Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 13: What is Bothering Carl?

I found a link to the trial version of What is Bothering Carl? on the PAX 10 list of finalists. It's an interactive e-book for kids aged 3-6. The demo took me about 10 minutes or so to get through. Obviously, I'm not the intended market for this (I'm not 3-6 nor do I have kids... yet).

Digital distribution of story-book content is, of course, a great idea. Integrating this into either a parents' or childrens' social educational/learning network would be a fantastic next step. It makes me think back to book clubs when I was a kid -- imagine being able to get badges and update your online presence with creatures from the books you read? Being able to talk to other friends about stories and maybe do some interactive story telling online with others (think fan fic).

Although I enjoyed the book's content, I found it to be lacking in three major areas:
  • The book was frontloaded with boring billboard tutorial instructions. The book is simple enough to navigate that there's really no need to front load instructions. Moreover, it seems to me that kids enjoy reading the same book (or watching the same movie) over and over again, so even if a key feature is missed the first time through, it's not the end of the world because it can be discovered at a later date.
  • The book is interactive, but does not include actual game play. I'm not an expert on children's cognitive development, but it seems like this would be a great opportunity to teach some basic game mechanics and incorporate learning through game play. Here's a chance for kids to try things out and get feedback when they make mistakes and encouragement when they succeed. Game play content could be layered on in several ways, including having variants for different age ranges so that if you were reading to 2-3 kids of different ages they could jump in and try and play the relevant games at the relevant places. Alternatively, the same child could revisit the book later on and try and complete some of the more advanced games.
  • Along the same lines, it would be really cool to have had some sort of co-operative game play elements that both parent and child could enjoy. One can imagine some sort of "hide and seek" game (where the parent hides objects and gives out clues for the child to try and find it).
One other note: It was nice to break up all of the reading with a song/video. But this seemed like a missed opportunity for an interactive sequence. There are all kinds of rhythm minigames that could have been included to work on hand-eye/fine grained muscle coordination that would have kept the child actively engaged during the musical number.

I like where Story Fort is going with this, and I can't wait to see newer iterations. Ideally they'll incorporate more game play that keeps both parent and child(ren) actively engaged and while learning new concepts and improving muscle coordination skills.

NOTE: As an interesting aside, I'm up to game/post 8 of 13, which coincidentally is today's date (8/13). Professor Layton would be proud.

No comments: