I just got back yesterday from a two-week business trip so I apologize for posting this journal entry so late in the cycle. I anticipated having some down time at the hotel in the evenings but that quickly evaporated into late dinners and meetings…bleh! All this was due to a fairly recent company merger. Anyway, although play is usually the desire of my heart, it hasn’t been on my mind much. So as I was sitting in the San Jose airport this afternoon with a couple hours to kill, I decided to scroll through the ol’ Google Play Store and see what app I could jump into. And wouldn’t you know, right there advertised on the main page is Family Farm Seaside.
This game caught my attention not because I’m interested in it but rather the opposite – I’m not interested in it. Yet I see this game advertised ALL THE TIME. And every time I do see an ad for it I ask myself, “Why?......Is this supposed to be fun?” So, this time around I decided to turn my disdain into curiosity and decided to download the app.
Family Farm Seaside is exactly that – a family farm…by the seaside. The player has a landscape view of a farm with various activities: grow flowers, harvest fruit trees, milk the cow, make cheese, collect honey, make jam – all within a specified area which area looks to have the potential to grow. There are also some unfinished tasks (such as building a dock or opening a fruit stand) that are available after unlocking later levels. Completing tasks accrues coins or other rewards which are then used to acquire more land or farm resources.
I naturally wanted to approach this game from a learning perspective and pay particular attention 1) how did the app teach me, a first-timer, how to play and 2) How can this game be used as a learning tool?
Once the game loaded, I was immediately plunged into a pre-set farm with tasks already laid out for me. An instructional finger appears to orient me on how to complete tasks – which I do to move on to the next thing. I became immediately frustrated because that is not how I want to learn a game. I want an overview and an objective BEFORE I dive into specific actions. So far, I cannot seem to find a goal or objective at all. There is a path for progress but to what end? Is the point to just build a farm, make money, and keep growing the farm? The only thing I know is the process for growing the farm.
The main thing that has been on mind going into this game is the recent reading by Bavelier and the focus on “learning to learn”. Many times, in my career, I have seen employees learn a task only to be thrown off completely by a new variable. Without a clear objective to Family Farm, I fail to see how intuitive learning can take place.
Then…I handed my phone to my five-year-old. He immediately took over and didn’t ask a single question. He simply started pushing buttons and figuring things out on his level. He wasn’t worried about an objective, he simply played. Perhaps there needs to be less focus on crossing the finish line and more emphasis on the race.