"When the spring thaw came and the autocross season heated up, I discovered something wonderful: I now had a better feel for my car than I'd had in the fall, in spite of the fact that I hadn't taken it out of the garage in months. I could drive it harder, feel the tires braking away earlier and make corrections sooner. I was fast." Tim Stevens rides the power of racing sims to real racing victory in "Even Better Than the Real Thing."
"The first hundred or so miles came and went without much fanfare, but when I came across my first river, I made a terrible, terrible decision. While I thought it would be smart to pay the $5 to use the ferry to cross the river, I succumbed to peer pressure and decided to ford it. It was catastrophic: Oxen died, we lost clothing and the whole party lost some of its vigor. With many more rivers to cross, we learned a valuable lesson early on: Never, ever try and ford the God damned river." Dan Dormer takes on one the very first educational games, *Oregon Trail*, in "Anne Died Of Dysentery."
"You can always watch your progress, thanks to the progress bar sitting right on your screen, and every challenge you encounter comes with a ranking and color-code. If a quest is too difficult, it's marked red, or it's not even offered to you; if a monster is much weaker, its level shows up in gray. Instead of letting you think you should take a wild swing and see if you get lucky, the game reinforces that you should tackle a challenge that's right at your level.
Gamers feel the most sense of accomplishment when they're always facing just enough of a challenge - as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's concept of 'flow.' You can credit World of Warcraft's addictiveness to how well it paces those challenges - and plenty of smart educational technologists beat and tinker with assessment algorithms, trying to accomplish the same thing. So, what if a game like World of Warcraft could be built around educational content - say, instead of killing murlocs, you're solving math problems?" In "Playing to the Test," Chris Dahlen explores the nature of educational games, and how they may be just what the educational system needs.
"Plenty of kids wind up press-ganged into the car, driven to a house that smells of cats and shouted at as they mangle Mozart, but it's seldom fun. Consequently, I was intrigued when I was presented with Allegro Rainbow's Piano Wizard." Shannon Drake talks to the man responsible for the game that just may make learning music fun in "Piano Wizards."
"When I first heard of Dr. Kawashima's Brain Age, I wrote it off as a clever marketing ploy. I mean, come on - a videogame that helps your brain do anything other than plot violent rampages in schools? Ridiculous. We all know that videogames were created to subvert children." Shawn Williams describes how he and his wife learned to live with her multiple sclerosis, helped, in large part, by a video game in "Learning The Gaming Way."