Want to learn JavaScript? Venture to 'Ozaria' and save the world

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The educational video game company CodeCombat released a new game on Wednesday with the goal of introducing students to basic programming concepts and facilitating mastery of computer science skills through immersive gameplay.

Ozaria, an adventure fantasy game made for the PC platform, takes students on a journey to a mythical kingdom where mastering the art of coding is the only way to save the world from collapsing into darkness. Combining an epic storyline with computer science curriculum, Ozaria teaches players how to write in Python and JavaScript — two of the most widely used programming languages — through challenges and puzzles that must be solved by typing out correct code.

Learning how to program is not always entertaining or engaging for students, David Chase, marketing lead for CodeCombat, told EdScoop.

“Education also needs to be engaging while still being effective,” he said, adding that video games are a powerful way to reach that goal.  “That’s really the foundation for which we’re approaching Ozaria.”

Beyond increasing student engagement, the structure of games also provides an effective platform for developing skills, Chase said. Video games are built on the idea that, as the player progresses, he or she becomes more adept and can complete increasingly challenging objectives. However, most skill mastery inside a video game does not translate to the real world, he said.

Ozaria, however, aims to teach students real-world skills but in the same engaging immersive way associated with traditional video games, Chase said.

In the game, students take on the role of a hero who must learn and master the “lost magic of coding” to save the world from collapsing into darkness, completing programming-based challenges as they move through each level.

Students are first introduced to computer science concepts through cutscenes and character dialogue in the game. Players then practice typing out code to complete objectives in each level. Finally, students are able to demonstrate mastery of skills in capstone projects, where they get the chance to build their own adventure stories and games within the Ozaria universe before moving on to the next level.

“We want to allow students to see themselves as not only computer scientists but as people who can build apps to change the world,” Chase said.

The reason behind having an engaging and dynamic story arc is to allow students to become immersed in their learning, said Robin Yang, CodeCombat’s senior product manager. In an engaging story, students forget they’re in a classroom, she said, and by embedding coding curriculum into Ozaria’s storyline, students are able to master essential computer science skills almost without realizing it.

“We don’t think that in order to teach well it has to be boring, or in order to be an engaging game you have to teach less,” Yang said.

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