Design explanation of the Penguins Addition Fishin' game
Summary: This is a game made for a first grade class to help them practice simple math. I chose to put a layer of abstraction between playing the game and actually solving math problems to make it feel less like education and more like just a fun game. To elaborate, even though the students are doing math, there aren’t any “+” or “-” or “=” signs to be found. The object of the game is to catch fish, each with a different denomination, in order to fill baskets to the correct sum. Each basket filled is a point, and the player must get as many points as they can before the time runs out. If the player overfills a basket they must try again to fill that basket.
1. High score. This is the player’s previous best that the player is trying to beat during the current round.
2. Current score. This is the number of baskets they have filled during the current round.
3. The sun. Not just for decoration, the sun also works as the timer. We didn’t want to put too many numbers on screen, especially for a first grade audience, so instead of making a regular timer I had the idea of having the round take place over one day and having the sky act as the timer. The sun starts on the left and moves across the sky and sets on the right. The sky also darkens as the round goes on.
4. The basket. The number printed on the basket is the total that the players are trying to add to. Reaching the correct sum adds a point and gives the player a new basket with a new number. The basket animates by the lid appearing on the basket and the basket sliding off screen to the right. The fish pile (figure 5) also disappears to make way for a new one. Filling a basket or overfilling a basket gives the player an animated message* (pictured below) and a sound effect.
*“Too much” vs “too many”: Even though fish are normally a countable noun, in the context of this game not all fish are equal and they all contribute to a running total. Since the running total is compared against the basket total we use “much” instead of “many” because the comparison is not made between countable nouns.
5. The fish pile. This is the pile of currently caught fish. Fish stack on top of each other and the number above the pile tells the player what the current value of their caught fish is. This must equal the basket total for a point. This makes the first graders think in terms of both addition, to add up to the total sum, and in terms of subtraction, by looking at the difference to know how many fish they still need to catch.
6. Fish hook. This takes the place of the player mouse to fit the theme. Clicking on fish catches them.
7. Fish. In the game’s current state there are three fish types, in the future more could be added for higher difficulties. Fish are triple encoded by value, color, and size. Catching only the blue fish (value of 1) would ensure that a player never overfills a basket, but it also takes the longest amount of time to reach the total and so players will not be able to beat their high score unless they go for the bigger fish as well.
● The instruction page (pictured below) is presented to the players before they start their first round. Instead of using text we use the actual game icons to be better understood. The penguin (named Wobbles) also does an idle animation with breathing, blinking, and waving.