Distance learning gaming app claims to teach blockchain for all ages... fails miserably.
Working for Cointelegraph, we are regularly contacted by PR agents giving us advance notice of their clients’ forthcoming announcements. Those which seem interesting tend to be followed up with some additional research into the subject, before a decision is made on whether to publish a story.
It was following one such contact, bearing the legend, Distance Learning Gaming App Teaches Blockchain for All Ages, that I found myself in the unlikely position of downloading an app called Adoraboos onto my phone.
The game comes from an “award-winning game studio”, and was designed to help relieve the education crisis which has developed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So far, so good… so why did it leave me so cold?
While Adoraboos was unsurprisingly sold to me on its blockchain learning functionality, its main focus seems to be the SAT exams which are taken by students aged 17-19 in the United States. Other topics covered are cybersecurity, networking, and computer operations, along with sustainability and social/emotional development.
You could argue that some of this is willfully ‘right-on’. But it would seem a bit churlish to criticize a learning game for covering currently fashionable topics… especially when there are so many other things to criticize.
The ‘learning’ involved essentially revolves around memorizing definitions for a number of topic-related words and phrases. This is presented in the form of a number of minigames, success at which charges up word-darts. Once charged you can compete in an Adora-Battle, in which your Adoraboo pops the balloons of an opponent Adoraboo, one assumes causing it to plummet to its death.
If none of this really makes much sense to you, then it didn’t really make much sense to me either.
Why would a late teen choose to play a game called Adoraboos, with cutesy characters seemingly aimed at young children?
Fortunately, I had one available in the form of my 17-year old nephew. Unfortunately, he couldn’t come up with an answer either.
The first mini-game is called Dragger. This presents players with a hex-grid of 42 icons in four different varieties, along with a series of words and their definitions. All you have to do is make a chain of similar icons which is as long as the word has letters. You don’t even have to look at the word or its description, as my nephew quickly realized:
“There isn’t really any inclination to read the definition other than to learn, but as teenagers we can’t really be bothered with that.”
He then went on to smash the stereotype of a lazy teenager by offering a number of ideas for improvement. These included the potential for a high score board ranking friends or a school to provide added motivation. If only the game developers had access to a teenage nephew that they could have used for user testing and quality control ...
The game gives bonus points for any matching icons over and above the number of letters in the word. This makes it super-easy to beat the target if you are given a short word and can chain a bunch of extra letters. But good luck finding a chain of 14 matching icons to get through “Cryptocurrency”.
In addition, there is no real indication whether you have succeeded or failed in matching enough letters/icons. You get the same sound and the icons disappear in either case, but the word doesn’t change if you failed.
The next mini-game is Decipher, which gives you a minute to unjumble the letters of a series of words when given the description. But if you didn’t read the description in the last game and/or don’t know the words then this can be quite difficult, especially for longer words.
Up next is Definition, which my nephew felt at least had some potential. You are given a word along with its definition cut into chunks. You have to put the chunks in order to make the complete definition. This wouldn’t be too bad, but you are again faced with a time limit. In reality this means that you are just trying to make a definition which flows as a sentence, and don’t really read or learn it.
The final mini-game is called Quiz. This presents you with four ‘answer’ words and gives you four definitions in turn. If you choose the right word it is removed, meaning the ‘Quiz’ becomes exponentially easier as you go through it.
This section at least makes you think about the words and definitions. But the definitions are so clumsy that I would again question whether there is much useful learning going on. Take this example for the word “Bitcoin”:
“The first practical solution to the Byzantine General’s Problem to be implemented as a cryptocurrency.”
I mean, it’s not wrong, but it’s hardly the most useful description one could give if they wanted to teach someone about the topic. Many other definitions are similarly obtuse, obscure, and on occasions just plain wrong, not just in the blockchain topic but across all of the vocabulary lists.
As a final blow, many of the tech terms are acronyms, so the answer is already given in the definition. D’oh!
Finally you get to the Adora-Battle. The darts that you have charged can be used to pop balloons, although the aiming mechanic is clunky. Despite this, you should easily hit most of the time.
When you are out of darts you are given one of the vocabulary words in context and asked if the usage is correct or not. If you are right you get a bunch more darts, but even if you are wrong you still get one.
After your darts are depleted, the opponent Adoraboo throws its dart. Unlike you, the opponent can burst more than one balloon with its dart.
This is the only thing that gives the game any kind of difficulty curve, as all of a sudden you will face Adoraboos who burst five or more of your balloons at a time.
If you survive then you go back to another context question.
Winning the match can net you stickers, outfit changes for your Adoraboo, and even an additional Adoraboo every 10 levels… although why you would want one is anybody’s guess.
Perhaps I (and my nephew) missed the point, and it is meant for much younger children. Certainly the name and presentation suggest this. However the vocabulary certainly doesn’t… unless the child is one of those annoying little brats you see competing in spelling bees.
I can’t really find much in this app to redeem it. Learning definitions can be a good way to understand a topic, as I discovered when I reviewed Decoding Digital's What is Cryptocurrency. But that had a flow and led the reader on a journey.
This is a random hotch-potch of stuff, from the “Truffle” Dapp test suite, to an “Eclipse” attack, to a “Stake”. Not that there is any real incentive to learn the definitions anyway.
However, I do like to try to give a balanced review and highlight both good and bad points. So, erm... Adoraboos is at least free and you won't waste any money by trying it.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.