Critique Blog — Post 3

Game | Interland

Game Metadata

Game Name: Interland — Be Internet Awesome

Designer/Developer: Google

Plarform: Online game, web-based

High-level Instructional Goal:

To teach children the fundamentals of Internet safety and digital citizenship to explore the online world with confidence.

Interland is part of Google’s “Be Internet Awesome” initiative, which teaches children to use the Internet wisely. With Interland, Google is striving to teach five core internet principles around being “internet smart,” “internet alert,” “internet strong,” “internet kind,” and “internet brave.”

Link to the game: https://beinternetawesome.withgoogle.com/en_us/interland

Learning Objectives

Interland is a series of online games that put the essential lessons of digital safety into practice with challenging and interactive mini-games, or “islands.” Interland includes four mini-games: Kind Kingdom, which encourages children to be kind to others and report cyberbullies, Reality River that teaches to stay away from fake profiles and phishing, Mindful Mountain where kids focus on sharing information online only to people they trust, and Tower of Treasure where kids learn to build strong passwords. The learning objectives include teaching students to spread positivity, safeguard their private information, encourage “thoughtful sharing,” and even spot and avoid fake news. For this critique blog, I will focus on Kind Kingdom.

“Kind Kingdom” wants a player to learn that the Internet is a powerful amplifier that can be used to spread positivity or negativity. In “Kind Kingdom”, players collect hearts and tools to help them spread kindness to characters they meet in the game, while blocking and reporting bullies they meet on the way.

Game introduction

The game requires some prior knowledge of the game’s vocabulary, such as cyberbullying and privacy. Also, it assumes players know how to work with the interface. For example, use right, left, and up arrow keys to command your Internaut to navigate through the game interface.

Use arrow keys to move your Internaut

Game Elements

Gameplay Loop:

The four games that are part of Interland are designed to be played in any order. Kind Kingdom is set in a sunny, forested island that has fallen victim to bullies. The object of this game is to get to the top of the mountain and spread good vibes throughout the kingdom. Along the way, collect “kindness” in the form of hearts that you then share with sad and crying Internauts who need some love and accolades. When you’ve reached a troublemaker, you block and report them. There are 3 achievements in Kind Kingdom. Once you have spread enough kindness and blocked bullies, you conquer the kingdom and become “Internet Kind”. This game teaches children about Internet bullying and how to be kind to one another online.

With in-game questions or tasks, students learn the importance of using the web correctly. Points are tabulated throughout the game, and at the end there is a short quiz to reinforce the main ideas of the “island.” Once completed, the final score is displayed along with a recap of what was covered on the island. Players can print out a certificate of achievement. Then, players can play the game again or move on to another island.

Recap of key learnings on the island

Nouns:

Internauts, troublemaker, hearts, floating islands, button, speaker, score, kindness level

Verbs:

move right, move left, jump, send kindness to Internauts, block troublemakers, grab the speaker, report troublemakers, answer quiz questions, claim certificate

Player experience:

Players would use the right, left, and up arrows to command their Internaut, navigating through Kind Kingdom to pick up hearts to give to sad Internauts throughout the island. Players should try to avoid the large yellow Troublemakers who attempt to bring you down with negativity. They’re best left behind fences as you avoid them, or look for the speakers to report them and they’ll be magically whisked away as you continue your climb to the top of the kingdom.

There is a high satisfaction factor through this easy-to-play game. Players will enjoy spreading kindness as they make their Internaut jump to different levels while spreading kindness throughout the Kingdom.

The low-poly style game interface, playful animations, and music make the gameplay experience engaging. The game characters all have a number of animations triggered based on what happens in the game, making them feel more lifelike.

At the end of Kind Kingdom, players can get a certificate for being an internet kind “Internaut,” giving them a sense of accomplishment.

Certificate of kindness

Learning Mechanisms

Scaffolding

Kind Kingdom structures learning content in 3 levels. To begin with, it teaches players to send kindness using the spacebar, which is achievement 1 — positive influence. Then, it introduces the way to block the troublemaker by jumping on the red button, which is achievement 2 — trouble blocker. Lastly, it introduces reporting the troublemakers’ behaviors through using the speaker, which is achievement 3. The principle of scaffolding enables players to learn the proper practices to deal with cyberbullying in a sequence, and build game skills towards completing more complex tasks later.

Learning content—send kindness
Learning content — block troublemaker
Learning content — report troublemaker

Quizzing

At the end of the game, players are further challenged to think deeper and answer questions related to the topic they have just touched on. This is done through the fill-in-the-blank questions along with cute animations to reinforce the lesson. Parents or guardians can facilitate this process by guiding the process of answering the questions.

Quiz questions to reinforce the learnings

Feedback

Throughout the Kind Kingdom, after the player interacts with other Internauts or Troublemakers, they receive immediate feedback on changes to their score. I learned that sending kindness to a sad-looking Internaut increases my score by playing the game. Also, I noticed that approaching troublemakers and reporting Internauts with the speaker will decrease the score. These visual cues are valuable to encourage and discourage certain behaviors.

Game actions from left to right: sending kindness, approaching troublemaker, reporting Internauts

Additionally, the game provides immediate feedback on achievements that players have earned, and feedback on answers to quiz questions.

Left: wrong quiz answer; Right: correct quiz answer

Multimedia

The kind Kingdom effectively uses visual aids to enhance verbal descriptions, which helps improve player experience and keep them engaged. One interesting change I noticed is that once my kindness level is over 90/100, the pitch of background music increases a bit, making it sound more cheerful.

Overall Critique

Not only is Interland educational, but also it is enjoyable to play with plenty of cool graphics, animations, and music. The game teaches young kids critical digital skills, and they can even get a certificate of achievement at the end of each mini-game, which can remind them of all the things they learn to be safe online.

The game is narrated in a very easy-to-follow manner. However, there can be quite a bit of reading on the game. Hence, it would be better for younger kids, such as those below the age of 6, to play alongside an adult.

For parents who want to have conversations with their children about being nice on and offline, I think playing Interland can be a great way before starting a conversation about online safety, especially as children spend more time indoors and on technology because of the pandemic.

Interland is a wonderful attempt by Google to teach kids how to make wise decisions online. With so much negativity and trolling on social media and forums, not just kids but many grown-ups too can learn the lesson of how to be “internet kind”, “internet smart”, “internet strong”, “internet brave” and “internet alert”.

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