The game I played for this critique is Code Monkey Jr. which is the first game in CodeMonkey’s series of gamified computer courses for k-8 kids. It is developed by CodeMonkey Studios and is available on browser as well as on iOS and android through an app. The game is available as a free demo for 14 days (No credit card needed). The high level instructional goal of this game is to improve and teach kids computer programming skills.
Here is a link to the game
The apparent learning objectives of this game are to improve your programming skills through puzzle solving and block programming. No prerequisite knowledge is required in terms of computer science as the game’s intended audience is novices.
As long as the kids know how to use a mouse and computer, the game should be playable and understandable.
Since its a beginner game in CodeMonkey’s series of gamified computer courses for children studying in K-8, the objectives seem appropriate.
In Code Monkey Jr. you solve puzzles through block programming. The player plays as the monkey and the objective is to collect bananas and unlock treasure chests. This is primarily done by dodging obstacles through the help of block programming and basic computer programming concepts such as sequencing and loops.
The game’s mechanics are very simple and involve just the mouse buttons for clicking buttons and dragging and dropping code blocks. The player must arrange the correct sequence of steps the monkey must take to collect all bananas and the treasure. Once the actions are arranged in the right order, you hit the play button and the game basically “runs your code”.
The aesthetics are colorful and bright and apt for kids. The game also uses animations and sound effects to improve student engagement. Apart from that other systems in the game include a scoring system (the treasure you collect) and also your progress through the material is tracked.
While playing the game, the first level was extremely long compared to the other 3. I may be biased as im older but after 5 levels in the sequences section, I was bored. Nonetheless, the puzzles did increase in order of complexity so that should help challenge the kids reapply the skills they just learnt in different ways.
A key learning principle relevant to the game is Guided Attention. On beginning the game, at the first level, there weren’t any explicit instructions given in the form of a caption or a pop up.
The game did however use visual cues to guide the player to drag the code block. This was achieved by animations that blinked and also used arrows to grab the attention of the player and guide them where to drop the block.
Another appropriate learning principle integrated in the game is Feedback. While playing each level, the game provides feedback on your movements with the help of animations and visual cues once again. For example, if you failed to solve the puzzle, the monkey character will look upset and also indicates that you need 1 additional block to complete the level. On the other hand if you succeed, there will be confetti animations.
In addition to Guided Attention and Feedback, Scaffolding is another learning principle relevant to the game. The game structures the content modularly and introduces more complex concepts as the game progresses. The content is segmented into sequences > advanced sequences > loops > advanced loops. This will sequence instruction toward higher goals in the subsequent games in the Code Monkey series.
I think Code Monkey Jr succeeds as a learning experience as well as a game. Although the game is not intended for an older audience, It incorporates simple mechanics as well as bright and playful aesthetics to appeal to a younger audience.
I think guided attention may not have been used properly. One thing that stood out to me in the game was the lack of textual information and presence of more visual cues. I assume this is due to the target population being young and also having a decreased attention span.
Since the game is meant to be a pre-reading coding exercise, there might be additional reading material which might expand on what the kids were doing in the game and how it will relate to computer science and programming.
Overall its great for novices and young kids and seems fun and interesting and not too complicated where the kids might lose interest in the game.