There’s more to the water in plain sight

Name: Water Cycle

Developer: The Yard Games Org

Platform: Browser

Brief Description

The game is based on the earth’s water cycle and a landscape which is divided into six zones. Water dots can be moved between the different zones. To move dots, the player has a set of cards to chose from such as: evaporation, soil absorption, runoff. As the game progresses, the player learns how water changes state and moves around our planet. The aim is for the player to have more of their red water dots in a zone at the end of the round.

Learning Objectives

What do I need to know prior?

The player does not need to have any prior knowledge in physics, chemistry or environmental science. However, the player should be familiar with basic environmental knowledge such as rain, clouds, rivers and the ocean.

What can I learn?

The player will understand the earth’s water cycle; how water is never lost but continues to change state. The game teaches the concept of a dynamic cycle, where everything within the system is conserved and does not escape. The player will be able to learn the different methods in which water changes state such as evaporation, condensation, precipitation, soil absorption etc. The player will also be able to learn more about the order in which the different processes take place. The player will see how water moves and continues to cycle within our ecosystem, from rivers, to the soil, clouds, oceans and rains.

How can these skills transfer outside the game?

The game does not offer direct transfer of skills, but instead a better understanding of how one might understand a process, have incremental steps along the way and be willing to adapt based on external circumstances. In the game, the player may wish to move water into the ocean, but is not able to move water from the clouds into the ocean directly, it must be transferred into the river or atmosphere before it can be moved into the ocean.

Thus, when working on a project with an end goal in mind, intermediary steps and checkpoints are necessary to have along the way in order to achieve the final product. There may be external factors that force a change in direction and so the player should be able to adapt. This can be used in different domains, such as creating a detailed essay plan before actually writing the final essay. A midway check might cause a change in of the essay’s arguments prior to the final piece. The player will have better practice of the concept of intermediary checks and alterations, in order to successfully reach the final deliverable.

Viewing Water Cycle through the MDA Framework

In the center the player is able to view the six zones and select their card to play

Mechanics

The game offers both the mode to play single or multiplayer. In single mode, the player will play against the computer. The player will be the red team and the computer the blue.

The players are shown a landscape which is divided into six different zones (clouds, atmosphere, river, earth, ocean and surface). Each zone contains dots of water, either red or blue. In each round, a zone will be highlighted, where the player must try to move as many of their red dots into that zone, or attempt to move blue dots out of the zone. Each round contains three turns for each player before the highlighted zone changes. After each round, the colored dots are counted and points are given.

In order to make a move, the player has a set of action cards which are they are able to choose from. The action cards include the processes in which water changes state such as precipitation, condensation, evaporation etc. Once the player makes a selection of the action card and which color dot, they will then see how their red dots moved zone. The player is also able to see the action cards available to the blue team at any given time.

Therefore, the player must view their red dots in the different zones and decide which action card to play in order to to try and move more water dots into the highlighted zone.

Dynamics

One of the key dynamics is anticipating which action card the opponent might use and keeping that in mind when making their own card selection. The highlighted zone remains for three turns, so for instance if the highlighted zone is the ocean, the player must review their dots in the other zones and their action cards to see how best to convert the water, such as from the clouds to the river to the ocean. The player will need to think up to three moves ahead as water from one zone will not easily convert into another zone, but will need to go through another state first.

If the player see’s that their opponent has moved one of their water drops in the previous turn, they might need to reassess the card they had intended to play and possibly use another water process card to play an attack and move their opponents water drop instead. The player must be willing to keep alert and decide whether it is more worth to move their opponents drops away instead of focusing on their own in the last round of the target zone.

The player can see that the opponent moved some of your water, and may need to decide whether to attack their water drops

Aesthetics

The game offers discovery, for the player to understand what each of the six zones are and how to accordingly use their cards to move their water drops. The player is also discovering the different types of water transfer processes and examples as they play cards and receive new cards. As the player keeps playing they keep discovering how water moves, transfers and is stored throughout the different zones as represented on earth.

The game also offers the player a challenge of trying to get as many red water dots into the highlighted zone based on the action cards that they have. The player will also need to understand that their opponent may try and reverse some of their actions or moved their red dots in unfavourable ways.

Which learning principles are employed?

Feedback

The game offers feedback to the player, where they are able to see their water drops move into another zone based on the card selection they made. The player would have had an intention for the where they wanted a water drop to move, such as from the ocean to the atmosphere, and then could then see whether they chose the correct change of state name to have the water drop move correctly or see water drops move differently than expected. The player also receives feedback on what the opposing team played and gets to see the changes in water drops in the landscape.

Guided Attention

When a player hovers over a card, they are able to see an arrow on the screen to indicate in which direction the water would move. This is here to help players visualize how water moves as they begin to learn the names of the state of changes such as precipitation or condensation, and become familiar with the process. After several rounds, the arrows disappear and the player must be able to better predict into what state the water is going to change when a card is selected and played.

Anchored Learning & Activating Preconceptions

Here the player is learning about the water cycle and the changes in state of water through real examples of what happens on earth. Each card of a changing state contains examples — precipitation has rain, sleet, hail or snow. Soil absorption has the example of a sinking puddle. When learning the theory of precipitation, the player is able to recall rain or snow which they are already familiar with. Moreover, the card also provides the explanation of how a sinking a puddle works i.e. “water left alone on soft earth will sink deep into the ground if it doesn’t evaporate quickly enough.” The player is thus able to learn the new concepts based on real instances and active those they are familiar with.

This is one of the cards the player can select

How do the EDGE framework components support each other?

The different components work together to create a an engaging experience to learn about the water cycle on earth, and how water is constantly changing state to create the dynamic ecosystem that we live in today. The player is able to learn where water is stored on earth and how water continues to move between these different zones. The player learns the processes by which water changes state, and is able to use this information to move water drops into the targeted zone. As the game continues the player grows familiar with the different zones on earth such as the ocean, atmosphere and clouds and is able to make better card selections. The player’s learning is supported by the received feedback for how the water actually moved based on their selected card, and is also able to learn the processes through concrete examples and activated preconceptions. The player keeps engaged through the challenge of playing against an opponent where each person is trying to have more of their color water drops in the designated zone while trying to earn more points in each round.

What’s missing?

Although the game provides an example for each process and a short definition, these do not change. Each evaporation card remains the same and can become monotonous after a few rounds. The player will no longer read the description on the card, but rather just play the card. It would be more engaging for the cards to have more variety and include more facts or examples to help the player continue to learn over the numerous rounds.

In addition, when a card is selected to move water from one zone to the other, the player see’s which drops are highlighted and watches them move. However, further animation or sound could be used to emphasize the difference between precipitation versus evaporation, such as rain being shown and gases rising up from the ocean.

Conclusion

Overall, WaterCycle is a pleasing game for an individual looking to learn more about the earth’s water cycle and how water changes state. The player is able to learn about the different about the different processes and has to apply the theory to correctly move water drops into the targeted zone. The player will begin to grow familiar with the order in which water must change state and be able to think up to three steps ahead when making their card selection. The player is thus able to walk away with better knowledge of the water cycle and a greater awareness of all visible and invisible water surrounding us today.

UX Designer