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t a b le of contents 1. Game Subject........................................................................................................ 2

1.1 Problems With Teaching Mathematics

2. Game Summary and Outline.............................................................................. 3 1.2 Story and Setting

2.2 Mathematics as a Gameplay Element

3. Target Audience.................................................................................................. 4 4. The Reasons Behind Why the Target Audience Will Play the Game.............. 4 5. Game Design........................................................................................................ 5 6. Game Explanation................................................................................................ 8 7. Notes..................................................................................................................... 8

Introduction There have been many attempts to gamify mathematics with no significant avail. This led me to tackle the question: “Can math games actually be educational and fun at the same time?” As it turns out even though I mentioned that pesky word, “educational” in the same sentence as “fun”: Educational- or serious games can indeed also be motivating and fun if you choose your game design ingredients carefully. Now pay attention, a good serious game recipe is as follows: Appealing and accessible concept, satisfying gameplay and plenty of positive feedback, flow and immersion. Now to put that in perspective, I will present my game concept to you dear reader....


1. Game Subj ect Me as well as many others feel that mathematics is a difficult and demotivating subject, so I’ve decided to represent the majorities concern towards math. Math requires concentration, patience and devotion. A lot of students aren’t generally motivated by the mathematical curriculum and thus don’t want to work that hard. Some have more aptitude for it than others, but for anyone it’s hard work, especially as you get into the higher forms of math. Students tend to hate math because many math problems have just one correct answer which makes students feel uncomfortable about making mistakes and thus is not fun to learn. A common complaint among students is that they won´t be using over half of what they learn at school in their future. Students find math confusing and useless because they don’t see the connection between math and the real world.

This is why I have decided to make a game about this subject. My game addresses these issues by teaching the player that the mathematical problems can be applied to the game world, real world and that their actions really mean something. By making a game where math is the magical key that has real world consequences and that failure doesn’t mean a bad grade for the student but rather that there is no real failure because the student is always practicing and participating (or in MMO speak: grinding, getting experience points and leveling up) on his own level and getting better all the time which in the end will lead to success because even though the player may fail he or she is still motivated to try again to improve because the player feels that he or she is a part of something bigger.

P r o b l e m s w i t h t e a c h i n g m at h e m at i c s :

• Failure is uncomfortable • Confusing and “unpractical” • Demotivating • Requires work and Difficult

-> Make failure into an experience with a positive outcome (Fun failure and better odds of success “Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal” -> Elucidate students about math and apply it into the real world -> Game with a purpose, rich story and fun gameplay (Becoming a part of something bigger than ourselves “Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal”) -> Give the player good feedback (More satisfying work “Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal”)


2. Game Sum m a ry a n d Ou tlin e


Story and Setting

M at h e m at i c s a s a g a m e p l ay e l e m e n t

The protagonist has been summoned to the game-world by it’s desperate citizens as a last hope to save them from a devious and tyrannical evil that inflicts the world. The citizens of this world have for some unknown reason lost the power to understand and manipulate numbers and thus can’t function properly or use magic to protect themselves. The corrupt rulers of this world have made everyone oblivious about mathematics and this is why you (the protagonist) have been summoned to restore peace and harmony to the world. The protagonist is a beacon of hope for humanity because he is one of the few that have the magical power to manipulate numbers and thus use magic.

In my game mathematics is learned and applied in a variation of ways. The player bestows the power of understanding and manipulating numbers which enables him or her to solve puzzles, execute spells and special moves. Each chapter of the game has its own mathematical focus for example: logic, geometry and derivatives. The game starts of easy with plus and minus math to introduce the player to the game world and its various gameplay elements like the UI. The game gets progressively challenging as the story advances. The different “skills” that the player can perform require a mathematical problem to be

The player will unravel a devious mystery, encounter numerous unique characters, explore a variation of vibrant locations and gain understanding of the unique power that he or she bestows.

learns more powerful spells and moves that require more advanced math to be executed. This encourages the player to really learn the math so that he or she can perform these powerful spells and special moves and overcome even the most ferocious enemies.

solved for them to be executed efficiently. In the beginning the player learns easy skills that require just minus and plus math to execute but as the character grows he or she

3. Targe t A u dien ce The target audience for my game are teenagers and students who find the mathematical curriculum demotivating, difficult, uncomfortable and confusing. The age group could be anywhere beyond seven years old, when the student is in elementary school but for the purpose of this exercise I’ve chosen to target students in junior high school, ages 13-16 years old because studies show that students start to underperform in mathematics at this age.. My game is a motivational tool for learning math.

4. Th e Re as o n s Behin d W hy t h e T a rg et A u di e nce Will Play the Ga m e The player is not doing all this work for someone else, the player is developing their own strengths and weaknesses as they play. My game gives an objective measure of how much better the player is getting at the things they are working on and by giving the most satisfying feedback for the player: leveling up. The “fun failure” study that was conducted by M.I.N.D Lab in Helsinki found that people actually enjoy failing in videogames, it makes people happy in a very particular way: excited, interested and most of all optimistic. When we fail in real life, we are typically disappointed, not energized. We experience diminished intrest and motivation. And if we fail again and again, we get more stressed. But in my game failure is more emotionally rewarding, it evokes strong sensation of agency that makes the player eager to try again. By making the player a key part of a epic story we instill a sense of purpose that ultimately gives meaning to the players actions. Meaning in games is the belief that the players actions matter beyond their individual lives which is what most of us are looking for in life: ways to make a difference in the bigger picture, more chances to leave a lasting

mark on the world, more moments of awe-inspiring and wonder. The single best way to add meaning is to connect the players actions to something bigger than themselves - and the bigger, the better. To experience real meaning, we don’t have to contribute something of real value. We just have to be given the opportunity to contribute at all. Compared with games, reality is pointless and unrewarding. My game helps the player feel more rewarded for making their best effort by giving the player satisfying feedback. Math in reality is trivial for many students. But in the game it makes the player feel a part of something bigger and gives epic meaning to their actions. Wholehearted participation and the benefit of moving mathematics into a alternate reality: To participate wholeheartedly in mathematics means to be self-motivated and self-directed, intensely intrested and genuinely enthusiastic. When students are forced to learn math, or if the student does it halfheartedly, they do not really participate and in the same sense if they don’t care about math then the student is not participating and not learning. This is where my game comes in to play. The emotional and social rewards that the student requires active, enthusiastic, self-motivated participation.


5.Game design Goals



To ensure the goals of my game are appropriate and well-balanced I’ve decided to divide the ultimate goal into smaller goals which will keep the player motivated due to the progressive improvement. This also takes to consideration the player’s abilities. We feel better in games compared to reality because games are designed to be motivating and rewarding through achieving goals, My game trusts the player with tasks that are allways of a equal level with the players skill, it never gives too difficult challenges to achieve and this will motivate the player to achieve the goals set by the game. There is always something to do for the player.

My game will always demand the right level of skill, giving the player appropriate problems to solve. The player would never be pushed too hard and likewise the challenges would never get too easy, it would be fine-tuned so that the player would be hooked to reach that next goal. The skill required would gradually increase depending on the player’s outset and progress. At the beginning of the game the player could decide the difficulty from easy, medium and hard which would alternate some gameplay mechanics such as if the player would play the game on the “hard setting” they would be more vulnerable to enemies, mathematical problems would be more difficult and the timers in the game would be shorter. Playing on the “easy setting” would be vice versa.

The player’s feedback from my game comes from many things: judgment, reward, instructions, encouragement and challenge. My games feedback loop will create the experience by ramping up the difficulty gradually, introducing new environments and giving the player visible feedback when they are doing good. As in the “reward” part I mentioned, if the player executed the problems well they would be rewarded for it, for example when the player solves five mathematical problems flawlessly in battle they would do a combo which would result in a spectacular attack animation and higher damage to the enemy. If the player did something wrong and didn’t progress at the game, they would be provided with more hint’s.


A v ata r

My game will focus on giving out the right rewards in the right amounts at the right time. Solving problems rewards the player with experience points, equipment and items that adds to the overall visible progress by making the player feel more powerful which in itself is rewarding. Executing the mathematical problems, quickly, flawlessly and in a row would result in bigger yields of items, gold and experience points which would motivate the player to do their best to get the best rewards.

To ensure that the protagonist brings out as much of the player’s identity as possible I’ve decided to include some customization options. The player would be able to decide the gender, name and class. The player would also get to decide what kind of gear they will equip, for example the player can choose to focus on one of three classes: warrior, mage or assassin or a combination of these to best suit the players wants.


Challenge is the core of almost all games, and this is why I’ve designed my game to give just the right amount of challenge at just the right time. Not too hard so that it will put off new players nor too easy so that the more experienced players will dismiss it. The challenges will start of easy to ease the player into the game but as the story progresses the challenges that are given to the player will gradually increase in difficulty. This will make the player feel a strong sensation of personal progress.


Visible progress

Physical Interface

The player will see that they are making progress when solving the mathematical problems. They will be rewarded with experience points which will make them level up and thus get new and more powerful skills and magic spells. As the game progresses the player will get better and fancier equipment. Making progress in my game will make the player feel more powerful since they can take on even the most ferocious enemies.

The physical interface, the way the player interacts with my game is designed so that the game will be easy and intuitive to pick up and play both by new and experienced players/gamers. I’ve decided to use tablet computers as the platform for my game. The game would be played with touch controls and the interface of the game would be set up so that it could be played comfortably for even during longer game sessions. The tablet platform will ensure this and be well suited for my game. The tablets gyroscope would also enable for exhilarating physical input by the player for example if the player gets stunned and dazed by a enemy they would have to shake the tablet in their hands to wake up their avatar.


My game will hold the players focus by having a clear set of goals, by providing the player a steady stream of gradually increasing challenges and visible progress. The game world is also made to be as immersive as possible by having a rich story, appealing graphics and smooth gameplay.

Visual interface

My games aesthetics, technology, mechanics and story are in harmony, reinforcing each other and working together toward a common theme.

I’ve tried to enchant the players experience as much as possible by making the visual interface as appealing and clutter-free as possible. The player will get all the information they need in a way that won’t interfere with the player’s interactions with the game world.


R i s k m i t i g at i o n

When presenting a puzzle to the player, they will be able to clearly visualize what they have to do. The game would start of with a tutorial stage which would teach the player the various functions of the game.

I’ve also considered the things that could go wrong with my game. Not everyone likes RPG games which could possibly put off some potential players. The fantasy set-up is also not for everyone

E l e m e n ta l t e t r a d


6. Game Exp la n a tion



I’ve illustrated the battle mechanic of my game in “Figure 1” to help you better understand the flow of the game.


1: Game settings. When this button is pressed it will pause the game and bring up the access to the game setting, player attributes and the main menu. 2: Player status. This bar shows the players health. Tapping on this bar will bring up comprehensive player stats such as player level, progression, attributes and items worn. 3: Task window. This window pops up after the player activates a skill, for example: In this task the player has to quickly solve how many percentage is missing by adding up the other percentages and by looking at the whole percentage figure. The right answer this time is 26%. The player types the correct answer in the calculator window and executes the move by tapping the “action button”, the button with the sword. 4: Inventory. This is the players “backpack” which contains all the consumable items the player have found/looted from previously battles or solved tasks. The player can choose to use these consumables to aid them in battle, for example: When being low on health the player can consume a “health potion” to regain some health and keep fighting.




5 6


Figure 1: Forgotten Numbers, Battlescreen. Illustration by Ville Valkeisenmäki

5: Protagonist. This is the player, opposite to the player is and determined by the level of the skill, for example: “Fire the enemy. The protagonists appearance will vary depending Bolt” is a skill acquired at level 5, to effectively cast this on the gender, class and gear they choose to wear. spell the player has to solve a percentage task as quickly as possible. When leveling up the player gets new and improved 6: Skill bar. This bar houses all the players skills that they skills which require more difficult math to be executed. In have learned. Skills are used to defeat enemies. Tapping a the case that the player doesn’t solve the task they will still skill brings up the “task window”. The task is randomized hit the enemy with a “auto-attack” which deals significantly

Game flow

less damage, and thus spamming auto-attack wont grant victory. Solving the task slowly will also reduce the damage dealt.

The combat is turn based. If the player is defeated in battle, they will be resurrected in the nearest town, upon death they will lose a small amount of gold but it can be reclaimed by defeating the enemy that defeated the player. 1) If the players level is higher than the enemies they will attack first.

7: The calculator. This is a special item the player carries, it will pop up when the player has chosen a skill and therefore a task has been given. The player uses this for giving the right answer, and by pressing the sword icon they execute a skill. For example: the player taps in, “26” and then hits the execute button to cast the spell, if the answer is correct and quickly executed the damage dealt will be greater and will give a flashier attack animation. As the game progresses the player will unlock new calculator functions that will be added to the calculator, such as decimal, pi and exponent to solve harder tasks.

2) To attack an enemy the player first selects a skill from the “skill bar”. Next the “task window” will appear with a random mathematical task to solve . Depending on how well the task is solved (right answer/time) will determine the damage dealt to the enemy. 3) When the players turn is over the enemy will perform a attack, the enemies attacks and patterns will vary depending on what enemy it is. 4) When the player has preformed enough attacks so that the enemys health bar is completly depleted, the enemy will be defeated. After defeating the enemy the player will receive a short battle report on how good they did and aquire experience points, gold and items.

7 .Note s • Jane McGonigal: Reality is broken (Great Britain: Jonathan Cape 2011) 19-344. • Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world (2010). Retrieved from: • Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life (2012). Retrieved from: • Brenda Brathwaite: Gaming for understanding (2011). Retrieved from: • Seth Priebatsch: The game layer on top of the world (2010). Retrieved from: • Jesse Schell: The art of game design: A book of lenses (2008). Retrieved from: 8

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Ville Valkeisenmäki

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