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Shadowmatic A Review

Shadowmatic is an imagination stirring puzzle where you rotate abstract objects in a spotlight to find recognizable silhouettes in projected shadows, relevant to the surrounding environment.

Gameplay

Shadowmatic is a single-player game (available on iOS, tvOS and Android) that features an arcade mode, gorgeous graphics and 3D parallax view. It also offers nonlinear level progression, as levels can be completed in a number of different sequences. The game often presents the player with a fork in the road, where the player chooses the path forward. The game board is almost ethereal as the spaces are suspended over nothingness, with light and shadows dancing with each swipe and tap of your finger. It is alive, but still. Bogost (2011) said: "Relaxation and refection arise from constrained environments in which the senses are de-emphasized and focused" (p. 95). Shadowmatic is a relaxation game; gently guiding you through rote exercises in perspective as you use your fingers to flip and turn the abstract 3D shapes floating in the air against a calming backlit backdrop. Electronica music fit for a spa lulls you into what Bogost (2011) calls a "lean-back" position as you begin to form shadow shapes.

Hints and Progress Bar

The progress bar below each scene shows the player how close they are to completing the intended shadow silhouette by lighting up each circle. Sometimes, though, there is a secret shape players unearth that the game designers built in as an extra incentive to gain more points, and to further fuel the imaginations of its players. While there are hints in the game that players can use, it is encouraged that they are utilized only as a last resort so as to continue challenging yourself. The progress bar itself serves as a hint feature, but could also be seen as a crutch for players who would simply rotate the shapes mindlessly while only paying attention to the bar for progress (which is fine, too, if the object of your game is to relax!).

Benefits and Learning

According to Elizabeth Scott (2019) in an article on verywellmind.com, casual games, which can include simple challenges, short matches of gameplay, or the ability to stop and save at any time, help to relieve stress. Shadowmatic has all of the above elements, nestled within a visually and acoustically soothing environment. In addition, skill-building games like puzzle games can not only help take your mind off of what is stressing you, but they can help you to build executive function abilities. Honing these skills can help you to solve problems and stay organized in your regular life - abilities that can relieve stress! Shadowmatic manages to maintain a sense of tranquility, even with timed levels and scenarios with increased difficulty (arcade mode and scenes with two shapes as opposed to one).

As stated, Shadowmatic is a skill-building, relaxation game, developing spatial reasoning in its players in a more covert manner. It doesn't advertise as such, however. A resource from the John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth states that "even computer games that were not developed with the explicit intent to provide such training have been found to contribute to enhancing spatial skills" (p. 2).

Assessment

It would be interesting to have a conversation with students following some gameplay to ask about the timed aspect of the levels and compare to responses about their use of the progress bar - is there a difference in "strategy" used by each gender, for example? This is a game about spatial reasoning, as students are creating silhouettes from abstract shapes, paying some attention to the direction of the light. If girls, as relayed in lecture by Jenson, J and de Castell, S (2019), take their time when presented with spatial challenges, the timed aspect of the game might not be an indicator of who can figure out the silhouettes "best".

References

Bogost, I., & Project Muse University Press eBooks. (2011). How to do things with videogames (N - New ed.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. doi:10.5749/j.cttttmwd

de Castell, S. & Jenson, J. (2019). Workshop: Day 4 [Lecture]. Retrieved from University of British Columbia, UBC MET 565S.

Scott, E. (2019, June 29). How Video Games Can Be Used for Stress Relief. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-video-games-relieve-stress-4110349

What is spatial ability? [PDF]. (n.d.). Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.

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Review by: Melissa Lavoie

Review for: ETEC 565S

Shadowmatic website

Created By
Melissa Lavoie
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