So you know that problem, where sometimes you’re introduced to a new concept that feels so abstract and memorization intensive that you just can’t see why anyone would ever want to learn it? The classic example is math. When math is introduced in the classroom, it is often in an abstract manner that we – the students – cannot associate with any personal experiences or emotions – and without that emotional and personal connection, we fail to get excited about the subject and thus begin to fall behind, which ends up being frustrating for you – the educator.
Tablecraft thinks that the Periodic Table is typically introduced with every bit as much dry abstraction as Algebra 2. It’s an example of the kind of thing that, if we felt comfortable and familiar with it, if it was something fun and exciting, then later on when we started to use those elements and learn about their properties in a classroom environment, chemistry as a whole would be a more intuitive and exciting subject, because we’d already have the comfort of familiarity. As game developers, we believe that we can contribute towards solving that problem, and as such, we’ve been designing Tablecraft to provide players with a fun and playful environment for first exposure to the Periodic Table of Elements – not necessarily because our players are paying attention to learning, but because the game is fun and appealing regardless. For a player, Tablecraft’s educational value should only feel like an added bonus to all the fun they’re having.
The way we do this is by rendering the simple blocks of the periodic table into blocks in physical space – in VR. Tangible things that the player can play with, but also, which they can combine to create common household objects. A player in VR will be crafting iconic, interesting objects they’ve held in their own lives, and deconstructing them into key elemental components.
As they create those objects out of the blocks (because they want to feed their blobs, or otherwise succeed in the game), the whole experience should feel playful and explorative; it becomes something they’re good at, because they put those blocks together and they figured it out – they discovered an element, and they’ve had to deal with and understand its behavior and properties. It makes it something they did, it makes it something they want to explore, and in doing so, the seemingly abstract grid of numerals and names that make up the Periodic Table slowly becomes a familiar collection of elements which make up the universe of real, bona-fide stuff.
Imagine a high school chemistry student, with no prior exposure to chemistry, who nonetheless can see the periodic table and read it as a list of abbreviations for the funny names they’re familiar with. As you – the professor – start talking about Radium, Helium, or whatever, they’ll recall how in Tablecraft Helium was a key ingredient in getting blobs to float, and Radium produced glow-in-the-dark blobs that would make all the other blobs sick – the important outcome here being that, perhaps without even realizing it, the elements have become a fun topic for them, and now they’re willing to listen and happy to dive deeper into the subject and learn why Helium made those blobs float. The positive, fun memories they created while playing Tablecraft have helped them develop a personal connection and emotional attachment to the subject – a relationship that I believe is necessary for anyone to successfully learn anything, which can be difficult to provide in a traditional classroom environment.
If that sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, then I invite you to join our Discord chat, where you can actively contribute to the game’s development. If Discord is not your cup of tea, then you can shoot me an email instead!
It’s not often that you hear a kid say that playing an “educational game” is even better than the day they were born. 😂😂