Gamification is the infusion of game design techniques, game mechanics or game style into anything to solve problems and engage audiences.
When Taylor Overbey and Stylianos Vayanos decided to employ this technique to education, they came up with Greek4Fun — a game created to fill the need for an entertaining, interactive way to learn a language.
“We hope to help parents pass on the language to their children, and the game adds the ability to pass on the culture,” Overbey said. “The game is to make all this fun and not a chore, so that the children will embrace it and make it part of their play. That’s the whole theory behind Gamification — we’re not instructing children by strict memorization, but we’re luring them into this with play. They don’t even really know they’re learning.”
The game, which Overbey describes as “Sesame Street” meets “Cooking Mama,” provides a game platform for people to learn Greek. There are no direct translations: the entire game is set to help people learn words based on animation, so people all over the world can learn Greek. Overbey and Vayanos said they hope, with enough money, that they would be able to expand the program to learning other languages.
“We have already built a pipeline that is endless, and tried to also make it cross cultured and cross bordered,” Vayanos said. “Maybe in the Greek program, there will be a church. Even if you teach Hebrew, there can be a synagogue. We can cross that bridge when we get to it, but we want it to be something a particular group will adopt. Right now, where we are, we think that it’s going to be such a valuable contribution…In the Greek one, there can be a history of the country, its music, dancing, food and cooking. Those things apply to older people, still using gamification. There is such a long pipeline for the product development — a potential we need to feed to keep offering valuable things to different cultures.”
Greek4Fun launched on Kickstarter, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects, and Overbey and Vayanos have set rewards for donors of different amounts. For example, pledging $1 will get you project updates, while pledging $2,500 will get your child a role in the game. The two said they hope the Greek community will support them in their plight to strengthen ties between this generation of young people and the Greek culture.
The two friends said they hope to have their program enhance things like Greek schools, so that students can supplement their learning in an academic environment with a game that can hopefully help them speed up their educational learning.
“The idea is not to stop something already in place or replace it but enhance it,” Vayanos said. “Greek schools or any other venue that facilitates learning the language will be able to adopt what we are creating and making it part of their toolbox. It’s one of the ways to teach, using gaming in a non-gaming environment.”
Overbey is the cartoonist, animator and interaction designer for the project. He is married to a Greek woman, thus Greek by association, who has taught Greek at a local Orthodox Church for about five years; she was the reason he wanted to start the project in the first place. Vayanos is a professional voice artist and voice coach, and has voiced for Rosetta Stone, where he learned of his desire to design a Greek language program for children.
Both have children, who were big factors in deciding where to go with the program, as well a how to cater it so that parents appreciate the product as well.
“There will be tangible results: parents will be able to check on their child’s progress on the game itself, Overbey said. “They can print out a diploma of completion — there is loads of praise and rewards in here… I’ve been watching my daughter learn to speak, and that has been this most fascinating laboratory, watching her learn how to put words together, hear sounds and repeat them, associate sounds with something in the house. It’s been just so great having that, watching her develop, and using that in the game play.”
Vayanos, who is more in charge of the business aspect of the project, said there will ultimately be some sort of fee associated, whether it be a subscription basis, or to purchase an app on a smart phone.
“When I want to get something for my son on the road or plane, I go and can find things for free — but they have very creative ways to get full version. But the cost is usually nothing like it used to be. We are still tweaking exact structure of what we’re going to do. Right now, we are obviously not focusing too much on exact number, we need to launch and have a pilot and eventually figure out a fee.”
So far, the game has activity only in the kitchen. Overbey said he hopes funding from Kickstarter will come through, so that he can have the summer to complete the other rooms of the house, and they can launch the game with the whole house.
“The whole point is building, and making what will be complete product,” Vayanos said. “The goal is to use the product as a demo of sorts to show people in a basic way what could be done here.”
He said he hopes eventually to have Greek recipes through the gaming, which could add a useful aspect for all ages. He and Overbey said the possibilities are endless.
“The potential is tremendous, and the more we succeed with Kickstarter, the more funding we have and can have people helping us, and can complete these different things faster,” Vayanos said. “We are just really hoping the Greek community with embrace that.”
To help fund the project visit its Kickstarter page.