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Posts Tagged ‘clash of clans

Last month I discovered that I had been playing a mobile game, Clash of Clans (CoC), for ten years. I realised this only when a game update flashed this in its opening sequence.

Clash of Clans is 10-years-old!

While I played the game as designed initially (raiding and pillaging other clans), I have spent more time farming (tending to my resource generators and making repairs after being raided).

This led to my reflection on game-based learning (GBL). Teachers who try to leverage on educational or off-the-shelf games often take advantage only of gamification — the points, achievement levels, journey progress, etc. — because they align to circular and assessment standards.

GBL is more than that. It is also about creating a love for playing games and tapping on intrinsic motivations. The design of a game is critical. If CoC was designed only for raiding, I would not be able to farm. But I have been able to do this because it is a large part of the game (if no one farms, there is nothing to raid). I find farming to be soothing and I play the game to relax, not to get a hit of dopamine. That is my motivation and it comes from within.

But persisting with any game (even when the rewards are not obvious) should be important an outcome of game play and of GBL. This is a routinely ignored aspect of GBL design that puts learners off. They “play” not to play, explore, or satisfy curiosity, they do so because points are at stake. Such an extrinsic focus (get the marks!) is detrimental on the long run. It takes the fun out of play. It removes the intrinsic motivation.

I used to be able to run a few game-based learning workshops every year. Now I do about one a year as part of a course I designed. Sadly, changes to the structure of the programme that the course is part of might mean I might facilitate GBL just once every two years. Despite that change, I continue to play video games and use GBL principles in other courses. Why? I am intrinsically motivated to do so.

I wager that just a week into the new year, lots of people have given up on their resolutions.

It is easy to say something, but not do it. Far better to have purposeful resolve than to make empty resolutions. I reflected on this near the end of 2017.

Here is another example of resolve.

Clash of Clans' village with six different types of Christmas trees.

If you have played Clash of Clans (CoC), you would recognise the screenshot above. You might also discover that there are six different Christmas trees in the image.

The CoC village is from my son’s account. He gave up playing the game a long time ago, but I maintain it by farming for resources.

I also collect the different Christmas trees that appear in the game every year by not tapping on them and clearing them. They are like time-travel trees because each is a reminder of a year gone by.

It takes resolve to keep playing the game this way, but this is not as difficult as it sounds. It takes just moments each day to farm the village and repeating this behaviour became a habit.

Playing CoC this way seems like a quirky form of resolve, but it is an example of a strategy that scales up to more ambitious activities or ventures. For example, I did not make a resolution to reflect in my blog every day, but I have done so for the last several years.

Practice may or may not make perfect, but it can breed resolve.

Today I reflect on an accidental lesson from a child about building an e-portfolio.

This is a screenshot of part of my son’s village in Clash of Clans. It features the four different types of Christmas trees from four different years.

Screenshot of Clash of Clans showing four different types of Christmas trees collected over four years.

We have been playing the game since 2012 (when the game was first released). That is probably an eternity to play any mobile video game.

When I say we, I mean still mostly me. In game-speak, I am in farming mode and maintain both our villages because he has moved on to other games. However, he is very protective of the Christmas trees in his village.

These special trees only appear over each Christmas period and are obstacles that can be cleared at some cost but for greater benefit. The cleared area also provides more space for your village. But my son has been insistent that I do not clear his Christmas trees.

For most players, the trees (and other objects like rocks, bushes, and other things that sprout) are obstacles and eye-sores that bear hidden rewards. For my son, the Christmas trees are rewards in themselves.

The artefacts that we include in our portfolios can serve the same purposes. We can put them there because we expect them to provide dividends later (e.g., to impress during a job interview) or we can take pride simply in the process and product of the work.

The four different kinds of trees are evidence that he is a veteran of the game. They could be viewed as collectables or as badges of honour for persistence, patience, and planning.

The artefacts in a portfolio can be souvenirs of an on-going journey and they can be evidence of change and growth.

Not clearing the trees takes some willpower and discipline. A few of my son’s friends say he bought those Christmas trees even though there is no way to do this in the game.

Maintaining a portfolio takes planning and consistent effort. Others may challenge you, but if you have the artefacts and good stories, you have evidence on your side.

Clash of Clans does not require you to play the long game. There are many abandoned villages that other players will loot. It is just as easy to let go of an e-portfolio. But if you want the portfolio to be a platform for lifelong and lifewide learning, you need to learn to play the long game.

Several months ago, I shared how I had started playing the mobile game, Clash of Clans, with my son. Shortly after, I reflected on the life lessons the game offered.

Today, I offer something that folks in some quarters will label how to be cyber-well. I think that it is more about digital citizenship.

One of the things you can do in Clash of Clans is build a clan castle, invite other players to join your clan, and donate or receive warriors from your clan mates to defend your village or to attack another one.

My son and I are the only members in our clan because I told him that there are lots of crazy people out there. The global chat tool and the Clash of Clans Facebook page is testament to that. The makers of the game even had to create a tool to report abusive players.

But I did not shield my son from other players.

We agreed on our own policies of allowing people into our clan (Tan Clan). First, prospective clan mates had to prove that they were worthy strategists by accumulating a minimum number of victories. Then we described our clan as being a family-friendly one. These technical and social filters kept lots of crazies away.

Recently, however, we had one seemingly sincere person join and abruptly leave our clan. I share a screencapture of the brief interlude (click on the image to view larger version). The comments are in reverse chronological order.


We accepted King Black Do into our clan after he made the claim that he too played the game with his son. He met the minimum technical requirements.

In the chat log, you will notice that I made a troop request to my son and my son reminded our new clan mate that he could do the same. Then we went to bed.

From the timestamps, I am guessing that our new clan mate lives in the US. He asked us a question, did not wait for an answer, cursed us a minute later, and left the clan.

Good riddance to bad rubbish, right?

It was a good lesson actually. It is one thing for me to warn my son of online crazies. It is another for him to experience it first hand.

We talked about the experience, whether one should behave like King Black Do, whether his intentions were true (his digital trail tells me he is a clan jumper), and how we might react.

This was a far more powerful lesson than any school briefing or online lesson on cyberwellness. We lived it, discussed it, negotiated it. This was a lesson about being a responsible person, in game or not.

Newer, more progressive forms of instruction are about showing our learners and being models of practice. It is not about shielding them from authentic contexts. The sooner we realize this and do something about it, the sooner we become better educators.

A few weeks ago I shared how I started playing Clash of Clans with my son on our iPads. I reflected on some learning opportunities then. I have a few more now that I have played the game thoroughly.

One thing I do not really like about the game is that a much stronger village of warriors can attack mine and decimate it. But this is an opportunity to analyze my defensive strategies. I have reconfigured my village several times as a result.

As my son and I shared the same experiences, this gave me an opportunity to discuss the term “underdog“. I asked him if he knew what it meant. Initially he just pictured a smaller dog under a larger dog!

Then we talked about how we were able to successfully defend against strong attacks by being smarter. My son may not have the life experience of being an underdog, but he can now relate to what it feels like to be one (perspective-taking) and how to overcome problems (strategic thinking).

Speaking of strategic thinking, the game now provides instant video replays of how someone successfully or unsuccessfully attacked my village. I can also visit someone else’s village to see how they lay things out. These process artefacts provide insights into an opponent’s strategies and give me the opportunity to reflect critically.

When someone attacks me, I can take revenge by tapping on a button. Like all other games, we learn from failed attempts to defend or attack. The failures do not demoralize and instead motivate us to do better. The element of competition and even the need to get even drive us forward.

I can also form a clan with other players. My son and I formed an exclusive clan and we provide warriors for each other so that our armies are stronger in attack or defence. We have to anticipate what the attacking or defensive needs are, build our own capacity, and request what we need from each other. Sounds like 21st century work to me!

Whether we defend or attack, we have to analyze a stronghold for weaknesses. This is an opportunity to do gap analysis. We then attempt to fill that gap or exploit it.

I could wait for life to deliver its lessons to my son, but I am not waiting. I play mobile video games with him and together we visit life lessons in a fun and non-threatening way.

Thanks to @NikoChenzh, I learnt about the iOS game Clash of Clans. Now my son and I are hooked on it.

What is the game like?

You have to maintain a village of warriors by starting from scratch. You clear the land, build infrastructure, train troops, go on raids, harvest resources, defend your land, etc. You know, stuff that could happen in life but in a more engaging way. It is not easy, but it is heaps of fun simply because it is difficult.

Like most games of this ilk, there is just-in-time instruction at the beginning, progressively difficult but motivating tasks, and opportunities to compete and collaborate. It has all the ingredients of what makes games good and all the hallmarks of good game-based learning.

Anybody can play the game. Anybody can teach it too. This is a kid offering some advice on YouTube about the game.

Video source

Did he have to share? No.

Did he want to share? I am quite certain he did and mostly on his own. If those tips do not suffice, there is this forum and a wiki.

Those resources are not perfect, but that is perfectly fine because they are part of the process of learning, not just the end product. Both will only get better with time.

This sort of self-directed and loose collaborative learning are the main reasons why I believe in off-the-shelf video game-based learning.


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