I recently downloaded the Zoombini game app on my iPad and have been learning to play throughout the week. The Zoombini game was popular in the 90s but a new version came out in 2015 to be used for modern operating systems. The purpose of the game is that the player, myself, serves as the guide for the Zoombinis, which are small blue creatures, and needs to help the Zoombinis reach safety. Through their journey, the guide has to solve puzzles in order to let the Zoombinis pass on to the next leg of their journey. One example of a puzzle that I had to solve was figuring out how to get the Zoombini’s around a few trolls. I had to figure out that there was a pattern, some trolls only allowed Zoombinis with long hair on their path, while other trolls only allowed short haired Zoombinis on their path.
When I first began learning the game, I noticed that there was an option to “practice” at each of the challenges throughout the Zoombini’s journey, without actually being in the game. This represents Gee’s idea of the cycle of expertise. The player is able to practice their skills so that when the game actually begins, these skills become more automatic and they become prepared for greater challenges. While it is nice that the Zoombini game allows players to practice the challenges before starting the game, it made me wonder if that takes away some of the fun. While the cycle of expertise is an important part of learning, I believe that the practice section is taking away from Gee’s other principle of manipulation and distributed knowledge. According to the principle of manipulation and distributed knowledge, the more manipulation or freedom a student has can create greater engagement and make the student feel like they have more autonomy. My only critique of being able to practice all of the challenges before the game is that it takes away from manipulation and freedom and can decrease engagement.
I am excited to continue my journey with the Zoombini game, I have only made it to the third stop of the journey and will report back once I make it through a few more!
Photo credit: Screenshot by myself while playing the game