Saturday, 28 January 2017

Let's Play Roller Coaster Tycoon in Class!

Roller Coaster Tycoon is one of my favourite video games! This weekend, for my Genius Hour project, I decided to play it for the purpose of seeing how I could potentially implement it into my future classroom. For those of you who have never played the amazing Roller Coaster Tycoon game, it is a construction and management simulation video game. In the game, you act as a theme park manager, trying to complete a series of present scenarios by building a successfully maintaining an amusement park.

Why is this game so great? It can be implemented throughout grades 4-8, as there is enough complexity and difficulty that it can be enjoyed by older players who make use of more complex features. It also employs critical thinking and problem solving strategies. For optimal success in the game, one needs higher-order thinking skills.

While I was playing the game, I brainstormed some main concepts that students could learn:

  • Spatial management and design
  • Financial literacy
  • Marketing
  • Scientific principles of structural forms and forces
Thus, in order to be successful, students need to acquire:
  • Problem solving skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Financial literacy
  • Spatial management 
  • Self-efficacy
  • Digital literacy
  • Creativity
  • Decision making
Many of these skills are important 21st Century skills. 

One element of gamification that this game includes is feedback. The game provides feedback in numerous ways, including approval ratings of the park, statistics of how the player is doing, and receiving awards based on park performance. This immediate feedback is beneficial because it can increase engagement and motivation within the game. 

If I were to incorporate this game into the classroom, I would implement it in a Grade 7 Science or Mathematics class. For Grade 7 Science, it connects to the strand Understanding Structures and Mechanisms: Forms and Functions. It connects to the specific expectation 1.1 (evaluate the importance for individuals, society, the economy, and the environment of factors that should be considered in designing and building structures and devices to meet specific needs). A potential lesson could include exploring 5 different guests with the intentions of improving park experience. Students could describe the factors that might have influenced or affected the guests' state of mind and what needs to be met to help improve their park experience, and how they could meet those needs. The game could also connect to specific expectation 2.5 (investigate methods used by engineers to ensure structural safety). A potential lesson could be to explore structural safety methods and apply such findings to create a safe amusement park. For example, after exploring the various rides on Roller Coaster Tycoon, students can submit a written piece describing the methods used by engineers to ensure the structural safety of their chosen ride. In addition, they can assess if the Roller Coaster Tycoon ride has applied those methods to their virtual rides.

Connecting this game to Grade 7 Mathematics, it aligns well with the strand Data Management and Probability. The specific expectations that connect to the game include:
- Collect and organize categorical, discrete, or continuous primary data and secondary data and display the data in charts, tables, and graphs that have appropriate titles, labels, and scales that suit the range and distribution of the data, using a variety of tools
- Select an appropriate type of graph to represent a set of data, graph the data using technology, and justify the choice of graph
- Read, interpret, and draw conclusions from primary data and from secondary data presented in charts, tables, and graphs

A potential Mathematics lesson which incorporates this game could be asking students to create graphs and charts depicting their gameplay data from Roller Coaster Tycoon. Roller Coaster Tycoon provides various data regarding the player's gameplay. Once students have completed one of the parks (successful or not), they can collect the provided data, and create their own sets of graphs, tables, and charts to explain what they did well, what they could have done better, and how to improve their next park. As well, an extension could include the students playing a second round of the game using their interpretations of their data, and comparing the second round of data to the previous round, to see if they improved.

Ultimately, one of the greatest things about this game is its affordability. Therefore, it is an effective teaching tool that can be implemented into the classroom to increase student engagement and motivation in curriculum content at an affordable cost!

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