Mindlessness leads to …


different things for different people.

In taking a look at Lisa Cranston’s post for last Friday’s This Week in Ontario Edublogs, I asked her about her use of the word “mindless”. She had given me an interesting reply about how she used the term.

When I’m writing a blog post, that’s mindful screen time. Playing candy crush is mindless (for me).

Identifying the Candy Crush game was interesting for me. I recall installing it on my iPad a while back and just got frustrated with the amount of advertisements that kept popping up. Interestingly, my new computer came with a registered copy and so I went back at it.

Thinking about Lisa’s words, I guess I could see the “mindless” part at the introductory levels. It’s there that you learn about the game and the motions that make it work. Later levels take on a different twist where planning and strategy is crucial.

Any Computer Science teacher will tell you that there are also various levels of problems that you give class for a solution requiring coding. The simplest problems are also the least interesting and engaging. This involves writing payroll systems, time clocks, school marks management, etc. I can still hear the words “Borrrrrring”. And that was from me. I can only imagine what my students thought.

Where you really get engagement is by upping the ante. Security, encryption, and writing games gets the attention. It also makes the teacher earn her/his pay by giving problems that are capable of solution given the students’ abilities.

Back to the candies — at every level, if you put your computer science analytic mind to it, has various components.

  • score keeping
  • attributes for each candy element
  • powerups that add more functionality to candy elements
  • a bit of forgiveness that can be seen once you’ve tried and failed a particular level
  • and the list goes on and on

There’s also the notion that a programmer or team of programmers can create a worldly simulation with their abilities. In this case, the candies fall from the top and we just accept it because that’s how gravity works, right?

Only there’s no gravity here; just the programmed illusion of it. This brought me back to a young man who was in my class once and Tetris was the big popular game. He wanted to make it more difficult and so wrote Anti-Tetris. The difference in this case was that things fell up instead of down. It was the hardest thing I’d ever tried once he’d finished it. Don’t ever let people tell you that we aren’t wired to think certain ways.

I remember reading recently an article about the “number of candy crush-like games” on the market. I supposed that, in a perfect world, they’re all written from scratch just like those projects in my Grade 12 Computer Science course.

But, we live in a different world and serious programmers use Github for serious endeavours. Search for Candy Crush here and there are 85 pages of reference.

What caught my attention was Flutter Crush and its repositories.

The first link is to an article that explains how Match 3 games work and then leads you to developing one of your own. Folks, this is great reading. It’s not a simple top to bottom mindless read at all. Programmers will understand all the nuances that go into the production of a complicated piece of software. And, make no mistake, writing a game where you’re not only increasing in difficulty but taking the end user into consideration is anything but trivial. Even if you’re not a programmer, the article has easily understood logic that would give you a sense of what all goes into a product of this magnitude.

Reading this won’t make you the next great developer but it should give everyone a sense of what all goes into such a major endeavour. Maybe I’ve written enough code or helped students debug enough code over the years that I’m looking for those gaming elements.

So, Lisa qualifies her response with “for me” and that’s great. I would suspect that there are tens of thousands of people that see it that way.

But not everyone!

OTR Links 06/03/2019


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.