something, but having posted here will salve my conscience for a while and perhaps give me additional impetus to do something useful with LittleBigPlanet before it eats me.