In my previous post I discussed how LittleBigPlanet encourages game design literacy, and I promised to showcase a few original level designers and their work. I'll deliver on that promise - hey, sorting through nearly 4 million levels takes time, folks! - but before I do I want to highlight some other creative ways people are using LBP's tools: namely to teach kids.
LittleBigPlanet 2 introduces major design tool upgrades: more flexible switches and emitters; enhanced lighting and logic tools; movers and microchips, among other additions and improvements. Only two months after its release, the impact of LBP2's overhauled toolset - at once more powerful and more accessible - can easily be seen in the flood of new user-generated levels.
As you might expect, the chaff far outweighs the wheat, but it's not difficult to discover good and occasionally exceptional work via the new Community Portal, LBP.me, which may be the most important LBP2 upgrade of all. You can add levels to your queue from the website, then load up the game and play them right away.
Below I've highlighted several projects designed to teach kids axioms, postulates, and theorems; elementary physics; logic; binary numbers; and the properties of stem cells. These projects, and many others, were part of last year's Digital Media and Learning Conference, which I was privileged to attend. You can find out more about the DML Conference here.
No one believes that "LBP Pedagogy" invalidates other useful teaching methods, but I do believe these projects offer exciting, interactive activities to help kids learn. Some of these students will inevitably be sparked to create original levels of their own, and I've already tried to explain why that's a very good thing.
A Day in the Life of a Computer
Aimed primarily at 11-18 year olds, A Day in the Life of a Computer teaches key Computer Science concepts such as binary code, logic and programming, in a fun and easy to understand way. Last week its designers released this update on their progress, which highlights both CS concepts and LBP2's logic tools for level design.
Players are immersed in the high-octane world of an amusement park. While interacting with a variety of thrill rides, in-game lessons teach players the critical principles of physics and engineering that are at work in each ride, as well as offering simple lessons on how the ride was created. Players can then use what they have learned to design and build their own fully rendered and animated amusement park rides.
Sackboys and the Mysterious Proof
Players must escape from the Proof family's century-old mansion by solving a series of puzzles using deductive reasoning. With puzzle mechanics driven by geometric theorems, students will convert geometric concepts from the classroom into active knowledge through collaborative play that emulates the steps of a mathematical proof.
Note: The image at the top of the post is an early design sketch for Sackboys and the Mysterious Proof.
Stem Cell Sack Boy (Beta)
This level takes Sackboy to the cellular level. Using "SackCell Technology," players shrink to microscopic sizes to take part in the growing field of stem cell research and therapy. Players learn about the processes of cell growth and reproduction while exploring the importance of stem cell research and the ethical issues that surround it.
Addendum: My Twitter pal Danielle Riendeau contacted me to say she's currently teaching a game design fundamentals course using LittleBigPlanet as the primary tool. She writes about it on her blog LittleBigClass, and I highly recommend you check it out.