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What is a 'sandbox'?
In the gaming world, it can be applied to two different things (from the gamers side at least - it may mean something different to software developers!): a game in which the player can modify the virtual world and thus have a high level of control over how they play; or a mode available in some games which allows the player to experiment with how the game works without the pressure of trying to complete set tasks or 'win'.
Image by by ▓▒░ TORLEY ░▒▓
Give us an example!!
- Second Life - an online world in which players can modify and create objects, buildings, landscapes and interact with each other.
- Minecraft - a 'building blocks' game in which players can create structures and new objects to protect their in-game selves from the dangers of the world they live in.
- Garry's Mod - based on a user modificaiton of Half-Life 2, this game allows users to build with and manipulate all manner of objects. As the official website says: "there aren't any objectives - you can't lose and you definitely can't win"!
- Universe Sandbox - does what it says on the tin! A simulation of our universe which players can alter by adding and removing planets and/or stars or changing their size before watching the chaos unfold...
- A list of other sandbox games can be found here.
Some people consider the likes of Grand Theft Auto and Assassins' Creed to be sandbox games. However, these are more accurately referred to as 'open world' games, which allow the player to explore game world areas in depth but don't always allow for modification and manipulation of the environment in the way that a true sandbox game would.
How could a 'sandbox' game be used for language learning?
- give learners a set of instructions for building/making something in the game and ask them to work in groups to follow them.
- or simply describe a structure or object and ask them to recreate it in the gmae (like a picture dictation but using in-game tools rather than pens and paper).
- in both of the above cases, students could then be asked to compare and contrast their creations and see how close they were to making your original item.
- create a series of characters and locations and take screenshots of them. These can then be used as the basis of a storytelling activity.
- 'What would happen if...?' scenarios. Invite learners to experiment with different changes to the game world, first predicting and then describing the changes that take place.