Spectrobes: Videogames, Research, and Patience

I spent time over this long weekend playing Spectrobes for the Nintendo DS. Last spring, a family friend raved about the game and how he and all his middle school friends were playing it. They continued to play the game, exploring, collecting, and battling even after Pokemon was released last spring. Since junior high boys were choosing this game over Pokemon, I wanted to try the game for myself (now that it’s at a reduced price).


The game is an exercise in patience and persistence. Spectrobes is similar to Pokemon in that a player finds, trains, evolves, and breeds creatures to advance through the game. In addition to this, Spectrobes requires players to find their creatures by digging up fossils and “awakening” them. The game make good use of the DS by allowing players to chip away rock layers. Players drill, brush, or blast the fossils out of the rock. The creatures gain experience in battles and by eating minerals, which are also buried. Excavating these fossils and minerals is an exercise in patience and persistence.

Fossils and minerals could be found anywhere on the ground. The game allows the player to “scan” the ground to see if there is anything there. Once an item is found, the touch screen excavating begins. Because the maps and game areas are large, there is a lot of scanning to be done. I easily spent a few hours simply scanning, walking a few steps, scanning, walking a few more steps outside of the scanned area, and scanning again. This process rewarded me with a variety of minerals and fossils and was strangely satisfying. After playing through the first three areas the scanning began to get tedious.

The amazing thing is, the scanning didn’t get old for the junior high students. They diligently scanned each square inch of the game. The thoroughness of these players is exactly what could make them successful in research. The idea that if I just keep digging, I’m going to find something really good is a great way to look at research. Spectrobes players are not satisfied with the results on the first page or the first ten. They will keep digging. They have the patience to know that quality doesn’t always happen on the first search. Searching takes time and research takes time. Spectrobes players are aware of this and willing to give a search time to be successful.

How many students in our classrooms are willing to do this?

How many have the patience and persistence?

As a generation raised with Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Spectrobes, and others enter our classrooms and libraries, how can we use their experiences for academic success?

images from 1up.com