Somewhere in this massive, 8-billion strong world of ours, sits a kid playing Minecraft. This kid is building elaborate structures and in-game machines in such a way his parents take notice. If properly encouraged, that kid will go on to be an engineer or architect thanks to the opportunity Minecraft provided them.
In much the same way Star Trek inspired generations of scientists, aviators, NASA folks, Minecraft, and games like it, will go on to bring us generations of smart adults who got their start with Mojang’s Sandbox game – or, perhaps, Bridge Constructor.
Bridge Constructor – and now Bridge Constructor Portal – offers a similar, albeit more structured, opportunity as Minecraft. This is the kind of game that belongs in a classroom or school computer lab; designed to entertain, yes, but also actively teaching kids and players of all ages, the nature of structural engineering as it pertains to, well, bridge building.
Somewhere some kid is going to play this game, fall in love, and find themselves on a path to a profession, all thanks to ClockStone games, and developers like them. Kerbal Space Program, Besiege, the aforementioned Minecraft, and the now-in-early-access ECO are all pioneering this genre of games that manage to stimulate creativity (and problem solving) while not expressly marketing themselves as educational in any way shape or form.
Look at Factorio with its focus on creating self-reliant manufacturing methods, or how Human Resource Machine teaches you the very fundamentals of coding.
It sure beats the hell out of Math Blaster or Super Munchers, that’s for sure. Meanwhile the game we remember from that era most fondly, The Oregon Trail, managed to entertain first, and teach us resource management and national geography second.
I bring this all up because I am *terrible* at Bridge Constructor Portal. Currently stuck on the…12th test chamber, I’m having a wonderful time finding myself stumped, and am having a hell of a time with the notion there are people far more inclined to this sort of problem solving, and those people are – hopefully – future Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math prodigies.
The brilliance of Bridge Constructor is in the game it is fundamentally an entertainment. A game. It’s not expressly educational any more than legos or Minecraft are; yet a work knowledge of physics is almost required to succeed.
The Portal edition of the game goes a step beyond; couching the fundamental educational nature of building complex, weight-bearing structures, inside the snide, snarky, dystopian world of Portal…to decent effect.
Having not played the original Bridge Constructor, by the time I was running over turrets, zipping through portals, and exploiting Newton’ Third Law to my benefit, I couldn’t help but feel I would have enjoyed something a hair more realistic. I was still having a full-on blast with the notion of building bridges, then the game threw a bunch of extra, sci-fi obstacles in my way, at which point the game stops being out-right ‘realistic’.
But no matter. If you’re a parent of a particularly precocious kid, let them at Bridge Constructor – it’s sneaky in its teaching, and if someone shows true skill at the title, especially at young age, well…the sky’s the structurally balanced limit.