A Teacher's Take on Nintendo's "Kind Code"

This week Nintendo's in-game hint system patent came to light, and gamers and developers alike had their reactions. Here's one from a teacher, who examines what "Kind Code" offers as a teaching tool.

"Kind Code," to bring everyone else up to speed, would ride shotgun in a game experience and, when activated, would animate the game forward showing the player how obstacles are cleared and enemies overcome, which items to collect and who to speak to, that sort of thing. It's been blasted as a cheat mechanism, or something that reduces a game to a passive, cut-scene experience. Others have said it can be useful for defeating the frustration that leads a gamer to quit.

Cory L. Robertson, who blogs about technology and education, thinks Nintendo's idea has some value when it comes to child development in three areas: cause and effect, comprehension, and evaluation, which are difficult concepts to teach to a fifth grader.

"Kind Code," even though it shows a solution, can still nurture a child who is comfortable with experimentation and making mistakes, Robertson says. "They can be shown where the hidden treasure chests are, and just how far apart the two ledges are before they jump," he writes, "but ultimately it’s up to them to put the character to the task, and experiment with what would happen if they chose not to follow the path laid out before them."

"Your child can say, 'Yeah, the hint system told me to jump from ledge A to ledge B, but I wondered what would happen if I did a Long Jump from ledge A to ledge C.'" he says.

Going further, "our students would also be demonstrating great strengths of comprehension." Kind Code's theoretical passive experience isn't the same as watching television. It's an active watching, in which they must watch, note and remember all the steps to complete a level. "[It] can be a very daunting task," Robertson says. "But, rewind the system, and let your child have a go at it, and you’ll be quite surprised at the success they’ll have in completing the objectives. This shows that the child comprehends (yes, at a lower level of cognition, more akin to “Application,” Bloom’s Taxonomy) what is being asked of them."

Finally, for those children who choose not to follow the path set before them, even after being shown then choices that will lead to goal completion, and instead experiment with alternative means: "Well, that takes the child’s thinking straight to “Evaluation,” which is the highest level of cognition we look for in our students’ reasoning and questioning skills."

Kind Code as an idea won't pass or fail because of its validity in a teaching environment; it'll work if it sells more games or expands an existing market. But if we're arguing that games are art, and art has educational value, then making games more sophisticated in this sphere does the medium good on the whole. And of course, it's good to see educators not only acknowledging the existing potential of a console game to teach, but also looking forward to what games in the future may offer.

Videogames, Comprehension, and Nintendo's 'Kind Code' [Teachnologist]