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Design Challenge: Make Teaching Perspective Interesting

July 25, 2008

I held a game design workshop for art educators this week in Atlanta. I’m a strong believer that you can make a game about anything (and still am), but I was truly stumped by one teacher’s topic: make a non-digital game that teaches perspective. I promised I’d post it here to see if any of you have any ideas.

Here’s the setup:

When kids take this particular educator’s classes, the parents all want the children to come away having an understanding of how perspective works. The problem is that at the mere mention of perspective, the students become bored to tears and glaze over. So, how could this be integrated into a non-digital game or a non-digital game design exercise?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2008 10:05 pm

    It’s unfortunate that you specify non-digital, because it would be trivial for a digital game — just play a 3d game of your choice!

    I could see something like a mod of Pictionary with the added constraint that each drawing MUST be done in a particular kind of perspective. Though that would be less of a teaching tool than assessment.

  2. July 25, 2008 10:41 pm

    I’m with you on the non-digital part. But that’s the challenge, though. I am sure there is a way to do it.

  3. July 26, 2008 3:06 am

    My thought would be some kind of mortar sighting game. Show the player an environment in one-point perspective and require them to allot a certain distance to hit a distant target, using a provided frame of reference to determine the target’s distance. But that would end up being more of a physics problem than a game, and it wouldn’t be very fun anyhow.

  4. July 26, 2008 4:20 am

    ´´An understanding of how perspective works´´ is kind of vague. What exactly are the things that they should learn from this game? I´d start with a sort of bullet list of those and turn them into mechanics or game goals.

  5. July 26, 2008 8:31 am

    @Harry – It was left pretty open ended. You could approach it any way you wanted to. Part of the exercise could be to make a game about perspective, and during the making of the game, of course, students would be learning about perspective.

  6. July 26, 2008 9:03 am

    Quite a challenge but I’ll give it a try.

    I would try to make the pupils recreate a 3d-scene from a 2d-sketch.

    You would need some objects the scene is built from, i.e a cylinder, a cube and a pyramid. They need to be “floating” in mid-air so they will be mounted on some thin, tall stand. Then we would need some kind of “camera” mounted on a tripod. At last we need some see-through film and markers.

    The teacher sketches a scene containing the available objects on the film and mounts this film onto our “camera”. This camera may just be a cubic tube made of cardboard big enough to fit the film inside. Now the pupils start rebuilding the scene they see on the film on the table. They need to be adjusting the “camera” so that watching the scene through the camera matches the one painted on the film inside the camera.
    Every pupil has some time given to complete the task. The best matches are rewarded. After each round the pupils can watch the others’ results and the teacher can explain some theory to them.

    That’s it, critique welcome 🙂

  7. Chris Pioli permalink
    July 26, 2008 12:38 pm

    Yeah, when I think of perspective, I see three different definitions:

    1) Art – that is drawing in proper perspective.

    2) literary – first, second (ie Bram Stoker’s dracula), and third person perspective

    3) Insight – being able to see things in different manners. Putting yourself into another person’s shoes.

    But seriously, that’s difficult.

    As a side note, I have a talent that allows me to turn any conversation into one discussing video games. It’s awesome, and I’m sure lots of ppl who browse your blog have it, too.

  8. July 27, 2008 11:41 am

    I was really amazed when I visited the Atomium for the first time several weeks ago ( ). It is made of nine big spheres of equal diameter as you can see on the picture but, when you’re close to the structure, it’s nearly impossible to “see” the cube because of the perspective effect. We’re so unused to being close to big things of the same size that it’s hard to visualize them correctly.

    So the game would be the following: It’s played by one team against an individual. The team has N similar objects of the same size at its disposal, plus one slightly smaller object and one slightly bigger (maybe balloons). The team’s goal is too place the objects in a place and draw a path through this place so that the remaining player has the hardest way identifying the smaller and bigger objects.
    Object placement should be fair: no hiding or putting them too far to be seen.

  9. July 28, 2008 3:09 pm

    I like Stephane’s proposal, and that might be carried out in two ways:
    – with real baloons in a field
    – on a (long) board with marbles (in this case, it could be a game 1 vs. 1)

    I’d arrange the field/board with lines so that baloons/marbles could go on them, kind of fixed positions.
    – The player could have not to find the smalles or larges ball, but to hit it, and in this case the drawing of the trajectory would be another element for teaching
    – Each ball has a different color, and the goal is finding the right sequence (smaller > bigger). In this case the player can ask “on what line is the blue ball?” and do soem calculations about how s/he sees the balls.

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