I love Portal, largely because of the characters and the amazing copywriting. If I was given the chance to have dinner with anyone in the world, screw meeting a celebrity – I’d sit down with the guys who made this game. Anyway, it has been brought to my attention that Valve (the creators) have designed an educational version of Portal 2 so kids in schools can have a hands-on experience with physics.
This video says a lot. The ‘educational’ version of this game is not a complete game in itself, but rather a level builder. Students build levels, observing what happens to their character in different situations as they play through, and teachers can then explain the reasoning why. It is to be used in conjunction with a teacher who can guide them, or feed them ideas. What came out of the video was something different, though; something I’ve probably been harping on about for a while. The teacher noted that aside from the fact that the kids were excited and fascinated by what they were doing – always a bonus – they were learning that what they were learning in class had meaning in the real world. People work in teams in the real world, and people have to learn the boring stuff to do the fun stuff. You want to do something ‘cool’ like game design because it will be easy? You need to learn a fair bit of math first, study how people interact with objects, how people move, how to develop character – even the simplest of platformer games need basic gravity and friction to work.