CALL and related education and research and social concepts such as sustainability, hype cycles, integration and praxis provide context in order to answer the question “What really matters to you (and the field) for (researching) teaching and learning with games?” Ultimately, I hope that these concepts will help you see your teaching and research in some new light. I will share my 20-year journey of researching and using games and play in language teaching. I’ll use those CALL concepts to frame my mistakes and milestones. I hope that by sharing what I have done and learned that you can find successes and avoid failures in your own teaching and research journeys. I’ll share promising areas and questions for research, and I’ll be specific about how we can collaborate on these. Academia is a game. I sincerely hope that this talk gives you some more tools to play it your way, and well.
Chocolate covered broccoli? Broccoli covered chocolate? Just chocolate? Just broccoli? Just covers? It all depends on how you roll your character, how you play, what ending the game gives you, what rank you’re playing for, and whether you choose to keep playing or to quit.
Title: Shipment 51 Year of
Systems: Current generation backwards and future compatible live action and online platforms
Designer: Jonathan deHaan
Developer: University of Shizuoka, Japan
Publisher: Ludic Language Pedagogy Journal
Themes: This game deals with some heavy themes: sustainability, hype cycles, integration, praxis, mediation, empty babble, normalization, transformation, literacy and impact. The designer is pretty blunt about them at times. These themes all make repeated appearances in the main narrative and minute-to-minute gameplay. The tutorial does a decent enough job of introducing and letting the player get comfortable with them. By the end of the game, most players will be pretty proficient with most of them. Some players will even experience a kind of “Tetris effect” and see these concepts in the real world after they shut off the game.
Story: It’s the typical gamer story hero’s journey we’ve all played before set in some kind of allegory of promised lands, dystopias and time travel. It won’t spoil your experience of the game if we reveal that the game’s characters begin in a sterile laboratory, then get lost in social complexities before finally discovering and thriving in a carefully tended garden. There are some neat twists and harrowing turns along the way that make the story worth paying attention to.
Genre: An odd mixture of walking simulator, survival game, travelogue, visual novel, interactive fiction, serious game, edutainment, sandbox RPG, and augmented and alternative reality games (AAARGs). Players interact with different stages of the game in different ways. The game connects its story and its world with the player and their world in a sort of “Neverending Story-like” homage. The player will be asked to make choices and these choices will make each playthrough unique for each person.
Sound and graphics: Adequate.
Replay value: This game plays you as much as you play it. It’s worth coming back to after putting it down for a while. Watching other people play the game on YouTube or Twitch is nearly as good as playing it yourself.
Accessibility: The designer and publisher are very direct about their responsibility and respect for diversity and inclusivity. There are many in-game messages of the team’s desire and offers to support players through their online community.
Our opinion: 🤷🏽♀️ 🤷🏽♂️ 🤷🏽♀️ 🤷🏽♂️ 👾 -- 4 out of 5 shrugs. We got out what we put in. We are still thinking about it (unlike most games that cross our desk these days), so we guess that’s saying something. “SHIPMENT 51” is a pretty good game to pick up if you’ve got nothing left in your pile of shame.