Seeing, Hearing and Doing – Why it’s important to think about learning styles

We were made to take a test about it at secondary school, and I was taught about its importance when I learnt teaching skills- there are three typical learning styles. Almost everyone (there are always exceptions) falls primarily into one of the following groups- Visual, Audio or Kinaesthetic. Each group acquires data and learns better using related methods- through music or pictures or through repeating a physical task.

I learnt a lot of teaching fundamentals from my mom, who is a college tutor and had been forced to sit through countless development sessions on how to ‘differentiate’ her lessons to accommodate different learning abilities and styles. And, during a particularly slow day at work this week, I realised that the same awareness of differentiation can be just as important to the game conceptualisation process as it to the classroom.

Games immediately lend themselves to Audio or Visual learners; they are moving media complete with music, voices and sound effects. Kinaesthetic learners…it’s not so obvious, but they may appreciate games that they can do in short sessions to keep their attention (and enthusiasm for the game) high.

So, games that are split into sections where the player can choose to stop if they want might keep Kinaesthetics happy. Regular or semi-regular checkpoints work well (FPS games lend themselves to this), as do games that allow players to manually save whenever they like (very very useful for handheld systems where the player may suddenly realise they need to get off the bus). Using bright colours to highlight important items is a great help to Kinaesthetics, and a mechanic often used in game tutorials to give players and extra helping hand. Games that use it a lot (*coughcough*Resi5*coughcough*) can make the player feel a bit spoonfed after a while, but different ability levels may appreciate this feature being there.

Taking care of Visual learners may seem straightforward, but it still needs careful consideration. They may be able to spot hints and clues from their environmental surrounds, and are likely to make tactical decisions based on things they see. “Hmm, there’s an ammunition refill and a health pack near that door. I reckon enemies are behind it” or “That bookcase is better lit than the other three, I bet the hidden door is behind that one”; both real-world examples that some players have picked up on and other players have completely missed. Woe betide any sub-standard textures or graphical glitches, the Visual learners will spot these in a shot and may not be forgiving.

One guy I used to play Left4Dead with was quickly made leader of our little group due to his amazing auditory skills. As soon as any of the music stings for the Special Infected were triggered, he’d have heard it, interpreted it and warned the rest of us. That was despite us wielding chainsaws and shooting endless rounds out of various heavy guns. It was very rare for us to be taken by surprise by a Smoker or a Jockey thanks to our friendly Audio learner. They are good at picking up on special music cues and telling sound effects, and are more likely to know they are being followed from the faint sound of footsteps than a dot on a radar map. They’ll make good use of voice chat capabilities with their teammates. Remember Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and its option to let you yell “Objection!” into the DS microphone? I’m primarily and Audio learner, and I used that option whenever I was playing in the safety of my own home.

Difficulty curves and changeable difficulty settings are great for players of differing abilities, and are more or less standard in most games. Maybe a little forethought about learning styles could help make a good game concept great?

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~ by Tegan on January 20, 2012.

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