Parents and teachers are scrambling to keep the kiddywinkles occupied and educated in these Covid-19 days, and I’ve not seen anything that engaged me more than this maths lesson given inside Half-Life: Alyx. San Diego teacher Charles Coomber jacked into Alyx this week to record a refresher on angles, drawing on windows with Alyx’s virtuamarkers and even salvaging a broken plank from her balcony to help explain supplementary angles. It’s a charming lesson, and certainly more informative than all the cocks and cusses I’ve seen people drawing in-game.
“Review of Angle Vocabulary for Homeschooling Week because I have to teach today, but Half-Life: Alyx just came out,” he said in describing Monday’s excellent decision.
Coomber teaches seventh and eighth grade at the Otay Ranch Academy in San Diego (that’s year 8 and 9, or S1 and S2 in Scotland – so kids aged 12-14 or thereabouts). Most schools in California have been closed for the obvious reason.
He introduces Alyx’s stakeout flat in sunny City 17 as his own, complete with a Strider for a downstairs neighbour. Drawing with a marker (and wiping it out with Alyx’s finger or a board eraser) is a real thing you can do in-game, in that magical VR way, and I’m astonished by how tidy his handwriting is even when clutching digipens in a motion controller. I was maybe too distracted by that to learn much about those pointy thingys he was drawing.
If you found the lesson useful, perhaps you’d donate to Coomber’s classroom to buy new tools and supplies.
As well as a convenient learning environment, the game’s a good’un. Our Graham said in his Half-Life: Alyx review, “I hope I don’t have to wait for brain-computer interfaces to exist before the series returns again, because despite a handful of complaints, I still think Valve make the best first-person shooters around.”