Detailing real play experience with Children of the sun
Educational games are undergoing a renaissance compared to previous attempts at making games that teach. This thesis looks at the game Children of the Sun, which was designed with practices advocated by this movement, to see how effective it was at teaching its learning objectives. The game, designed at Ball State by a team of students in an immersive learning experience, was created for use by the Indiana State Museum to use in conjunction with other materials to teach young students about the Middle Mississippian Native Americans. The game is a collocated, multiplayer experience where players act as chief of a village and assign villagers to the historically accurate tasks of farming, hunting, mound-building and raiding other villages. Qualitative methods, which focus on individuals and quality of data, were used as the research methodology. Data collected from a play session where students were asked questions before and after playing the game were coded and three major themes emerged. The idea of man vs. man conflict and inter-village violence was understood by the players who all spent considerable time raiding each other in the game. Related to this is the recognition of separate villages and an understanding that the Middle Mississippians had a space of living. The data show that there were some problems with the user interface in the game and that the win condition was not understood, but the students overcame most of these with peer-learning and an understanding of the context in the game. Analyzing the design of the game in tandem with these results shows that design decisions, particularly the effort put into raiding, corresponded with how well the students grasped these concepts. We find that Children of the Sun met some of its learning objectives-those associated with raiding, hunting, farming, and the idea of separate villages—while also being a game that the students considered fun.