Gambling Never Pays

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Game: Gambling Never Pays Subject(s): Microbiology, Disease
Publisher: edugames4all Grade(s): middleschool
Developer: City University, London’s City eHealth Research Centre (CeRC) Platform: web-based, flash
Release: 2010 Cost: Free
Genre: Mystery / Puzzle Time to Play: < 1 Hr.
Perspective: 2D Teacher Time Investment 2-4 Hr.
Audience: Adolescents Stand Alone: No
Date of Review Aug 3, 2015

The e-Bug Detective Game is designed for 13-15 year olds, whereby the player becomes an “e-Bug Investigator” who attends the scene of an 'incident' that involves microbes. There are four missions in total – each involving a mystery that the player needs to solve. The overall mystery is sub-divided into multiple problems that must first be addressed, leading the player to their overall conclusion. The player must find evidence to support and negate their own ideas, in addition to those presented by the characters in the game. In the process of solving the mysteries, the player learns about microbes.

Source: Game Site

Provide a summary of the review and the overall rating, out of 100.

This game does a reasonably good job of presenting the material to be learned in an interesting and entertaining way. There is no audio and no teacher support that I could find. This game could be used as *past* of a unit on microbes & antibiotics but it shouldn't be the only resource. The lack of teacher support gives this otherwise reasonable game a low score. If teachers are prepared to create lesson plans that use this game, it could be worthwhile.

How is it as a game? Is it fun? Is it Interesting?
How does it measure up esthetically? This includes visual and auditory components.

Content & Originality

Are the game elements well developed and appropriate for the game? Does it show original thought? Does it follow accepted norms for the genre? ~OR~ does it have new take on known genre? 1)

“It’s quite clear from the initial splash screen that the game is patterned after Phoenix Wright. I happen to like Phoenix Wright played through a number of the games. I think this format holds considerable promise for educational games because there is almost no animation, audio does not play a large role. The Phoenix Wright games are what I would call games on rails, namely, there is really only one correct way to the end. It is effectively a branching story. With the right balance of narrative and interaction , this can be a fun game.”

Game Mechanics.

What can you do in the game? Are the controls logical and easy to use? Does each 'level' fit the overall style of the game?

“The game rules are fairly simple and only actions that are likely to move along the story are available at any given time. The game world offers only spaces and items that are directly relevant to the serious goals. There does not seem to be an easy way to pause or to backup. Premise or story is interesting and the characters are believable.”

Game Progression.

The transitions between levels (which need not be traditional levels) go from simple to challenging and are smooth and appropriate for the game.

The situations are highly realistic and this is especially important in this game because it must be clear that the facts as laid down story map directly onto facts and concepts we want players to understand

Artistic Design

Is it overall Visually Attractive? Does it make me want to try the game? Does it seem to be appropriate for the game?
Very pleasant looking. Everything hangs together thematically.

The art is pleasant and the organization is good.

Set, Settings, Characters & Costumes

Does it seem to be appropriate for the game? Is it: Appealing. Distinctive. Sufficient variety. Original or appropriate.


Does it seem to be appropriate for the game? Is it: Appealing. Distinctive. Sufficient variety. Original composition or appropriately credited

There is no audio

Is there adequate teacher support to make viable for use in a formal setting?

Teacher's guide

exists and is easy to find. It is clear how to use this game. Includes: Description of game play.Content description (documentation) is well organized. I can see how the game will play. Any required special permissions/skills to install or run are clearly identified. Installation and execution processes are clearly identified and easy to read and follow.

Plug and Play

includes lesson plans with thorough instructions for using it in the classroom (or other target environment). Will not require large time investment to make it “teacher-ready”

Supplementary resources

for teachers (background, how to use, where to get help) exist, and are both complete and readable.

A community

exists where teachers can go for help, support, to share. It is clearly identified and easy to find.

How well does it appear to deliver on its educational objectives? (This is is an analysis performed without user studies, so it is not possible to verify this here. That is left to other methodologies.)

Instructional Strategies Are the instructional strategies appropriate for the learning outcome(s)?

This relates to gameplay, but is specifically focused on how well the gameplay matches the intended educational objectives. For example, a guessing game or drill and practice may be appropriate for for learning anatomy, but not for Mendelian genetics.

They fit with the nature of the problem presented in the game.

Instructional Design Is the design in keeping with Merrill's 1st Principles of Instruction? Each principle is assessed pass/fail, and the score is the sum.

As a portion of a unit this could work, but I wouldn't use it as the only resource.

Objectives Does it appear to meet the educational objectives?

It is not possible to guarantee that any particular objective will be met in an educational object like this, but it is possible to assess whether or not it provides the necessary 'raw materials'.

It is still kind of fun.

Integration In a serious game it is essential that the desired learning outcomes be part of the required interactions of the game.

Does it pass Becker's Lazy Test (BLT)? It should not be possible to get through by brute force or by random chance. Are the educational objectives included among the required learning in the game? It should not be possible to get through the game while ignoring the learning objectives. The required learning in the game should be PART of the game and not only found in pop-up screens of text.

At the end of each chapter, there is a kind of mini lecture (which is kind of boring) that explains the science and concepts that were highlighted in the story. This is presented as a series of screens were the only thing that changes is the dialog box. Normally, when I come across these in a game, I have a tendency to click through as fast as possible, often not reading what’s there at all, until I get to something more interesting. My guess is that kids playing this game will likely do the same thing unless they have some sort of external motivation not to, such as some sort of test or quiz.

Accuracy Does the game contain accurate information?

Even though no game can be completely accurate, it is crucial that all of the facts associated with the learning objectives be correct, and that the needed concepts and principles are clear. There should be nothing here that is misleading.

As far as I can tell.


Is scoring in the game related to the learning content?

Doesn’t keep track of what player has already done unless it’s wrong.

Where possible, links to studies using this game in educational settings are listed and studies cited.

How does it fare when viewed through the lens of the Magic Bullet Model?

This section examines the game through the lens of the Magic Bullet model to see how well the various learning elements are balanced. This looks at both the overall balance and the educational components

Bullet Class: MUST Learn ≈ CAN Learn 1

  • MUST learn is considerable component of CAN learn.
    • Can be good game.
    • Challenging for some, frustrating for others.
    • Often requires players to repeat plays and levels many times.
    • Design does not really allow for or include external learning.
    • Coincidental learning possible, but not necessary.
    • The more one MUST learn of the total set, the fewer choices players may ultimately have.
  • Although this is a game on rails, it still manages to be entertaining. This game requires the player to gather evidence and uncover clues and then solve the mystery. It is not possible to skip any parts and almost all interactive parts are in some way connected to the goal. However, the cases are interesting.

For a more detailed explanation, see: Magic Bullet Assessment

In each of these categories the rating is determined by how well the balance of the elements fits the type of game it is, its intended use and audience.

Overall Balance

Is the relationship between the 4 main categories appropriate for this game given its intended use?

Overall balance is fairly typical for an educational game. There really isn't much to do in the game that isn't directly related to the learning goals. There's not much in the way of external learning, making it fairly self-contained, and though there are opportuities for discretionary learning, it is not really supported by the game itself (i.e. there are no additional resources where players can go to learn more).

Can vs. Must

Is it possible to get through the game without learning anything (i.e. without meeting any of the educational objectives)?

t some point I had to go through and read at least some of what was there in order to figure out what my next move should be. Now, it would have been possible to work through it by brute force and simply try every possible alternative, in turn, but one of the things that this game does do is keep track of that and after a while he actually tells you what you need to do. That is useful in an educational game's players should not be left to wander in circles.

Operational vs Educational

Is the required operational learning appropriate for the game's intended purpose?

“I am not finding the interface to be as intuitive as they would like it to be. However, the style fits well with the purpose.”

Educational vs Discretionary

Is there an appropriate balance of learning and fun?

This is one of those games where, “You will like this game if this is the sort of game you like.”

Not Scored

What instructional strategies does it use?

There's a great list <HERE> (Kelly Jo Rowan) and <HERE> (Saskatoon Public Schools) as well as HERE at the Survival Guide for Teachers Site

Not Scored

What theories, models, or principles were used in the design of this game? For each theory checked, include a brief explanation.

It is easy to superimpose a number of different theories on to this game, but it is not clear if any of them were deliberately used in the design. It is clear that they used scaffolding to help the player learn the things they needed to learn in order to solve problems presented. The answer to each of the problems was revealed piecemeal rather than all at once, thereby providing partial reinforcement and encouragement to continue. The format of the game itself draws heavily on problem-based learning in that the problem is presented, the player does some research and gathers evidence, and then finally all the pieces are put together to reach the conclusion. The two main characters in the game act and look like the authority figures that they are. One is a boss and one is scientist. The boss wears business clothes, and the scientist, of course, wears a lab coat. Plus it’s nice they are both women. Together they work with the player to help them find the solution. Finally, the game itself situated in the kinds of contexts that the players might find themselves in in real life.

I'm building a list of theories and principles here.

IOW Shows understanding of standard gameplay and does not go against conventions. This is important because the goal of the game is educational rather than entertainment only.
  • reviews/gambling-never-pays.txt
  • Last modified: 2015/08/03 23:55
  • by becker