Sunday, January 20, 2013
Essentially the game asks you to identify typos and grammatical errors in student papers under a time constraint by touching the screen. The game designers have incorporated some of the most statistically common writing errors into the game so you'll likely find yourself nodding in recognition as you play.
The Grading Game (iOS) makes you the TA of Dr. Snerpus, the meanest faculty member on campus, who demands that you flunk students for saying mean things about him on social media. You are then presented with a variety of papers with typographical and grammatical errors, and your job is to find them in a given amount of time. If you succeed, you will be able to pay off your (virtual) student loans. Game mechanics couldn’t be simpler: your finger is the red pen, and you tap errors to fix them. Beware, though: if you fat-finger the wrong line, or otherwise tap a correct word, you get a time penalty. And the pressure is on: If you don’t deliver average student grades in the C range or below, you don’t get paid!
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Although they are very short and not very well-written, the essays are arguably the best part of this game, as they draw facts from reddit’s page of especially interesting Wikipedia entries (how can you not love this speech by Soggy Sweat, Jr.?) According the game designers, the typos and grammatical errors are randomly generated from lists of the most statistically common such errors.
The literal-minded might object to several aspects of the game, such as the fact that it imagines a world where TAs are paid by the error, where it’s possible to earn more than $1000 for correcting a three-sentence essay, and where grading is fundamentally a hunt-the-typo enterprise. And there’s no doubt that for people who actually do grading, it’s a bit disorienting to shut down your normal grading instincts and focus only on typos and obvious grammatical errors. (For example, errors of citation–leaving out quotation marks around quotations, for example, are not recognized by the game. Similarly, writing that is awkward or vague or misleading, but not outright ungrammatical, is fine.)
I also would have to agree with Phil Scuderi‘s observation that the game isn’t really about either grading or grammar, but is rather about tricking your brain to see what is actually on the screen, rather than seeing the correct grammar that it expects. And it’s also true that there’s not a ton of variety in the game: it offers you one trick, and you either enjoy it or not.
But I will say that The Grading Game makes proofreading surprisingly engaging. By organizing each challenge into three 30-second increments, the game is a fun way to kill little pockets of time. While it’s no Kingdom Rush, It’s currently priced at $0.99, and there’s also a free version that lets you play a few levels before you plunk down your dollar.