The pedagogical value of mapping your adventure

Our text adventure games often involve walking around and exploring the world described for you by the Chinese text. Remembering where you've been and how to get around can get tricky, particularly given we don't provide a map.

But not providing a map is by design. Olle and I discussed this at length and reached the conclusion that not providing a map has sufficient pedagogical value to offset the added challenge. But there's nothing to stop you from drawing your own. And indeed we highly recommend this!

A number of students have written to us to share the maps they have drawn. Here we'd like to share some of these with you, with the hope that if you haven't tried drawing your own maps, taking notes on the story, or even illustrating it, you be inspired to give it a try.

This map, shared by Shannon, illustrates the sewer portion of our game, Into the Haze:

Drawing of sewer in Into the Haze

If you've played this game, take a moment to see if you can recognize aspects of the game in this map. In addition to mapping the connectivity of the scenes, which will help you remember how to get around, this map also includes important information about where to get resources and where dangers lie, as well as elements from the scene description.

The above map is annotated in Chinese, though if that's an obstacle, you could annotate it with pictures, like Andrei has done in his illustrations for The Magistrate's Gallery:

Drawing of scenes in The Magistrate's Gallery

This map above describes the scene inside the painting of a garden.

In addition to drawing geographic maps, you might also find it valuable to take notes on the story. And if you like drawing, it might even help to try illustrating parts you remember, like in this set of drawings:

Drawing of scenes in The Magistrate's Gallery

And don't worry, these drawings are for your own benefit, so you don't need to be a great artist. Though I must say Andrei has done a very nice job rendering aspects of this story.

Pedagogical value?

There are a broad range of pedagogical benefits to drawing maps and illustrating parts of the story.

  1. Turning a potentially vague understanding of the scene into something concrete, like a drawing, helps you identify what you really understand and encourages you to look again when you realize you are unsure of some detail. This process can greatly enrich your how much Chinese you learn and retain, much like teaching something can greatly solidify the concepts in your mind.
  2. Having a map of the game makes for more efficient gameplay, allowing you to spend less time heading down wrong paths or making the same mistakes again. More efficient gameplay enables you to spend more time exploring parts of the game you haven't seen before and results in more varied language practice.
  3. Language learning can be frustrating enough as it is. Add to that a complicated game where what is possible often depends on choices you made earlier in the game, and it might be tempting to throw up your hands and give up. But armed with a map and the confidence that building it yourself can nurture, you will probably be much less frustrated, and the quality of your practice that much greater.

Here are some more of Andrei's illustrations for The Magistrate's Gallery:

Drawing of scenes in The Magistrate's Gallery
Drawing of scenes in The Magistrate's Gallery
Drawing of scenes in The Magistrate's Gallery

Can you recognize these scenes from the game?

Finally I'd like to thank Shannon and Andrei for sharing their maps and allowing us to feature them in a blog post. If you have your own maps to share, we'd love to see them!

If you haven't tried mapping or illustrating your adventure, we encourage you to give it a go.

Adding visual context to a text adventure game

Our text adventure games have always been focused on reading and listening comprehension. We believe that this interactive experience without many bells and whistles gets you the most language practice for the time you invest.

But after some encouragement from our students, we are taking a stab at adding illustrations to one of our text adventure games, The Magistrate's Gallery.

Here's what it looks like on iOS, Android, and our new web app:

Game illustration app screenshot

We hope that these illustrations liven up the games while at the same time providing some helpful visual context for the text of the game.

In total there are 16 illustrations. This is not enough to illustrate everything that happens in the game, which is not the point, but rather just enough to break up the text a bit and keep your imagination working to picture the rest of what happens.

If you like combining reading/listening with visual context, you might also be interested in our narrative that goes along with the Pepper and Carrot web comics that we introduced a while back.

Thanks to our early backers!

Olle and I wanted to express a big thank you to our early backers!

We deeply appreciate the confidence you've had in WordSwing, and your support, which has helped us build the apps, games, and activities that are WordSwing.

It’s been just over a year since we introduced our early backer subscription ($3/month). Since then we've released 5 more text adventure games, our iOS and Android apps, narrative and audio to go with 9 episodes of the Pepper and Carrot comic, and much more (see below).

But we can only continue to do this if we can grow WordSwing into a sustainable endeavor. From the beginning, our early backer discount was designed to reward them for their support while we ramped up our efforts. But it was always designed to be temporary. And we feel that next month is a good time to start asking new backers of WordSwing to pay the full price for the subscription ($8/month).

All current early backers can keep the less expensive subscription forever.

Or, if you subscribe before June 15th, you can also get (and keep) the early backer price ($3/month).

So, if you're not yet an early backer, we invite you to become one before we end the discount.

The past year in WordSwing

We've released 5 text adventure games:

Magistrate's Gallery (县长的画廊) – A man knocks on your door with an unusual problem. He needs the assistance of a skilled artist to help rescue his daughter, who seems to have been trapped inside a painting. You will need to unravel the epic tale surrounding his daughter's capture by traveling into the many paintings in the Magistrate's private gallery and coaxing the stories out of the spirits that inhabit the pieces of art.

Into the Haze (迷雾中) – An unknown catastrophe has ended civilization as we know it. You live in a small society of survivors on a hill outside the big city where the air is just barely breathable. In the city, it’s worse, but riches left from before the catastrophe still lure people into the deadly mist. Including your brother. And now he’s gone missing. With your gas mask and a few days of supplies, you enter the city. Will you find your brother? What else hides in the mist?

Wandering Cat (小女孩寻猫记) – Your mysterious uncle has asked you to watch after his cat for a few days. But after an unexpected encounter with a fortune teller, you realize there is a lot more at stake to this task than you thought.

Zoo (动物园) – It’s your first day at your new job as an assistant zookeeper. Can you manage to follow your boss’s instructions on how to feed the animals? Be careful not to let the chatty animals mislead you!

Burning Building (火灾) – You are at home in your apartment when you notice a strange smell. Is it a fire? Can you get out in time? This game is the first of our shorts, games designed to be easier and shorter than our full-length games.

We have released apps for iOS and Android with a redesigned interface that works better on mobile devices.

iPhone and Andorid phone pictures

We added support for Traditional Chinese to the two mobile apps.

We created narrative and audio to accompany the open web comic, Pepper and Carrot.

Pepper and carrot screenshot

We're looking forward to another year packed with progress growing WordSwing's Chinese practice activities and tools. Thanks for your support and if you're not an early backer yet, we hope you will consider joining the many students who have chosen to support our efforts.


Kevin & Olle

PS: Below is Olle's latest video playing and discussing our most recent text adventure game, The Magistrate's Gallery. If you're not familiar with our text adventure games, this is a great way to get started.

The Magistrate's Gallery

The Magistrate's Gallery is our sixth interactive graded-reader-style text adventure game for practicing Mandarin Chinese.

Here's a short blurb introducing the game:

You get a knock on your door. The visitor is seeking your help rescuing his daughter, who seems to have been trapped inside a painting. You will need to unravel the epic tale surrounding his daughter's capture by traveling into the many paintings in the Magistrate's private gallery and coaxing the stories out of the spirits that inhabit the pieces of art.

Our Text Adventure Games work like an interactive graded reader, targeted at intermediate students of Mandarin Chinese. As you work you way through the story, you make choices that affect what the protagonist does and how the story progresses. We've carefully written the game to include hints that reward you for careful reading.

Each of our games includes a bunch of hours of game play, and you'll encounter the vocabulary many times throughout the game, which combined will help quickly propel your Chinese reading and listening.

Here's a screenshot from the game on iOS:

There is audio available throughout the game, and a built in dictionary to help with words you don't know.

There are two variations to this game, so if you finish one, see if you can also finish the other. This game is about the same difficulty as Wandering Cat, though less linear and a bit longer.

The game is available in WordSwing's iOS, Android or web app.

We hope you enjoy.

Go play!


Kevin & Olle

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