I’ve spent the past few hours chatting, pleading and shouting at an AI on an abandoned spaceship. Would my students enjoy the same experience?
I personally feel that, like television, video games are now enjoying a period of quality and plentiful-ness. There has been an explosion in genres, it’s no longer the choice between some kind of puzzle arcade game and a shoot-em-up. And there are so many good games out there now.
Event (0) fits into the story-driven narrative and exploration genre. You are transported to a desolated spacecraft, the Nautilus. Once you manage to get into the ship, your only companion is the ship’s computer, an “insecure AI entity named Kaizen”. To communicate with Kaizen, you type messages on terminals dotted throughout the ship. Through typing messages and reading the replies, you explore the ship and discover the mystery within.
I was drawn to this game after watching the trailer (see below). The idea of being able to ask Kaizen anything (as opposed to choosing dialogue options) struck me as something that could be interesting to explore in a language class. Of course, the computer only understands English, and is probably unforgiving of spelling mistakes. So, a good chance to emphasize accuracy in written communication perhaps?
I still have yet to play this game with students, but I did experiment with Kaizen myself. Sure enough, if I made terrible spelling mistakes it would not understand. With syntax however, it was a little more forgiving. I could ask it to “Please open door 10”, “Can you please open door 10” and “I’d like you to open door 10” as well as just “Open door 10 now” or even “door 10 open” so I think students could get away with sometimes a little more unusual sentence constructions as long as the key verb and object were there.
What was more interesting was that you don’t simply have to give Kaizen orders. You can ask it questions, and even make small talk. The AI seemed to be developed enough to recognize quite a wide range of things, although just like anyone who has tried to trick a chatbot you can confuse it or get a very random answer at times. I personally found myself typing things like “Thanks Kaizen” or “Guess what, it’s me again” (a bit like I did with Apple’s voice assistant Siri the first time I got an iPhone – embarrassed smiley)
How do I envisage using this in a class? Well, first of all the game is only available via the game platform Steam, so I’d have to bring my laptop (which has it installed). Projecting the game onto a big screen could work then. I could see it working really well with a small group, one person on the controls and the others helping give directions and suggestions as to what to write. I would not use this game with a low level class, as it quite quickly involves reading logs and other messages of some complexity. I’d say that B2 is a good level for it, although with some hand-holding you could use it with B1 level students. Having played through the whole game myself once, I could help guide the students and would therefore recommend you do too. The game took me a total of 4 hours to complete in various sittings (it’s not very long) but each “step” or “puzzle” takes maybe only 20 minutes, so is doable as part of a language class.
Communication aside, the game is very pretty. It’s got that 2001 A Space Odyssey vibe of course, and reminds me of other films like Solaris or Moon. There are also some great scenes where you are space-walking around the outside of the ship, with the only sound being that of your own breathing and you see your space helmet misting up (I LOVE THAT STUFF).
I actually found myself getting a bit freaked out at times, but maybe that’s because I played Alien: Isolation earlier this year and kept worrying about a huge horrible alien dropping out of an air vent on me (Alien Isolation is a horror game that’s amazing, but that I would certainly not play with students!).
Event (0) was developed by a group of young indie developers called Ocelot Society (based in Paris). You can find out more about Event (0) from their website. At the time of writing, it costs €19.99 on Steam.
If you like this kind of space stuff, ExLT has you covered! Try out our free adventure Red Planet Hiring, where students apply for a job on Mars, or take it to the next level with our e-book English for the Alien Invasion!