I like games…but it turns out I have misunderstood the video game approach to designing practice activities

Fascinating to hear more from Amy Price speaking on iCoachCricket about her video game approach (VGA) to designing practice activities.

Back in 2019 I tried to devise a couple of vga-inspired games, but, working way below the “high performance” level, I was looking for games-based activities that teach players how to play cricket, not how to play the games.

In truth, my games are really gamified drills, and lack the strategising amd meta-cognitive elements that are clearly central to Amy’s conception of VGA.

What follows are some initial thoughts on modifying Amy’s game (you will need to watch the series of videos on iCoachCricket) to support my notion of “purposeful” cricket practice, whilst introducing more of the “thinking about thinking” that is key to VGA.

VGA vs. Gamification

My “knock ‘em down” and “lock ‘em up” games are gamified drills — the incentives encourage players to play the games, thereby practising (and, hopefully, improving) specific skills (bowling to hit the stumps) and tactical skills (batters deliberately manipulating the field settings by hitting the ball into gaps).

The “strategising” element of VGA is largely absent. The games are deliberately simple, and will be won by demonstrating a specific skill rather than adopting a particular strategy.

And, in truth, I wasn’t that concerned, because I wanted the practice sessions I put on to be “purposeful”, technically and tactically.

Making VGA fit?

How would I make the outcomes and the upgrades more relevant to the game of cricket, not the VGA game?

Outcomes

Take wickets; save runs.

Always, only this.

It will win Test matches and T20s, and everything in between.

Level-ups

Level-ups in a video game are meant to make the game harder, not easier — as you advance in the game, it should become more challenging. So what we are talking about here are really upgrades — new skills, new abilities, new affordances, to use the CLA nomenclature.

Releasing a “locked” fielder certainly fits this model for a fielding team.

Earn a level-up by (a) restricting scoring (less than 3 an over, say); (b) bowling a controlled line & length (no wides, not more than 2 full tosses and/or long-hops in an over); (c) taking (say) 3 wickets.

Super-powers

The “earned” super-powers (temporary affordance) really should translate to the game being played. Sorry, you are not a “super bowler” with a bazooka because you have run over a “star” carrying the ball.

But perhaps we could we offer a super-power when a team demonstrates a fielding skill e.g. return the ball to the keeper’s gloves on the full; relay the ball back to the bowler with 3-4 clean catches.

  1. That’s “over” — bowl a dot-ball and end an over up to 2 balls short to earn a level-up.
  2. “hat-trick ball” — if a wicket falls off the next delivery, the batting side lose 3 wickets (also earning that level-up).

Cheat, Change, Clue, Challenge

I’m less keen on this, because it means allowing a team to call a “strategic time-out” and stopping the game. And cricket is already very stop-start.

But if this is limited to maybe once per innings, it could introduce additional tactical challenges.

Cheat

I’d drop this. We shouldn’t be teaching players that it is ever OK to cheat. It’s just not cricket!

Change

  • Swap any two (locked) fielders.
  • Move the boundary rope (5m or less, to create a longer hit on the leg-side, or back over the bowler’s head).
  • Move the wickets (<2m) to a less favourable playing surface.

Clue

  • Ask the coach.
    • I’m not keen on this as a reason to stop the game, but perhaps this could exist as a “coach’s time-out” if a team isn’t trying any tactical options.

Challenge

  • Gain two level-ups if you can complete one of the level-up tasks with 1 player sitting down for an over.

Conclusions

I’m not expecting to get the chance to coach much this summer, so this is largely a paper exercise.

But I would love to hear from any coaches who have tried the VGA design approach with their teams.

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; All Stars Cricket Activator & Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire; ECB Coach Developer

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