Have we ever featured video games on this blog, or even mentioned them in passing? Frankly I doubt it, but now at last there is a perfectly valid reason to write a post about them.
Recently I discovered a very useful language tool; cleverly constructed in video game form. This in itself is not news per se; there are already various game-like tools out there, though often relatively simplistic in nature. We may be asked to click on the correct word answer, or select a picture when presented with a literary prompt, for instance.
With Influent by Three Flip Studios, the language-game concept is taken a whole magnitude further with the inclusion of an interactive 3D environment. Naturally I present this in the context of Russian language practice – a pursuit into which Influent fits capably.
At its core is still a word-association game, sure enough; but the virtual world into which it is placed ads a level of immersion that draws the player into what (let’s face it) can be something of a dry and laborious task. “Virtual world” is probably over-stating it; it’s more like a virtual bed-sit, albeit one that is filled with enough items to increase the player’s vocabulary by over 400 new words.
As with most 3D games there is the obligatory back-story: in this case a yarn about a stolen language-translation and object-identification machine but frankly we don’t really need that. It’s one of the game trappings that feels weirdly intrusive in a learning tool – but it comes with the territory. Couldn’t (shouldn’t) the developers have dropped the story-intro and devoted the man-hours to extra content? Well, whatever. It is what it is.
To make the 400+ word content manageable, the player is tasked with creating sub-lists of words as mini-tasks, on which he/she is subsequently tested. There are also goals and bonuses to unlock, although the bonuses are disappointingly limited to merely changing the colour of certain items (clothing etc), so frankly: who cares? This is made doubly redundant as when the game is played in first-person mode; you can’t see what you are wearing anyway – unless you walk by a mirror.
Moving around your virtual flat, you simply look around and click on an item. The name of the item is then spoken aloud to you in the foreign language of your choice, and similarly; the corresponding word is displayed on-screen. By pressing ‘space’ the words are captured and stored to lists that you assemble to mark your progress. It pays therefore – unless you have a decidedly masochistic streak – to make lists of words based upon closely grouped objects. Although the inventive amongst you may consider running around the apartment, chasing disconnected items as an advanced mode for when things get too easy.
The game informs you when you have collected ten items for your current list and presents you with the opportunity of a “Time Attack” mode by way of a test. During “Time Attack”, the clock is (naturally) ticking and words are read out to you, picked at random from the list at hand. In response you have to find and click on the item that matches the word in question. You are alerted when a right (or wrong) choice is made. There is no penalty for being ‘late’ in your time-attack so the point is somewhat missed, but it does give you at least a spurious incentive. And so it goes on.
There’s more to Influent, as we’ll discover next week.
[Image by Three Flip Studios]