• Zack

Why You Should Teach With Beyond Blue

What's going on everyone?

Beyond Blue is a game I've been meaning to get to for a while now. This is the second game developed by E-Line media. Their first game, Never Alone, is one that I have taught with in the past. I loved the way Never Alone incorporated documentary video clips into the game so I was very happy to see that trend continue here in Beyond Blue. Beyond Blue is a single-player narrative adventure that takes you deep into our planet’s ocean. It takes players into the near future, where they will have the opportunity to explore the mysteries of our ocean through the eyes of Mirai, a deep-sea explorer and scientist. You can tell that it takes place in the future since some of the technology in the game does not actually exist yet. She is scuba diving without a full air tank attached. There are also several devices for scanning the environment that are a bit more advanced than what is currently available for divers. Mirai and her newly-formed research team will use these futuristic technologies to see, hear, and interact with the ocean. E-Line media partnered with BBC Studios (developers of the acclaimed Blue Planet II), OceanX Media, world-class game makers, and some of science’s leading ocean experts to create Beyond Blue. These partnerships really helped make this game shine.


The basic gameplay consists of gradually swimming around an ocean environment and scanning any marine life that you may come in contact with. It's a very relaxing game. There is nothing inherently difficult and there are no obstacles for one to overcome. It's almost a meditative experience. You swim and you scan. Although there is a narrative embedded into the game and there is quite a lot of dialogue and voice acting to keep you from ever getting bored. Listening to the cast of characters talk to one another is really nice. The protagonist's enthusiasm for marine life is also very contagious. She absolutely adores each species she comes into contact with, especially whales. This made me want to find and scan each and every species available.


The real stars of the show are the whales. There are a number of them that pop up throughout the game and it's a delight to see them every time. I loved learning about the sounds that sperm whales make in order to locate items of interest, the sing-song communication of humpback whales, and the ways that whales will even work with other species in order to find food and survive. There are no 'bosses' in this game, but that spot would be reserved for all of the whale encounters as they tend to show up towards the end of each level.

My favorite part of the game doesn't actually have anything to do with the gameplay. There are sixteen short documentary clips called Ocean Insights unlocked throughout the game. Each video is only a couple of minutes totaling a little over a half hour of footage. This is where it is clear that the those over at BBC helped develop the game. As you watch the clips, you cannot help but think of the more well known documentaries like Blue Planet. One thing that I think the game could have improved on is to directly connect an Ocean Insight to a specific event or moment in the game. The Insights are thematically related, but I didn't always feel like my actions in the game actually caused one to unlock. I remember while playing E-Line's first game, Never Alone, an Insight would unlock when you found a specific item and the Insight would expand upon it in order to give a better understanding of what's happening in game. Nevertheless, the Ocean Insights in Beyond Blue are great and I actually feel like I learned a lot from them. You'll really love them if you are at all interested in whales.


The final aspect of the game is a Science Log that catalogues all of the species you discover in the game. As you scan ocean life in each level, they are added to your Science Log. It is here that you can learn more about each species. There are more than one animal of each species and you have the ability to scan all of them. Each species has a number of encounters in the game. The more times you encounter and scan a species, the more information is unlocked for that species in the Science Log. This incentivizes the player to look for each and every animal or fish to scan in order to learn everything there is to know. This can get a bit repetitive, but I did find myself searching high and low for the species that I had a greater interest in such as dolphins, whales, sharks, and octopi.


Beyond Blue is a sweet little game. It only takes about two and a half hours to complete and maybe a little over three hours if you want to be a completionist and find every little thing in the game. I'm always on the lookout to find more games to include in Science classrooms and I think Beyond Blue can be a great fit. Most of the games here on Hey Listen Games are narrative heavy, which makes it difficult to find something good for a Science classroom. Beyond Blue is a narrative game. It tells a story about a scientist named Mirai, her colleagues, and her family. It also brings in primary resources for learning marine biology. If you are a Science teacher who has wanted to try teaching with video games, but didn't know where to start - this might be the game for you.


Thanks for reading,

Zack


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