What Panda Pop taught me about life

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With the gradual receptiveness and acceptance of gaming into the main education realm, more and more educators are turning to games to guide and nurture students. It’s rather ironic that what seems to be a fertile ground for distractions among people from all walks of life are now transforming into the playing fields of learning.

Nevertheless, there are some games that are educational, there are some that are entertaining, there are some that are insightful and there are some which people use to while away their time. I believe that educators are looking for games that are somewhat of a hybrid of the first three.

“Most people tend to look for games that are entertaining. If we were to look deeper at the aspects of game design for well-designed games, we will be able to see that the basic rules of life are already embedded in such games and this is probably why we are drawn to it in the first place (with the exception of, well, when we are bored with nothing to indulge in). This often happens at the subconscious level.”

Having said this, below are some rules/ insights of life which I have observed in Panda Pop:

1. Life is a journey of chance: There are a lot of surprises in life. We never know when we will chance upon a great childhood friend whom we have lost touch with. We will also never know when the next job opportunity will arrive. Even in the event that we do a job search and secure a job interview, not to sound too grim, but we might not get the job. The only control that we have is simply to seize any opportunity that we have, and that’s about it.

“This is also why, when we are playing Panda Pop, we get all excited because other than the current coloured ball that we have (besides knowing the colour of the next ball), we have no idea what comes next. And the colours of the last few balls are crucial to progressing to the next level.  It’s this feel of exhilaration that endears us to Panda Pop, because we look forward to such pleasant surprises as well. Much as most would like to attribute hard work to success (which is very, very true), luck has a huge part to play when determining the level of success one has.”

2. A choice between sheer, dogged tenaciousness and playing smart: In the game, one can progress through the games with assistance by using “special tools” offered by the game, or one can simply plough through the stages without using any form of help. There’s no right or wrong answers. It’s just your preference. I am a player who prefer the latter and without any assistance,  I have reached level 327 (If you are worry about reaching the end of the game, don’t worry, there are tons of level more!).

“This design aspect of the game relates closely to life, where one can work hard towards a certain goal, or one can work smart. How one turns out in life doesn’t depend on the routes one chooses but by one’s effort, and to a certain extent, luck (however, it’s true that we make our own luck).   Gamers understand this and they choose their own path in the game. It’s this open option that makes gaming experiences so enticing.”

3. Humans aspire to progressing and ascension: Most games with progressive stages will usually entice gamers more than the rest. This is because it reminds us of making progress in life as well. Making our way through the stages thereby becomes a form of achievements, especially among the gaming community. Some may argue that this is a form of escapism since it’s never that easy in real life. However, one cannot deny the fact that taking the easier route through game progressing will instil in gamers a sense of confidence that they will often need in real life. This is probably the reason why teens around the worlds are glued to games, and why gaming tournaments are all the rage among teens globally. Collaboration and competitiveness, when blended in the right proportions, are omnipotent to human development.

“Similarly, in Panda Pop, the fact that the stages are laid out progressively, and in intervals of tens for a change in backdrop, is endearing to gamers as they are able to see their progressions, and mark their achievements on Facebook, which brings us to the next point.”

4. All humans aspire to be recognised, and some are competitive: One of the reasons why Facebook is popular globally is because it provides a convenient and accessible online platform for us to post posts on our interests and what we want others to know. It’s a form of online image management.

“This is why it’s ingenious that game designers tagged their games to Facebook applications such that gamers are able to post their game progress for their friends to see. And at times, in games such as Panda Pop, gamers are able to compete with their peers through progression through the levels, while still collaborating by sending one another “lives” to continue playing.”

5. Some things are just worth waiting for: Gamers also understand that most of our lives are spent in boredom, such as waiting in queues during supermarket shopping, waiting for public transport (for those who take them), waiting for a parking space, waiting for any services rendered over a customer service counter..so gamers design something that engages you. In “Google Play” store, there’s even a category for gamers called “Games for Commuters”.

“Panda Pop works the same way, granting a life to the gamers every 30 minutes or so. Gamers are entitled to accumulating a total of five “lives” at any one time. Doing so has the benefit of enabling gamers to play continuously for quite a while, while still also enabling them to rest (thereby staying away from gaming addiction and fatigue), stay engaged to their daily work (which often needs doing!) while still keeping them attracted to the game. There’s something about interim rest that is crucial to sustaining continued gamer interests.This is crucial in game design in games such as Pando Pop since such games does not have any interesting storyline to engage the gamers.”

It’s interesting to note that what were mentioned above apply to other games such as “Candy Crush”, and other great games as well. However, I take better to Panda Pop since, well, I just love popping bubbles. 🙂

Patrick Tay is an English Language and Life Skills Training Specialist who is based in Singapore. He has been teaching communication studies and international issues in polytechnics and writes regularly on various issues of interest in education, media, business and global issues at patricktay.wordpress.com. He can be contacted at teachingwitheart@gmail.com

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