(4 points) A brief description of the game. You may include images or even video clips to help give readers a better idea of the game.
external image u_sIyCNtBQHRTWfgwQwakXUfMyKCIK0ZB00hf7yMddFdmyLwMd9kbNleYX19mPU29jJEt3UsOJBfhQSGkTYSflkFVbHj8Z5WfCyX3qITruVHJaO1T-0tpBak1vO1WUzPfw external image agenthiggsplay.png

__Agent Higgs__ is a flash- and tablet-based puzzle game. The game involves moving tiles around such that one particular location is covered by the end. There are various obstacles that limit the types of movement available, and the various tiles can interact with each other to change how they move. The levels can be solved in a variety of ways, but there is a “best” solution that involves the fewest number of tile moves. All of these attributes are fairly characteristic of this type of puzzle game, though I thought they were executed very well here.

In this game, however, the tiles all represent various subatomic particles described by the Standard Model of physics. The various properties of the different particles (represented by the tiles) determine how they interact with each other and with obstacles. Thus, by playing this game, one learns (at least in general terms) the properties of the various particles too!

(5 points) The kinds of learning involved (i.e. What specifically did you learn from playing the game?). Think about the game tasks, objectives, terminology, etc. What skills did you need to learn to be successful at the game? Note that many 'educational' games don't actually teach new content area skills, but rather allow students to practice skills they've already learned elsewhere.
The game certainly developed the same spatial, manipulative skills that this sort of puzzle game is known for. The game works on these at least as much as the content that it also teaches. So players learn how to manipulate the various pieces of the game, as well as strategies for planning ahead to see where different moves will take them. But the game has the added, unique experience of teaching about the properties of different elementary particles. For example, neutrinos pass through almost everything, and they also pass through crate tiles that stop other particles. Electrons are charged, and so cannot move towards each other, or cannot move apart from oppositely charged particles. Each time a neutrino moves, one can see a little “Z” particle emitted. When an antimatter particle hits a particle of the same type (electron and anti-electron, for example) they annihilate in an explosion, destroying each other and nearby tiles. Throughout the game there is also “flavor-text” that gives background about the nature of particle accelerators, the structure of matter, etc.

(5 points) The kinds of teaching involved (i.e. How did the game teach you?). Think about the kinds of feedback, rewards, guidance, and information the game gave you, and how it paced and structured your learning. Which Principles of Learning did the game utilize?

The game had that hallmark of good puzzle games, where the instructions are given as one completes levels of increasing complexity. The first level has text describing exactly how to manipulate the game, and getting a “perfect” round is basically guaranteed. As the levels progress, various new mechanisms for moving tiles are introduced. In between, the player is given increasingly complex applications of particular skills, where s/he must hone and practice them to greater depth than the level where the skills is introduced. After each level is completed, a player is told how well they did this time, based on how few moves it took to solve the puzzle. The player also is told what the fewest moves required to solve the puzzle is (the “perfect” set of moves). Usually I tried each level at least a few times to see how close to this I could get.

The game teaches about the various properties of particles (as well as names, how they interact with each other, etc.) because all of the moving mechanisms and rules are tied to these properties. As mentioned above, each of the “puzzle” limitations are based on some aspect of the particles. Thus, a player has to work with the electron’s repulsion from other similar charges, attraction to opposite charges, and annihilation with anti-electrons, in order to solve each level. There isn’t a direct list of all the properties of the particles, but this is an engaging way to learn and use these properties, when typically this is fairly dry information presented in a list.

I found that very many learning principles were represented in this game, including:
3) Semiotic Principle
Learning about and coming to appreciate interrelations within and across multiple sign systems (images, words, actions, symbols, artifacts, etc.) as a complex system is core to the learning experience
4) Semiotic Domains Principle
Learning involves mastering, at some level, semiotic domains, and being able to participate, at some level, in the affinity group or groups connected to them.
6) "Psychosocial Moratorium" Principle
Learners can take risks in a space where real-world consequences are lowered
7) Committed Learning Principle
Learners participate in an extended engagement (lots of effort and practice) as an extension of their real-world identities in relation to a virtual identity to which they feel some commitment and a virtual world that they find compelling
10) Amplification of Input Principle
For a little input, learners get a lot of output
11) Achievement Principle
For learners of all levels of skill there are intrinsic rewards from the beginning, customized to each learner's level, effort, and growing mastery and signaling the learner's ongoing achievements
12) Practice Principle
Learners get lots and lots of practice in a context where the practice is not boring (i.e. in a virtual world that is compelling to learners on their own terms and where the learners experience ongoing success). They spend lots of time on task.
13. Ongoing Learning Principle
The distinction between the learner and the master is vague, since learners, thanks to the operation of the "regime of competency" principle listed next, must, at higher and higher levels, undo their routinized mastery to adapt to new or changed conditions. There are cycles of new learning, automatization, undoing automatization, and new re-organized automatization
14) "Regime of Competence" Principle
The learner gets ample opportunity to operate within, but at the outer edge of, his or her resources, so that at those points things are felt as challenging but not "Undoable"
16) Multiple Routes Principle
There are multiple ways to make progress or move ahead. This allows learners to make choices, rely on their own strengths and styles of learning and problem-solving, while also exploring alternative styles
17) Situated Meaning Principle * this game especially makes a dry list of particles and properties interesting and engaging, as well as useful.
The meanings of signs (words, actions, objects, artifacts, symbols, texts, etc.) are situated in embodied experience. Meanings are not general or decontextualized. Whatever generality meanings come to have is discovered bottom up cia embodied experience.
20) Multimodal Principle
Meaning and knowledge ate built up through various modalities (images, texts, symbols, interactions, abstract design, sound, etc.), not just words
21) "Material Intelligence" Principle
Thinking, problem-solving and knowledge are "stored" in material objects and the environment. This frees learners to engage their minds with other things while combining the results of their own thinking with the knowledge stored in material objects and the environment to achieve yet more powerful effects
22) Intuitive Knowledge Principle
Intuitive or tacit knowledge built up in repeated practice and experience, often in association with an affinity group, counts a good deal and is honored. Not just verbal and conscious knowledge is rewarded
23) Subset Principle
Learning even at its start takes place in a (simplified) subset of the real domain
24) Incremental Principle
Learning situations are ordered in the early stages so that earlier cases lead to generalizations that are fruitful for later cases. When learners face more complex cases later, the learning space (the number and type of guess the learner can make) is constrained by the sorts of fruitful patterns or generalizations the learned has founded earlier
27) Explicit Information On-Demand and Just-in-Time Principle
The learner is given explicit information both on-demand and just-in-time, when the learner needs it or just at the point where the information can best be understood and used in practice
28) Discovery Principle
Overt telling is kept to a well-thought-out minimum, allowing ample opportunities for the learner to experiment and make discoveries
29) Transfer Principle
Learners are given ample opportunity to practice, and support for, transferring what they have learned earlier to later problems, including problems that require adapting and transforming that earlier learning

(6 points) Your overall reflections on playing the game. How might a teacher use the game in their curriculum?**
I definitely felt this was a brilliant way for students to “memorize the list” of particles and properties. I enjoy puzzle games quite a bit, and this is one of the better set of puzzles I’ve run across. But it was great review and demonstration of properties of subatomic particles as well.

Remembering all of these details can be dry, even to professional physicists. Enrico Fermi once said “If I could remember the names of all these particles, I'd be a botanist.” Certainly this game addresses that head on. But it is more than just giving students an excuse to memorize these properties. Students/players actually need to use these properties to solve the puzzles, thus giving them applications as well as names to the various characteristics, and seeing the effect these properties have.

I would definitely use this game as an introduction to the listing of particles and properties of the standard model. In fact, I plan on doing just that next year. I think that students would be well equipped to learn and understand the details of the standard model quite well of they have played through even a short portion of this game, and if they’ve played through the entire thing (perhaps with a bit of guidance for what to look for as various points?) they may not need any more instruction or practice at all.