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My name is Will Peacock. I'm a long-term gamer, a full-time teacher and a part-time geek. I've been blogging about these topics since January '14.

You can find me writing in the Community area here, or at Kotaku. I'm also on WordPress. If you're feeling really adventurous, you can follow me on Twitter.

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A lone hero seeks adventure in a dangerous world. In one hand they clasp an ancient sword made from the devil's weirdest nightmares. In the other hand they hold a giant handgun so powerful that it doesn't need to be loaded to kill from two miles away. From head to toe, the hero is clad in armour that prevents attackers from remembering why they were even mad in the first place. There is so much arcane magic coursing through the hero's veins, that one sneeze can level an entire cinema. Only a 1 or 2-screen cinema, but it's still pretty cool when it happens.

Yet today, the hero will meet their match. No enemy, real or imagined, has ever managed to best this courageous, mighty and inexplicably handsome warrior. Today is the day when the hero faces...a fence which is slightly too high to jump over.

No matter how far a game world stretches, a border must be decided somewhere. Every good game knows its limitations, and over the decades games have shown straightforward, creative or downright ingenious ways to contain the player. This may not seem very important to the overall gaming experience, but consider the alternatives. Either the game has no barriers whatsoever or the game has 'invisible walls' scattered arbitrarily throughout the land. The former sees the player-character floating helplessly out into the multiverse, whilst the latter creates the embarrassing image of the protagonist trotting in place with their nose squish firmly against nothingness.

Today I would like to talk/witter on about the various ways that the player's experiences are contained. In Part 1, I intend to focus on the ways that more linear or directed games contain the player in effective ways; in Part 2, I will turn the attention to more open world containment. In both parts, I will be discussing the effective and inspired ways that games control the boundaries of play. When you've finished reading, I've no doubt that you will be able to recall examples of games that use one/more of these methods. Maybe you will think of other methods that I have neglected to mention.

The truth is that linear or directed games don't need to offer reasons for why the character can't wander off the path – you can't climb jump over that fence because [insert reason here] – and that's fine. It's enough to know a game has properly defined the boundaries. However, I am quite impressed whenever a game designer gives a little bit of thought or artistic flair for the intended 'container' that You the Player are in.

Method #1 – Complete Containment

A player can't wander off if there isn't anywhere to wander off to. The easiest way to do this is by having an indoor game location. Whether the game wishes to direct you along a set path or allow you to explore within a distinct area, you can't go wrong with several lengths of brick wall with doors and windows painted on them. The risk here is that gamers might consider this form of level design to be a cop-out. The player may also get bored of 'walking down corridors', or irritated by backtracking through rooms. But if done right, a player can be funnelled around the entire game without ever questioning why they didn't go outside.

A game that truly hammers home the need for a linear, indoor world is Portal. This is a game that not only ran with the idea of repetitive, near-identical rooms and corridors, but made its indoor environment an integral part of the game. The player shouldn't even consider exploration beyond the white, tiled walls because the facility is buried underground. There's no need for any extraneous corridors or optional exploration because that would waste time during the "tests". Even when Chell [spoiler warning?] escapes GLaDOS' tests, and the player is barrelling down 'random' tunnels and stairwells, the player is still following a strict path [end spoiler?]. We don't mind being contained in this way because the game has justified the game location. Whilst praising Portal nowadays is as unnecessary as stating just how good sliced bread is, I feel that this is a game that proved that linear game worlds can work effectively.

Horror games (and horror movies for that matter) have also formed a long-term bond with indoor locations. The act of restricting a horror story to a closed space works on many levels. Setting the scariness within a close environment generates a sense of being trapped or it can induce claustrophobia. Steering the player down specific corridors allows for set pieces designed to disrupt bowel control. And what's a horror game without a smattering of creaky doors?

There are lots of excellent examples of horror games confined to interiors. Rather than lean on the usual names (I referenced Dead Space and Resident Evil just last week) I will dredge up a more obscure reference: a little game called Koudelka. I have a soft-spot for this decidedly average horror RPG, partly because it freaked me out as a child and partly because it's set in Aberystwyth, which is where I went to university. The game is set within the confines of a wonderfully creepy monastery, and you navigate through church towers, courtyards and tombs. As the game progresses, you open new routes, but the environment is kept within the monastery walls. You are trapped inside with all the Poltergeist-ridden furniture and monsters made entirely from limbs. The whole setting is as sinister and odd as the combat mechanics – Final Fantasy-style combat combined with movement over a giant chess board – and the game uses its creepy container to full effect.

Both these games define their walls rigidly, and don't even let the player see past them. At no point does either game suffer from boxing the player in. What happens though, when a game designed to steer the player along paths takes the player outside? How does a game make you feel like you are outside without really giving you freedom?

Method #2 – Convenient Detritus

If you were asked to describe what a 'city' looks like (I don't know why) you would refer to two main ingredients: buildings and roads. The walls of buildings can be used to define the limits of a game path, but roads are designed to transport people in and out of a city. And we can't have that, can we?

If the urban area in question is post-apocalyptic, or currently experiencing its own personal apocalypse, this can make the game designers work easier. In survival games such as Left for Dead and Last of Us, a well-placed, upturned bus or jack-knifed lorry can give the impression that the road continues on, but prevents the player from wandering off. Both games also use roadblocks and quarantine fencing to good effect. In addition, you can't go inside most of the rooms because the doors and windows have been nailed shut. In the Crysis games, subway trains and skyscrapers are pushed over just to prevent you from being nosey. Next time you're playing a game set within an urban perimeter, have a look round to see what debris and detritus has been used to fill the places you can travel down.

More inventive barriers are needed for towns and cities that are not afflicted by artillery strikes or waylaid by Zombies. People can make nice barriers. Usually people are soft and squishy, but in virtual realities crowds can be quite sturdy, and used as barriers. They can be used to stand in front of pretend exits or fill a seemingly large area that you can only pass through. A few weeks ago I was arguing that the game world from Remember Me would make for an interesting school trip. As I was writing I remembered (Ha, that is funny because the game is called Remember Me!) a moment where I turned a corner to see a flight of stone steps blocked by a small nest of people listening to a preacher. Nilin could walk down a few steps before the backs of the seated audience would stop her. It was a quaint moment, an interesting aside and a good excuse for a game wall; I actually found myself standing with the crowd listening to the preacher for a few seconds before remembering (Ha!) where I was.

This method of creating barriers has also been used successfully when building temporary barriers between sections of a game. Objects can be moved out of the way. Or indeed, exploded out of the way. Detritus may have moved later in the game due to your actions. Pokemon is a big fan of using rocks and trees to block progress early in the game. Eventually you will be allowed to slice your way through those trees or headbutt those rocks. But not the trees or rocks that border the edge of the game world; that way madness lies.

Method #3 – Illusion of Openness

Then we come to those games that boycott the urban environments, skipping freely into the open air. Well… skipping passed the open air at least. Games which direct the gamer through open-world settings have to do a great deal more to disguise their linear undergarments. You might think you are skipping through a thin, restricted path in an otherwise open world, but don't be silly. Look! A pretty flower!

Demon's Souls and Dark Souls pull out all the stops to give the player a sense of freedom and exploration. There are lots of branching paths and connecting areas, but these games still run on fairly narrow paths. It's never actually a problem because of the variety of ways in which the world is presented: treacherous cliff paths; rickety wooden scaffolding; crumbling castle walls; church roofs; dank sewers; narrow caverns. Furthermore, walking on a slim path in Demon's/Dark Souls is as close to blessed relief as you can get whilst playing; if the corridor opens up into a larger area you're probably about to meet a boss. Who minds walking on the little path when the alternative is being reduced to Pâté by a hammer the size of a small car?

Consider how many linear games have paths with sheer drops on one side or pass through canyons. The more rural areas/maps in the Halo series do this a lot. Usually Halo has fairly wide and open areas to pass through, sometimes with more than one path, but now and then the game world thins. This might at first sound like a criticism, but consider the impact these narrowed sections have on gameplay. Firstly, they break up the gunplay, which is usually a good thing for the player. Secondly, when the world opens up again, the contrast makes the wider combat areas seem even more expansive. Plus, if the area is set against a cliff side or raised in the air, there's always a chance that your opponents will fall/jump/get knocked off, which will never ever ever ever get old.

Final Thoughts

In any game where you have to follow a specific path, there is a real risk that the player will become overly aware of "the path" and the barriers that contain them. With the combination of striking scenery, crafty level design and (of course) quality gameplay, the player will forget that they are tightly contained within "the path". In the end, it's such a small part of any game, but it's an aspect that has often been handing proficiently.

Next week I'll move on from directed games and celebrate the ways more open worlds or free-roam environments manage to keep the player contained without detracting from the fun. Even the largest, expansive worlds have to find a limit. Before then, I'm hoping that you can think of other great ways that games keep linear worlds feeling filled-out, and contain the player without annoying them. Leave a comment below.

I could go on to make fun or criticise games that get it wrong, but that's not really me. Returning readers will hopefully know by now that, apart from the occasional cynical jab or a throw-away negative quip, I'm not one to attack games with any real venom. However, if you do have some amusing bad examples, find a particular game 'containment' irritating or disagree with anything I've said above, you should definitely comment too.

Thank You For Reading

You can contact the author @RedHeadPeak, via Wordpress or on Facebook.
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I love Quick Time Events. There, I said it. Don’t worry; I’m aware that bad QTEs exist. After all, gamers often state categorically that they “love video games” knowing full well that bad games exist. Similarly, I’m fond of Quick Time Events despite the fact that many examples are quite awful. Quite a lot of them actually…

Let’s face reality: QTEs aren’t going anywhere, whether you like them or not. We could, as a gaming community, continue to scowl angrily each time an unwelcome prompt appears on screen. Or we can embrace this game-play quirk. Rather than dismissing all QTEs, perhaps we could classify what makes a ‘Good QTE’, and ask for more of that ilk?

Today I’d like to pin down exactly what I think makes a decent QTE. I’ve got some examples that hopefully prove the point. By the end you may agree or disagree with a part of what I’ve said. You may still wish to drop QTEs into the ocean. Either way, I hope I can convince you that not all Quick Time Events are bad.

[Minor Spoilers scattered throughout]

1) A Good Quick Time Event should fit the game

Cutscenes can usually be relied on for a brief respite. Short videos between levels are a game creators way of saying “hey, you’ve killed enough things/got past the thing/played for long enough, have a break”. So whether the footage is cinematic or in-game, a cutscene allows the player to relax.

But what if the game doesn’t want you to relax? What if the game has set itself out to be a thriller or horror game? Giving the player safe moments within the game doesn’t make as much sense. Enter quick time events, stage left. Knowing that, at any moment during each cutscene, a button prompt may appear keeps the player on their toes (or at least leant forward on the coach). If the intention of the game is to retain tension at all times, periodic QTEs can really help to achieve that.

The Dead Space games are gradually shedding the horror vide within each game in favour of action, but each game still retains a chunky layer of tension. In-game cinematics are rife within each game, and the addition of quick time events keep the player paying close attention to what’s happening on screen. A prime example is a scene in Dead Space 2 where Isaac Clarke comes face to face with ‘The Tormentor’, a larger-than-your-average Necromorph, for the second time.

[Source: ThisIsYamishira]

The short cinematic involves button-mashing yourself into a vent to escape the angry bullets of an angry gunship. Once ‘safely’ at the bottom of the ventilation shaft Isaac is confronted with the even angrier Necromorph. The cutscene then throws chaser and chased down a collapsing corridor, during which the player must aim and fire Isaac’s gun at set moments to remove the Tormentor’s arms as they snatch at him.

The scene is exciting enough as a visual event. Without QTEs the player could watch the chase unfold and enjoy the moment. With the addition of QTEs the player is still in the action, and must concentrate on what is taking place. You are part of the cutscene, and the footage is more exciting because of it.

Resident Evil 4 is another horror game that uses QTEs to make sure that the player hasn’t dared place the controller down as the cutscenes pushes the story forwards. One of my personal favourites is the ‘Knife Fight’.

[Source: 9LivesRemaining]

With Quick Time Events removed, this elaborate knife duel between Leon and Krauser would still be fairly exciting. Watching the two combatants attempt to stab the other would make for good viewing. With Quick Time Events included, the player must focus on every moment of the fight in order to avoid a being sliced. You are ordered to be engrossed in the scene, and the moment is more memorable because of it. In both RE4 and DS2, Quick Time Events give the cinematic moments of each game more weight, and prevent player from relaxing in what should be a suspenseful event.

Both of these game series also employ QTEs during actual gameplay. If the player should allow their opponents to get too close, the undead opposition will do what comes naturally – grabbing the hero with the intention of finding out if human neck tastes like chicken. In that moment the player must resort to button bashing in order to protect their Adam’s apple. I really like this feature of gameplay. Whilst some players might find these moments annoying, I feel that the need to rapid-press a button in this instant mirrors the characters inner monologue: getitoffgetitoffgetitoffgetitoffgetitoffgetitoffgetitoff…

Even the recent Tomb Raider instalment understands that QTEs can help to keep the pressure on the player. Sure, Tomb Raiders Quick Time Events are quite awful, but in a game where survival-against-the-odds is paramount, quick reactions to narrowly avoid death should arise now and then. If done well, those QTEs should have kept the player aware that danger is around every corner.

However, Tomb Raider made (at least) two mistakes with its QTEs (in my opinion). Firstly, they were everywhere. Each and every cinematic moment seemed full of Events; the failure of just one would restart the whole cutscene from the beginning. Secondly…

2) A Good Quick Time Event should be slightly challenging.

There is no chance to train yourself for Quick Time Events. They (should) appear sparingly within gameplay, and once they have appeared, you react once and they are gone. Whatever the nature of the QTEs within a game are, they should be easy to read and respond to. If anyone ever tells you that they managed to escape the first cave in Tomb Raider without being crushed by a rock, then they are lying or fluky. Rather than sticking with the traditional button prompt clearly appearing on the screen, instead we see a slowly shrinking at the centre of which appears a tiny clue as to what button is required. It’s not the QTE prompt you were expecting, hard to follow and difficult to time correctly. The game developers clearly knew that many people would fail these Events; painstaking effort was put into making sure each death scene was as brutal and elaborate as possible. The events are more spectacular than what happens if you survive.

Another QTE which have it difficulty set to ‘Ridiculous’ is the dog attack in the Modern Warfare games. When man’s best friend decides to be unfriendly and go for the throat, the player needs to react fast. So fast in fact, that your best chance of survival is to have pressed the button before you knew the button need to be pressed. Otherwise you’re dog food. This is especially galling when you consider that the average Modern Warfare protagonist is capable of absorbing a wave of bullets and healing at superhuman rates. Dogs are the real danger in modern wars?

This is one of the reasons why The Walking Dead manages to provide an excellent gaming experience whilst Quick Time Events make up the bulk of gameplay. Whether you are choosing a pithy line of dialogue or choose to hack a limb off, the QTEs in this game are patient with you. Furthermore, the game makes it abundantly clear just how much ample time you have to make your choice. In my view, the reactions and decisions you make within the game have more substance because they gave you the time to reply. You were put on the spot, but you still made the conscious decisions to let that person die or remove that arm…

The God of War series does QTEs properly (most of the time). Part of the reason that these Events don’t leave the majority of gamers frothing at the mouth is that they are obvious. When Kratos’ enemies are suitably pummelled senseless, a large button will appear above their heads. The player has a comfortable amount of time to steer the white-and-red rage monkey into position to deliver two or three murderous button prompts. It’s simple, effective and accompanied by a spectacularly brutal death scene for the unwilling participant. What is more, many of these QTEs don’t have to be completed. If you’d rather avoid button bashing, or you miss your chance, most enemies can be taken down with a more conventional beat-down. It creates a little bit more work for Kratos, but it’s not going to cost you that much. Which brings me to the next point…

3) A Good Quick Time Event doesn’t have to kill you.

When you don’t quite press the button or spin the analogue stick properly, Kratos is not immediately flattened. He loses some health as the enemy slaps him away, but he is able to fight on or repeat the QTE. Failing the sequence of button presses results in minor injury and the smallest loss of progress.

When most people present examples of bad Quick Time Events, they refer to those which kill you outright if you fail to button press in time. The majority of QTEs are synonymous with instant death, but they don’t have to be. Some QTEs can make harmless, pain-free additions to the game.

Consider the modest QTE that occurs in the Gears of War games, when reloading your weapon. If you want to reload your gun faster, you must tap a button at the right moment. If you fail, your only punishment is that your character fumbling with their rifle like they’ve never seen one before. Should you ignore the prompt, your character takes a little longer to reload. A harmless, miniscule QTE that doesn’t end with body parts sent to the four corners of the screen.

Another shooter that proves QTEs can be friendly is Bulletstorm. I quite like this game, if only for its silliness. Whilst most First Person Shooters agreed that they should be grey, gritty and authentic, Bulletstorm wasn’t paying attention. Presumably it was trying to see how many grenade pins it could pull out at the same time with its teeth. This game also presents us with one of the most innocent and healthy QTEs ever.

During cinematic moments in the game, ‘Critical Events’ will occur and you will be asked to turn and look at the action around you. Instead of prying control of the camera from your fingers, the game throws up a buttom prompt. Look over there, the game squeaks, there’s a cool thing with guns and explosions!  Should you press the corresponding button; the game will award you additional points. If you choose to ignore the QTE… well then you didn’t get to see the ‘Critical Event’ with all the cool stuff. You’ll live.

Final Thoughts

Probably the most important aspect of Quick Time Events is that they should be there when they are needed. If there is a singular element of gameplay or extraordinary moment in a cutscene that could not be performed using conventional actions, then a button press or button bash session can bridge the gap. Whilst I praise Bulletstorm for its use of a small, harmless QTE, its reliance on a Quick Time Events at the very start  of the game and for the final boss encounter was a little poor. It’s nowhere near as heinous as the falling QTE showcase that is the finale of Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine however. I appreciate Quick Time Events, but less is more.

Many gamers have already decided that all Quick Time Events are bad. It has been argued that QTEs ‘destroy’ games, inhibit development of new gameplay styles, or generally make the gaming world a lesser place. I would agree that many QTEs are awful examples of bad gameplay, but I also strongly believe that when implemented effectively, purposefully and sparingly, QTEs can be used to great effect.  You might disagree – I’m fairly certain many people will – but rather than demanding that Quick Time Events disappear entirely, maybe we should be asking for a higher standard.

Whether you agree/disagree partially/entirely with what I’ve written here, I’d love to read your thoughts.

Thank You For Reading

Contact the author @RedHeadPeak, WordPress and Facebook
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Two weeks ago, I argued the case for an educational visit to Rapture. Last week, I set my sites on Neo-Paris. The third video game location I have in mind would probably make for the best school trip ever.

Practically every subject is potentially covered in this game location. Not only that, but this location is absolutely spectacular; if I could choose to visit any game location, for educational reasons or not, this would be my ideal destination. As with the two previous school trip proposals, this discussion implies that any excursion should be organised before the events of the game in question; it’s just safer that way.

A School Trip to the Citadel (Mass Effect)

Even the best school trips need to be advertised to the students. During an assembly, lesson time or via a letter sent home to parents, young learners may need to be convinced to join your expedition. However, I’m almost entirely certain that when advertising for the Citadel trip, you’ll have every spot filled after the first sentence: “So, this year we’re going into space…”

In the unlikely event that students are somehow unimpressed by the notion of galactic travel, images of the Citadel itself would sway them. The site of the humongous space station (roughly 8kms by 44km!) inhabited by representatives of the major species in the galaxy, should rocket the socks from their feet. This ancient-yet-futuristic structure is also a cultural, political and social hub of the Milky Way. Of course, there is no conceivable way that your students would be able to visit the whole Citadel during their stay; whether your group visits the central ‘ring’, or one of the five attached ‘fins’, would depend on the subject of your visit.

As with Rapture and Paris (I can’t keep calling it Neo-Paris…) this spot in the Mass Effect games is ideal for a school trip even if you don’t have a particular subject in mind. Each part of the Citadel is ordained with a plethora of parks, recreational areas, entertainment facilities, shops and restaurants to keep everyone amused. There’s the daily possibility of bumping into a political or media celebrity, and the views alone are constantly inspiring. Whilst parents might worry about sending their children into space, you can assure them that there is nowhere safer in the galaxy. If any threat approaches the Citadel, the five arms of the space station will close together, safely securing the civilians inside.

The only disappointment that your students may encounter will occur when they try to ask anyone anything about the Citadel – where it comes from, how it works – because no one will be able to tell them anything. Only one species still knows the ins-and-outs, and they are keeping quiet.

Is Neo-Paris relevant to your subject?

Art: The Citadel is beautiful. Whether it’s the architecture of the Space Station or the sculptures decorating the hallways or the variety of decadent clothing styles, finding artistic inspiration is all too easy.

Business Studies: Big businesses on the biggest Space Station in the Milky Way. The chance to witness commerce on a galactic level will also look great on a young person’s C.V.

Citizenship: The major civilizations all colliding and colluding with each other within this star-bound megacity. Students will appreciate just how the laws and ideologies from across the solar systems can operate alongside one another.

Design and Technology:  We might not be able to understand how the whole thing works, but students will marvel at the layout and construction of this almighty monument to an ancient civilization. Just be careful around those Duct Rats!

History: Alongside all the spoken language, there is a planet-load of reading available on the Citadel. Whatever you want to know about any civilization, past or present, the information is stored and preserved in the Space Station. Why study the History of just one species?

Language and Literature: Every species on the Citadel seems to be speaking an Earth language. In fact, what’s apparently happening is the Omni-Tool affixed to the arm of each inhabitant is instantly translating everything. Presumably, it’s also making it appear like the speaker’s mouth parts are moving in time with the words they aren’t really speaking. Convenient plot points aside, a trip to the Citadel will open the minds of all Language and Literature students. Whilst the alien’s words are being translated, the grammar and syntax is often very different. For example, students understanding of how language works will benefit from a long conversation with the Hanar. This one enjoys seeing English being used in odd ways. If the students want to study Alien Languages, they can just turn the Omni-Tool off. Risks include accidentally insulting a Krogan.

Law: Students can visit the Citadel Council and discover how Laws and ideas are created and enforced across the civilized galaxy.

Maths: Currency Conversion and Foreign Exchange Rates are complicated enough on Earth. Let’s see how businesses, banks and whole nations trade on a larger scale.

Media: News Reporters work hard on the Citadel, interviewing politicians and celebrities with the help of a nifty hover camera. Students could accompany these journalists, watching them at work, learning the tricks of the trade, occasionally dodging an unexpected punch from an interviewee…

Science: The whole place exists because of science. It’s built within a Science Fiction world. There are hundreds of Science laboratories dotted around the station. Biology students will find fascination in the study of other species, Chemistry student minds will boggle at how different life forms are able to live, eat and breath in the same environment and Physics students will marvel at how though species actually got there. It’s all there because of science.

Final Thoughts

The Citadel is the number one game location on my list of places to visit. The educational value is a major part of that desire. The space station is an inexplicable, awe-inspiring place that the three Mass Effect games have only partially revealed, and I want to see more. If students can come with me, that’s a big bonus.

If you have your own ideas on what would make a great school trip to video game world, please give your suggestions. If you could organise/embark on a school trip to a video game location, where would you go?  Many readers have already left compelling ideas of their own in the last two weeks and you should definitely give those a read:

School Trips to Game Worlds: Where would you go?

School Trips to Game Worlds: Who fancies a Sci-Fi Croissant?

As Always, Thank You For Reading.

Contact the author @RedHeadPeak, WordPress and Facebook
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After finishing my first playthrough of Assassin's Creed 2, I was left with a singular thought etched into my mindset. It was not the idea of being an assassin – what it would be like to run across roof troops and leap from inexplicable heights into bails of straw. No, I was left with a strong desire to visit Venice. Whilst playing through the latter stages of the game, I found myself wondering whether the city really is a gorgeous as the game suggests, and just how much Venice has changed since the 16th Century.

Last week, I gave my proposal for a school trip to the fictional city of Rapture. The submerged scenery of the Bioshock games may be aesthetically pleasing, but the true worth of the city is in its educational possibilities. When the city was in its prime, Rapture would have opened the eyes and minds of any student able to visit.

If you could organise/embark on a school trip to a video game location, where would you go?

This week, my school trip suggestion is similar to the Venice of Assassin's Creed 2; a real city set in another era. The major difference is that this city I have in mind is set in an imagined future rather than the historic past. This location would prove compelling for teachers and students alike. In fact, the futuristic qualities affixed to this true world location add an extra layer of cultural and educational benefit. It must be remembered, as with the previous proposal, that the school visit should take place before the events of the relevant game. As the credits roll, this game location is a little less "student friendly".

A School Trip to Neo-Paris (Remember Me)

Remember Me is an odd game. I tend to imagine the game developers sat around a whiteboard, calling out ideas for their new game. One by one, each participant suggests a brilliant idea, which is added to a list on the board. However, when the time came to decide on one idea, the group faltered. Maybe they didn't want to hurt each other's feelings; maybe they were indecisive; maybe they had spent too long discussing just what shape Nilin's bottom should be and ran out of time. In my opinion, the greatest fault of Remember Me is that there are too many good ideas crammed into one game.

One of those good ideas is the location. Neo-Paris is a fabulous city worthy of a great deal more exploration than the game allowed for. During the extremely linear climbing and clambering sections of the game I often found myself hanging motionless from drainpipes and windowsills. I would press the right analogue stick this way and that to gain a better view of what part of Paris that might be around the corner. At points when faceless guards were attempting to rearrange Nilin's facial features, I found myself staring off into the distance. Do you mind, I'm trying to enjoy this wonderful view of the Basilica...

When trying to argue why students should visit Neo-Paris, I feel as though I could begin and end with one sentence – we should go there because it's Paris­ – and then do whatever the blogging equivalent of "dropping the mic" actually is. Paris as a place in reality already holds an educational trove. Whether you wish to study Geography, History or Religion, Paris has your needs covered. A choice of museums, exhibitions and institutes have the Arts and Sciences locked down. And that's just the old Paris.

Take the amazing landmarks and locations of present day Paris, and add science fiction veneer. Elegant and elaborate skyscrapers compliment the Eiffel Tower. The Porte Saint-Denis sits amongst cables, circuits and neon lighting, giving it a real Blade Runner feel. St Michel retains is stylishness despite the addition of computer screens and automated services. Whilst Neo-Paris has had a troubled development, a short trip to the futuristic French city would make a fascinating blend of culture and education. Old and new blended together; old and new expression harmonising.

There are some areas of Neo-Paris to avoid. I wouldn't recommend steering into the city slums for more than an hour or so. There are also a few street corners where humanoid androids will offer 'additional services', if you get my drift. But what city doesn't have its rough edges?

The only bad thing I don't like about Neo-Paris is the name. I realise that the Paris before Remember Me was briefly abandoned before big companies and corporations invested in its rebuild. Yet I find it hard to believe that the people in charge decided that what the name 'Paris' needed was the prefix 'Neo' stapled to the front of it. Because they are in the future now, so there.

Is Neo-Paris relevant to your subject?

Art: Classical artwork and architecture melded with the crisp and concise designs of the future. A gorgeous accumulation of art through the ages is available for all art students.

Business Studies: Neo-Paris is a city that was renewed and reinvigorated because of the influence of big business. Students would also learn a great deal from all the various forms of digital advertising. Just don't let them try to climb on the rotating billboards...

Citizenship: Neo-Paris has a difficult past. The French government leaves the city to its own devices in the mid-21st century. By the end of the same century, Paris gets back on its feet. Your students will be able to learn from the locals and government officials just how a city can heal should political and social divides... and appreciate the rifts that still exist.

Design and Technology: it's Paris dude. That is too say, the architecture of the city, both classical and contemporary, is exemplary.

History: Museums, exhibitions and monuments all filled with centuries of information waiting for young eyes and minds. And Neo-Paris has an extra century to study compared to present day Paris, so there's that.

Science: Memorize is a company at the very forefront of memory manipulation. The top scientists there have an acute understanding of the human mind, and the company is able to offer customers new memories, altered recollections or the complete removal of recognition. Find me one young scientist who wouldn't want to learn from these intellectual masters.

Final Thoughts

A visit to Neo-Paris would depend greatly on the social and political climate at the time of your booking. Threats from Errorists and the increasing demands of 'global climate refugees' might make you think twice about organising a school trip to 21st century, but you mustn't be perturbed. Whilst Remember Me fails to truly embrace the location it occupies, I am convinced that Neo-Paris would make an excellent site for learning. Maybe you disagree? Feel free to weigh in. Perhaps you have your own ideas on gaming worlds that would be great for educational trips. The suggestions so far have been brilliant. I'm especially excited about the archaeological trip to the Forbidden Land of Shadow of the Colossus.

Thank You For Reading.

Contact the author @RedHeadPeak, Wordpress and Facebook.
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Two weeks ago I was on a school trip in Berlin. Each time I go on this trip (this was the fifth time) a student looks up at the Reichstag building, turns to me and demands to know if that was the building 'they' assaulted at the end of Call of Duty: World at War. Every trip, without fail, and it always makes me chuckle.

Returning to my blog after a two week hiatus, I find myself mulling over an odd question (which formed somewhere between leaving the amazing city of Berlin and challenging my students to Mario Kart on the coach ride home) that I wish pose to anyone who has ever been a student or teacher:

If you could organise/embark on a school trip to a video game location, where would you go?

There are numerous lists peppered across the internet describing the video game worlds we'd most like to live in or the worlds that would be awful locations to visit. But what about the educational value of such places? Are there video game lands that – if we could visit – would make inspiring, educational experiences for young people. Whilst most gaming worlds would be interesting to visit, some would be way too dangerous. We might argue that the world of Fallout 3 would prove insightful for any student studying nuclear physics, but I wouldn't want to fill out the risk assessment...

I have a few examples in mind, but for now I present just one for your consideration. The first thing you'll notice is that suspension of disbelief is required. Not only is the location in the past, but an alternate past at that. To make matters worse, the site is in a poor state of affairs before the original game even begins. The point however is to consider how incredible a video game world could be if we could visit it in all its glory.

A School Trip to Rapture (Bioshock)

Rapture only really had few good years. The construction of the underwater city began in 1946 and was fully completed in 1951. By 1958, a devastating Civil War and increasing addiction to the superpower-inducing 'Plasmids' sends Rapture into the chaos which the protagonist of Bioshock 1 is subjected to. In those few good years though, Rapture would have been an amazing place to take students.

When History students at my school hear that the Berlin trip will include a 15 hour coach ride, they tend to groan and grumble. You would have no trouble convincing students to journey to Rapture; few would miss the opportunity to take the submersible down to the ocean floor, to behold the sea life swirling about the staggeringly beautiful architecture.

If you were simply taking students to see Rapture, as a reward for hard work or as a fun weekend away, you would not fail to find enjoyment. An entire entertainment centre can be found at Fort Frolic; a large Farmer's Market, a museum, department stores and numerous lookout spots will keep students occupied at all times; the luxury apartments offer excellent accommodation. You can also rest assured knowing your students are safe: not only is the entire complex literally water-tight, but the Sentry Bots will keep a close eye on anyone wandering off.

But what if you're planning a trip to Rapture for a particular subject? Whatever the course, your students would greatly benefit for a stay in this extraordinary place. The very nature of Rapture allows the study of almost anything to be greatly enhanced,

"In Rapture, Science, Industry and Art would thrive undisturbed by intervention from governments, religious institutions or other social agencies." (Bioshock Wiki)

For a short while at least, Rapture was a place where invention, creativity, study and self expression were paramount. It's in this environment that the minds of your students will greatly develop.

Is Rapture relevant to your subject?

Biology: a trip to Rapture combines the study of genetics and gene-splicing with the ideal environment to observe marine animals close up.

Business Studies: What better way to expand the minds of budding business men and women than by visiting stores and shops that thrive despite being trapped at the bottom of the ocean.

Citizenship: Students can witness the development of a brand new society, with new laws, rules and ideas. Then they can witness how all of that failed horribly.

Design and Technology: The benefits of learning how a city can be built and sustained underwater should be apparent. The transport system should also get the young minds racing.

Drama: There is an excellent theatre in Rapture. The performers are a tad eccentric, but they put on a good show.

History: If the chance to view a slice of 1940s/50s lifestyle isn't enough for you, discussions on ideologies – democracy, communism, fascism, objectivism – would be thoroughly enriching to any young historian.

Physical Education: Students will have their eyes opened to the real limits of the human body in an environment where Plasmids are commonplace. Just don't let them get too close to those needles.

Religious Education: Okay... so religion isn't really allowed in Rapture. Yet students may gain some important insight by observing a society devoid of religious involvement.

Final Thoughts

It's good to be writing again. I lead the Berlin trip two weeks ago, and last week involved a lot of work on my new house. That's partly why this post is a little shorter – and a little more random – than usual. Next week is probably going to be just as busy, so I will probably add a part 2 to this post to keep things simple. I have two other locations I would love to take students to. I'm hoping you have a few ideas yourself. Maybe you can think of some other benefits of visiting Rapture? Or maybe I've overlooked a potential risk of visiting this game location? I'm pretty sure it's risk free.

Thank You For Reading.
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A student once asked me if Richard the Lionheart was ginger (we'd just finished a lesson on the Crusades). I stated that, yes, records show that King Richard I had red hair. The student gleefully announced that he had seen Richard in the city of Arsuf when playing Assassin's Creed. Once again, a video game has provided a visual queue for a student's studies.

Our hobbies and our professions are usually kept far apart. This is usually deliberate; a hobby allows you to take your mind off the work waiting for you. In other instances the career and the pastime are so different that they rarely cross paths. I usually put aside my enjoyment of video games when teaching… but every so often the two benefit each other.

All the way back in March, I highlighted five reasons why being a teacher who games could work in your favour. In that post, I focused on how allowing yourself to be a Gamer-Teacher can benefit you in the classroom. In this follow up article, I'd like to suggest how your 'gamer side' can further improve the individual student's education and well-being.

If you would like to read the first post first and the second post second, click here.

6) Students can concentrate.

Using game references and imagery in lessons can seriously improve the attention of students who struggle to focus. Students diagnosed with ADD, ADHD or any other similar condition can find it extremely difficult to focus on the task in hand. These students are unfairly labelled as 'the naughty kids' by people outside the education system, which is far from the truth. Whilst it's completely plausible that a student with ADHD could also be badly behaved, the fact is most of the students you will come across with this or similar Disorders are often students who enjoy learning, and want to learn, but find concentration difficult.

For the last three years I've used the occasional video game reference in my lessons. Small comparisons, representations or jokey asides that hook the interest of my classes. For the gamers, it's exciting. For the non-gamers, it's amusing. And for the students with difficulties concentrating, it's a really valuable addition. Those little moments give the distracted something to focus on.

With serious cases of ADHD, forcing a student to work sensibly for an entire hour is asking a lot. Some teachers will allow for a few minutes of distraction. The student might be allowed to complete a puzzle or doodle for a few minutes before returning to work. A policy at my school permits some students to go for a stroll around the school with the teaching assistant, returning to work refreshed and focused. For a gamer-teacher, getting a student with ADHD on track can take less than two minutes.

I've acknowledged in the past that I am by no means an expert on gaming or on education. Despite this, even I have found that after just one short conversation about video games, unfocused students have their moment of diversion, and can return to work refreshed. Each time I see a student with ADHD becoming restless, I approach them asking what they are playing these days. They tell me; they ask what I'm playing; we chat for a bit. I then ask "so where were we?" referring to the work. The student, focus returned, continues with the task. They are happy to have been recognised as a gamer, and they were provided with a two minute distraction that sets them back to work.

7) Students can talk to you.

In every school community, there are varying levels of confidence. Some students are in their element when answering questions and discussing points in big groups. Others take a back seat, more than happy for others to take the limelight in the classroom. Whatever the case, all students can go through difficult times. Nary a day goes by when at least one student finds themselves facing an emotional, personal challenge. The hope is that, when those moments arise, the students have people to talk to inside and outside of school. As teachers and an adults, we try to be one of those people.

In the last post I stated that being a Gamer-Teacher gives you a level of coolness and credibility. This can benefit you within the classroom. I'd now like to address a more sensible benefit: letting students know you are a gamer-teacher allows them to quickly realise that you are an adult they can relate too. By making students aware that you are human, you also let them know that you are a person that they can confide in. That teacher likes video games too. I can talk to them.

You may not even realise that you are helping. Nevertheless, one day a worried face may appear around your door, looking for a teacher that they know will want to listen to their problem. I'm not trying to argue that being a gamer is the only way to relate to students on their level. Some people prefer their TV dramas. Others prefer sport. The point is that when you let the students realise you're not just the stuffy old person making them do homework, they will be more inclined to open up when something is troubling them.

8) Students want to read.

Some students don't want to read books. That goes for a lot of adults too. It certainly makes sense; movies and games are instantly gratifying, and books take more concentration. If the act of reading is difficult for you, the choice between going to the cinema and picking up a book is an easy one to make.

If given full control, video games can take over a child's free time. In moderation however, video games can benefit a child's learning. Promoting the desire to read is just one of the benefits. Firstly, games themselves have fantastic stories, and inspire creativity. More importantly, the number of novels and short stories orbiting around a game franchise is ever increasing. Even comics and manga based on video games make a contribution to literacy.

Video games themselves are also advocates for improving reading comprehension. Not only do so many games require a certain reading level – the Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds decided to add a recommended reading age to the back cover – but the tutorials, text prompts and messages all get children reading. Of course, those same students should also be reading from more traditional sources as well, but it's reassuring to remember that a student who enjoys video games is still required to do some reading.

9) Students can be rewarded

If a student gets House Points, it means they have done well in school. If a student gets enough House Points, they will most likely get a certificate, maybe a book token or cinema voucher. There's also a healthy competition to be had between individual students and between the 'houses'. By the end of the year, the highest achieving, best behaved students deserve an extra award. In the last week of this school year, a small group of students at my school are being given a half-day "picnic in the park". In the morning, before the picnic, those students will be able to enjoy a range of quizzes, games, challenges and video games.

Can you guess which of those incentives has had the biggest impact on students wanting to prove how well behaved they are? That's right, the video games. As the school year winds down, behaviour can become an issue. The promise of Mario Kart within school grounds, while everyone else studies, has gone a long way to combat behavioural issues in the final weeks. Some might call that bribery... but it's Mario Kart.

Further Thought

As with the previous post, I must stress that use of video games in school is something that should happen sparingly. If those references are made effectively, they can have a really positive impact on the classroom and on the individual student. Maybe you agree? Maybe you have some suggestions of your own? Or maybe you feel that gaming and teaching should remain apart? Either way, I'd love to hear your view.

Furthermore, if you have a link to another post that discusses gaming in education, please share that link in the comments box. Greater writers than myself have already carried out amazing research regarding this topic, many of which focus on the connections between literacy and gaming.

Thank you for reading.

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