Project 16: Week 2

A Critical Review of Start the Talk 

Start the Talk is a web game developed by Kognito. Kognito is a team whose core approach is based on research in neuroscience, social cognition and game mechanics. Users move through realistic scenarios at an individual pace. They practice and role-play real life situations by talking with virtual humans, building their skills in motivational interviewing and other evidence-based communication techniques.

Screenshot of Start the Talk

In Start the Talk you get to choose which parent avatar you wan to be and which kid avatar you want to hold the conversation with. After you chose your avatars the game begins the conversation and gives you option and actions to engage with.

The objective of this game to promote the importance of underage drinking. It is trying to teach an approach to educate and build trust with your kids about this subject. Knowing how to communicate with a kid can be tough and that is the objective of the game, it shows us that saying the wrong thing can alter the conversation. The dominant form of interaction the player has with the game is that the player is the main avatar as they play the parent role of the game. This supports the learning objective because we are trying to communicate and grow a bond with the kids. The social process is the most affected by the game design because it is opening the door of communication between an adult and a kid. This is the main goal of the game as it shows us how to try to get a point across and how saying the wrong thing can bring consequences.

There are two avatars present in the game at a time, the parent which I got to play as and the kid. The players in this game can interact both competitively and cooperatively with each other as their actions dictate which way they can go. The player in the game interact cooperatively because its objective is to achieve all the goals of the game. The objective of the game is to develop the conversational strategies and the confidence necessary to approach, educate and build trust with kids about drinking.The objective of the game is to earn different reward badges through the things you tell the kid. There are badges such as knowledge and care. There aren’t a lot of rules to the game. You are holding a conversation between the avatars and you have to get your point across about the importance of underage drinking. They complement the game because they help you make your point. The game prevents the player from behaving a certain way by giving it options to respond and actions to take during every move. It is fun because you are restricted to give certain responses and actions. It makes it harder to achieve the objective which is a great motivator. The game ends when you have most of your badges accomplished which means you have discussed underage drinking to some extent with your kid.

The main character is the avatar you chose to be. The motivation comes from earning badges through the actions you take. The relationship between the avatars is parent and kid. The challenges presented are how to talk about underage drinking and most importantly how to bring it up with your child. There are a lot of communication skills that have to be mastered and learned.
The game takes place in the kitchen of the house. The premise is learning how to speak about difficult topics with your children, in this case underage drinking and its effects. The story is linear as one action leads to the next and each action affects the other. The players communicate with one another based on the action that I as the parent did. The game is playful because it gives you different actions to chose from to speak with the child. Constructive play is mostly present as you have to build trust and communication with your kid. Achievers would mostly enjoy this game because they would try to achieve all the badges of the game. The tensions and resolutions are controlled with the actions that are given to us after the tension is presented. The story shows us conflict can happen when you try to communicate with your children and that every action we take can lead into the wrong conversation.

The badges being awarded are objected being used to build the game.
There are not many object properties being required for the game systems.
The objective behaviors are that you have to chose from different things to say every time. The relationships are very interactive because it is a one on one conversation between parent and kid. The controls are the options to say to the kid. New systems that emerge from game play are derived from the options of conversation that you. These are procedural driven as they are generated from the previous action you took, The system exposes the responses that the parent can make but they never expose what the kid is going to do or say. This is what makes the game entertaining because you do not know how the kid will react to what you say and it also makes it more realistic.

The game is fully functional because all of the elements are in place.
The game is complete because the objective can be reached even when obstacles are present. This game is balanced as it has all the elements to get the underage drinking problem across to the kid. A dominant strategy is that they repeat actions and dialogue to cue that you have to get that point out in the conversation. The game is symmetrical

The game is engaging as it keeps you alert and attentive with the dialogue you are having with your kid. The elements present like the distractions and prior knowledge to the topic of underage drinking presented through the video given before the game. The choices that are meaningful are the one’s that do not attack the kid and put them in an uncomfortable position.They relate to the game as they help you get the point across about speaking about the actions and consequences of underage drinking. There are no parts that are broken because the game makes it easy for you to approach all of these interactions between parents and kid. The game in my perspective was not boring, it was quite nerve racking because there were parts when I did not know how my kid was going to react. There are arbitrary windfalls that lead to the kid wanting to leave to the movies already because they don’t want to talk anymore but you can always say something to earn more time with them and a badge. The game is fairly easy to play and not boring easy. It takes anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to play and learn this game. The players learn to play as they proceed in the game because each action and dialogue drives where they conversation will go.

Kognito. ABOUT. Games for play. Retrieved from

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About Robert O. Duncan

I'm an Assistant Professor of Behavioral Sciences at City University of New York, with joint appointments in Neuroscience and Cognitive Neuroscience. I also have an appointment as a Visiting Scholar at New York University. My research interests include cognitive neuroscience, functional magnetic resonance imaging, glaucoma, neurodegenerative disorders, attention, learning, memory, educational technology, pedagogy, and developing games for education.

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