My Journey to Chinese Adventure Game Design
By Lihong Tang
- Mom, why are you writing in English?
I know my readers are mostly Chinese. But I am writing this in English. As I have a most important reader in mind who cannot yet read Chinese. I believe he will be able to read Chinese soon and then I am going to write letters in Chinese to him. You know, I express myself way better in my native tongue.
- Mom, why do you design the “Chinese Adventure”?
Jerry has started his Chinese learning at Tyee middle school last semester. He has been my first audience and game tester. I benefited immensely from his feedback. And we even started learning Chinese at home, taking his younger sister and brother along. We have not taken any Chinese lessons before and I never thought of teaching them Chinese myself because my previous effort to teach my own kids failed miserably. I think many parents here understand why. But this game oriented method have kept us going and our Chinese home schooling is going on smoothly. He had his moments of resistance and frustration. But I think he enjoyed it when he saw me taking joy in designing and sharing the Chinese learning games. The language teaching process also allowed us to talk about things like Chinese culture, Chinese philosophy, anecdotes, stories and thoughts about life and ourselves.
Learning should be interesting. It involves hard work, of course. That is why it is meaningful for us to work together to develop strategies to make the hard work more bearable and yield better results.
- Mom, why do I have to learn Chinese?
Chinese is a beautiful language. The only pictorial language still in use. Has the largest population using it. Becoming more and more important in the world. However, that is not the reason you have to learn it. It is not even because you are Chinese and should learn more about your heritage, your culture, or your race. Chinese may or may not be helpful to your future career. But at least right now you will learn more about why Chinese parents do things they do. If only to give us a chance to talk about things, it is worth our best shot. As parents, doing things for our kids is easy and doing things with our kids is hard. Especially Asian parents. We are used to making decisions for our kids and pushing them to do things that we think are beneficial. Play piano. Join the swimming team. Enroll in this class. Enroll in that class. They say. If it is such a good thing that you want me to do, why don’t you do it yourself? Some of the less tamed kids will ask us. So let us do this together.
- Mom, are you even qualified to do this?
I have actually been a teacher for about 17 years. I stopped teaching, ironically, after I got my Ph. D. which did not lead to a faculty position.
I have failed to become a pure scholar because I look for instant gratification, relevance and immediate results. While the scholars do researches out of their passion to seek pure knowledge, I ask constantly why this is important and how it is useful to me. Vulgar, I know. It might be because my parents belong to the generation that experienced hunger and my upbringing has been all about practicality: how useful things are and how they help you survive. I am not ready for knowledge for knowledge’s sake.
But I was a good teacher. I love sharing my thoughts and discoveries with people. I know I am not the expert in any field and I know I have not spent my whole life perfecting a piece of knowledge. But once I found something that is interesting or of value, I would like to share it. With discussion and practice, I enjoy seeing results and changes in myself and in the people around me. That is exactly what activities at Little Master’s Club allow me to do. We are all scholars of real life. We made up for the education that we missed about life, family, parenting, relationship and communication through our own research and experiments. I think I found my passion here.
- Now it is my turn to ask you:
Why do you play games?
What makes a good game to you?
Do you know games gear towards learning?
What about classroom games? Language games?
If you are interested to join our “Chinese Adventure” game design, or just want to do something related to learning Chinese, with your parents or your kids, please join us. We are meeting at Newport High classroom 2105 12:00-2:00pm every Saturday to brainstorm the questions above and form Chinese learning game design studios. Each studio will hold regular meetings and complete a game project that will be showcased at Little Master’s Club event “2016-Chinese Adventure: A Journey to West” in March 2016.