Appinions – Gaming

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A great app will keep you glued to your device. Whether it’s lifestyle, social media, utility, gaming, productivity or news; apps are an essential part of student life.
Each month we challenge our Student Digital Champions to delve into a new category, delivering fresh perspectives and making proclamations for essential applications. Which features are dumb? What should be at the tip of your thumb?

Written by Georgie Pitts, Kexin Li and Leah Parker: Student Digital Champions.

Georgie PittsKexin LiLeah Parker

August 2022- Gaming

The age-old battle for control of the gaming industry has been waged between console and PC. Improvements in mobile technology, 5G networks and AV/VR integration could see mobile gaming closing the gap.

Unlike their rivals, mobile game developers often adopt a freemium business model, where games are available for free (or very little cost) and users are encouraged to make in-game purchases known as microtransactions.

Powernode

Powernode icon

Powernode is a puzzle game which requires you to “combine numbers to create energy sources and feed the network”. Essentially, power stations are numbered, and when numbered nodes pop up, you need to sustain them using these power stations. For example, you can use two “3” power stations to sustain a “6” node.

However, if you connect a power station to multiple nodes, it becomes less efficient, so you need to consider how you’re organising your board!

When you open the app, there are two game play options: Zen or Rush. I believe Zen is a slower version, whilst Rush is more fast-paced (although this isn’t explained).

Pros

  • It’s a very aesthetically pleasing game
  • It is challenging, which can be a good thing if you enjoy a challenge
  • Requires you to multitask and plan ahead
  • There is a global leader board, and as its a relatively new game, there are only 2000 people on it, so you could work your way up quite quickly

Cons

  • I couldn’t locate the “How to Play” section. Whilst there was a brief introduction, this was not enough to fully teach the game rules, so it was hard to get the hang of it!
  • It is challenging, which can also be frustrating if you’re looking for an easy game
  • Whilst there are two different modes of game play, there are no levels, so the only way to track progress is using your score

The aesthetic of the game is great. It claims to be very “zen”, and I would agree.

It is not an easy game to get the hang of and was actually quite frustrating at first! However, once you get the hang of the game, it is fun and challenging.

It is definitely a game you could spend hours playing, and I do get better every time I play it. At first I was unsure, but now I would definitely recommend if you like to be challenged, and enjoy focusing on different things at once.

Reviewer: Georgie Pitts

Download links:

Google play icon. Link to appapp store link

Brawl Stars

Brawl stars app icon

Brawl Stars is a mobile e-sports game from Supercell. The game is a multiplayer shooter where players battle each other in multiple competitive modes with different goals, from being the last brawler to collecting the most diamonds. Brawl Stars will display many different events as the player’s experience value increases such as Bounty, Gem Grab, Heist, and showdown, Brawl Ball, and Boss Fight. Brawl Stars’ gameplay takes the basic logic of MOBA games and cuts it down to the bare minimum — there’s no equipment, no pre-development time, and mostly you’re just waiting for wave after wave of group battles. The match time of about three minutes is also in line with the characteristics of mobile games. It makes full use of people’s fragmented time. Even if you lose the match, the frustration will become very small because of the short match time.

Pros

  • You can team up with friends for game battles
  • No advertisement
  • The game takes very little time, allowing players to start a game anytime, anywhere
  • Compared to other competitive games, the game is low in difficulty and very friendly to newcomers
  • The game design and the characters are very cute

Cons

  • Communication between teammates is difficult and can only be communicated through emojis
  • You need to pay for gems to buy boxes, skins and other things from the shop
  • Some players reported bugs in the game

I personally like this game very much, it makes me feel very relaxed and fun. It doesn’t require me to have any game skills, and I can adapt to the game very quickly. I often play this game in groups with my friends, and we discuss strategy or chat together during the game, which makes the game more interesting. My favorite event is the Showdown, its logic is the same as PUBG, which is to get the final victory by shooting the enemy, but this game is very easy to play, and I don’t need to spend a long time to finish a game. Besides, the game’s characters(Brawlers) are very cute that I’m tempted to spend more time in the game to collect them.

Reviewer: Kexin Li

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Luminosity

luminosity app logoBrain training app aimed to improve your cognitive skills including memory, attention, reasoning, flexibility, processing speed and problem-solving, using a variety of exercises. Lumosity claims it takes research from labs and has converted this into over 50 fun minigame-type exercises, using your performance score form to provide you with feedback on how your mind works.

Lumosity sets you a daily brain workout, consisting of multiple tasks that aim to improve your performance in one the training modules mentioned. If completed daily, this feature will allow you to track your progress on these exercises over time, providing you with information about your game strengths and weaknesses. Analysis of your game play is used to help understand your cognitive patterns and set up braining training habits, and subsequently used to curate a programme personally tailored to the individual.

Pros

  • Basic version is free on iOS and Android
  • Easy to navigate around the app
  • Unique and fun minigames

Cons

  • The free version only allows for three minigames in three training modules each day, meaning you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version to get extra features.
  • Insights, including game progress report and game strength profile, remain locked on the free version.
  • Subscription only, cannot buy game outright.

Overall, I liked the features of Lumosity and found it quite fun to do the daily fitness workout games and see how I was improving over time. However, with the free version you are fairly limited in what you can do on the app. A lot of the cool features I was excited about, including progress reports and all the games, can only be accessed on the premium version of the app. As such I did the premium free trial, and I would definitely say the premium features make the experience a lot better and more exciting, so the quality of brain training may depend on your subscription. All in all, the free version is still fun and challenging as modules and games are alternated each day, so it is an app I am definitely going to continue using.

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Bad North: Jotunn Edition

Bad north app iconBad North is a strategy game in which you and your troops defend islands, travelling along the map and avoiding defeat.

You open the app and begin a campaign (you’re able to have 5 at once on different accounts), choosing your commanders and deciding on an “easy”, “normal” or “hard” option. Then, the game begins and you’re deployed to an island. The enemy approaches on boats, and if you defeat them, you get coins.

Your troops are replenished when the next level begins if they died on the previous island, but if your commanders (and all your troops) die, then it’s game over for that campaign, and you must restart it again from the beginning. However, you can recruit new troops if you win a battle on an island they already live on.

If your troops are low health, you can replenish them in a house on the island, but be careful if there are enemies approaching as you’ll need to fight them.

You can even upgrade your troops with different classes, skills, items and traits. For example, equipping them with bows and arrows and developing that skill until they’re veterans.

Pros

  • Option to restart the level midway through or flee if the battle seems lost
  • It is very simple to understand the rules
  • You can unlock different achievements which is great way to track progress and keeps you engaged
  • Easy, medium and hard options for the campaign
  • Good variety within the map in terms of islands you defend
  • Can have 5 campaigns going on at once

Cons

  • It is a bit frustrating that once your commanders die, it is game over and the campaign is lost
  • I didn’t realise that the shadow gradually covering the map was Vikings taking over the islands, and accidentally allowed them to take over mine, meaning it was game over
  • It is £3.49

I really enjoyed this game. It is different to the puzzle games I normally play, and requires different skills. However, it was really simple to understand the basics, although some elements required trial and error to get right.

I really enjoy the look and feel of the game; it has a minimalist feel which is effective and feels modern. It appears to be a rather simple strategy game that looks easy, but does require you to plan ahead and can be challenging. Like any good game though, you get better every time you play. The little troops are fun and easy to move around, and it’s easy to gather coins to upgrade them as the game goes on.

You’ll need to be good at planning and strategizing, thinking ahead and multitasking!

After beginning on the “normal” mode, I’d probably recommend starting on “easy”, unless you’re accustomed to games like this!

Reviewer: Georgie Pitts

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Stumble Guys

Stumble Guys app icon Stumble Guys is a knockout game where players can use different methods on different maps to pass levels. This game consists of 32 players competing against each other on random maps, either individually or in teams until a champion is determined. During this process, players need to pay attention to the traps in the level. If you accidentally drop a trap of the level, you will probably be left behind by other players. Each time has three levels and only one player can win the final game. This game is very similar to the current popular game Fall Guys, no matter the game name or the game design, but this is the version of the mobile game, so players can play the game anytime, anywhere. This game is very interesting and challenging, and players need to try repeatedly to get a certain level of winning skills.

Pros

  • Players can get skins, gems, and tokens by watching advertisements
  • This game is very simple and suitable for all game players
  • You can team up with friends to play this game and compete together for the championship
  • Each game is short and doesn’t take a lot of time.
  • This game takes up a relatively small amount of phone memory, only 512MB

Cons

  • The maps will not be updated regularly, so players may get tired of playing a map quickly, resulting in low game stickiness.
  • Players are often paired with robots in order to quickly fill rooms or levels
  • The lack of changes and new features in this game compared to the Fall Guys has raised questions about plagiarism.

This game was very challenging for me, I played for half a month and only got the final victory once. I need to play a map many times before I get used to the tricks. This game is friendly to Apple users. Fall Guys is a platform battle royal game, available on Steam and can only be downloaded by Windows users. Stumble Guys can be downloaded by both Android and Apple users, so this game satisfies my curiosity about Fall Guys to some extent. However, I’m not very satisfied that you need to watch ads to get extra skins. Players have four chances to watch advertisements for lottery draws every day, but these advertisements take a long time, which worsens my overall impression of the game. In addition, this game will not unlock new maps (like they do in Brawl Stars). I always play the same scene over and over again, which makes me less eager to keep playing.

Reviewer: Kexin Li

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Elevate

elevate app iconElevate is a brain training program designed to help you speak more articulately and concisely, improve your writing abilities, increase your reading speed, process written information more quickly, improve your focus while reading and listening, perform day-to-day math equations, and more.

Elevate’s games are supported by research and designed in collaboration with experts. Each day, you are provided with a personalized training program that adjusts over time to maximise your brain training results. Upon completion, you are able to measure your performance on these exercises and compare them across the skill groups.

Pros

  • Basic version is free on iOS and Android
  • Enjoyable and fun minigames
  • Weekly performance reports and content reviews available on free version

Cons

  • Need to upgrade to Elevate membership to access all features
  • Game play instructions quite vague

Similarly to Lumosity, I really enjoyed my daily workout, as I was able to play a variety of different minigames which were both fun and mentally stimulating. The app was easy to navigate and being able to my own detailed performance report which tracked my progress did motivate me to keep playing each day. The app was very easy to navigate but occasionally game instructions, and games themselves, were a bit vague. Again, like Lumosity, with the free version I was limited to what I could achieve on the app. Despite this however, I will definitely keep using the app as I did find the games challenging and motivating. I would recommend it to anyone looking for subtle ways to improve their reading and writing skills.

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

These apps aren’t supported or managed by the University of Bristol. Don’t forget to think about what data you are adding to these apps if you decide to download and use them. Our Online Identity video highlights some of the factors you may want to think about when you are online.

Next month: Utility

Mastering your digital body language

Written by Souwoon Cho, Digital Education Developer

You might have already seen or read articles about the importance of body language when communicating with others. In some cultures, to show your engagement this can include maintaining eye contact, sitting up straight, and not crossing your arms.

As we find ourselves in a world where hybrid teaching and working is becoming the norm, how does the importance of body language translate to the digital world? In this blog, we delve into some of tips to help you to improve your digital body language.

Girl looking at her phone

Check and re-check before you send

In June 2021, Whatsapp tweeted:

Over 100 billion personal messages a day are end-to-end encrypted by default on WhatsApp.

This staggering statistic reflects the sheer volume and frequency we send messages on a daily basis. The ease and speed of sending and receiving instant messages can often create typos, misunderstandings and ultimately tension in your relationships. It’s worth taking the time to read and re-read your messages to check:

  • What details should you include for the receiver to respond to your message?
    For example, if you’re e-mailing your school office, have you included your full name, student number and the name of the unit you are querying? University staff are working with hundreds of students, so providing these details will give the receiver clarity to respond to your query more efficiently.
  • Have you read and understood the message you are responding to?
    While moving between lectures, you might find yourself checking and responding to e-mails quickly and on the move. Trying to multi-task and respond quickly can lead you to mis-read or miss out key details from the message causing more confusion in the long-run.
  • What is the call to action in your message?
    It can be confusing what is expected from us when we receive a message. Enhance the clarity of your message by specifying if the message is just for information or if you expect them to respond or action something by a certain date.

Coffee cup sat next to a tablet

Establish expectations from the start

Today, we have an incredible choice of digital tools and channels to help us communicate with others. But how to you choose the right channel and the right time to communicate?

When working in groups, put in that extra work at the start to establish from the beginning the group’s preferred communication channel (for example Microsoft Teams, Whatsapp, Facebook) and the group’s expectations for responding. This is sometimes referred to as digital netiquette.

Every lecturer will have their preferred time and way of communicating with you as a student. If this was not clear from your introductory lecture, ask your lecturer for clarity on how they prefer questions to be asked outside of the classroom and what you should expect in terms of response times. Whether that is asking questions via e-mail, Padlet, Blackboard forum or a Microsoft Team’s channel, it is best for you to know which channel you should use, and how you are expected to use it from the start for a better learning experience.

Lady holding colourful balloons

Don’t forget your human side

While in theory digital communication can strengthen your connections with others, it’s very easy to forget that there is a human behind every message you send and receive. Without physical body language, it is even more challenging to communicate your feelings or gauge the feelings of others.

If you are attending lectures or seminars online, a simple way to do this is turning on your camera to replicate the body language signals you would communicate in person. There are many reasons why you may choose not to turn on your webcam. If this is the case for you, make the effort to engage with the chat functions where available. Erika Dhawan a digital collaboration expert recommends using the power of punctuation and emojis to communicate your feelings, your engagement and to add context to your messages.

In situations where you are finding messages are being misunderstood, it is okay to try to revert to another channel. Particularly if the topic of conversation is complicated or sensitive, a phone call or face-to-face meeting may be best to move the conversation in a positive direction.

People seated around a laptop

Conclusion

Going forward, communicating digitally with your peers, lecturers and colleagues will continue to play a key part in your day-to-day lives at university and in the workplace. How do you rate your digital body language? Do you have any tips or resources for mastering digital communication? Let us know in the comments below.

Further resources

Kick start your summer with Bristol Futures Open Courses

Congratulations on coming to the end of your summer assessments for 2021/22!

A picture containing tree, grass, outdoor, person throwing papers in the air in celebration.
Photo credit: Ketut Subiyant

While some of you may be ready to not look at a book or a screen for the next 3 months, some of you may find the transition from the academic year to the summer quite unnerving. To help you ease into the summer months, Bristol Futures Open Courses is a great option for you to learn outside of your usual degree subject for free!

You can join the courses starting on the 13 June 2022 on one or more of the following themes:

  • Innovation and Enterprise
  • Sustainable Futures
  • Global Citizenship

The courses run over four-weeks and take approximately 3 hours a week.

Who can learn?

Exactly what it says on the tin, the Bristol Futures open courses are open to all! The courses are aimed primarily for University of Bristol students, but in fact students, staff, and alumni from all around the world can sign up and engage in the courses. This gives you, as the learner, a unique opportunity to gain a wider perspective on the theme.

Who are the mentors?

The Bristol Futures Open courses starting on the 13 June 2022 will be mentored run. This means that your learning and engagement will be further supported by trained student mentors from the University of Bristol.

How you can join

As a current University of Bristol student, you can join for free via the Open Courses tab on Blackboard.  You can sign up for a course up to 6 weeks after it has started. But you will benefit most from the mentor support if you sign up before the start of the next course run on the 13 June 2022.

A picture containing the word summer in scrabble letters on some sand.
Photo credit: Ylanite Koppens

We hope to see you on one or more the Bristol Futures Open courses over the summer. Otherwise, from all of us in the Digital Education Office, we wish you a very well-deserved summer break – whatever you decide to do!

Find your digital balance on University Mental Health day

Written by Souwoon Cho, Digital Education Developer and new team member of the Digital Education Office.

If you haven’t heard this phrase recently, here it is: ‘Unprecedented times’. Of course, this was the go-to phrase to try and describe the impact of the pandemic on a global and personal level. A lot has changed since 2020 including more teaching and social events taking place in-person. However, the dilemma we face trying to manage the digital world and our wellbeing remains.  

You may hear of some approaches to this such as getting rid of your smartphone, deleting all social media, and not looking at e-mails for an extended period. But these approaches to eliminate screen time are not realistic for a student navigating day-to-day university life.  

So, what digital tools can help you achieve digital balance on University Mental Health Day and beyond? 

Man looking at his phone
Man looking at his phone

Digital tools for focus and motivation.

Do you ever feel distracted and constantly switching between different screens and digital tools? You are not alone! Rather than making you feel less productive, there are digital tools and apps available to help you focus on the task at hand. The list of great apps to help student’s focus and motivation by AbilityNet is a great summary of some of the tools for you to try.  

Dark mode for a better nights sleep.

Student Minds recommends avoiding your use of screen devices at least an hour before you intend to sleep as one of their tips to improve your sleep. This can be easier said than done. Another approach to ease your transition from screen to pillow is to reduce the blue light being emitted from your screens.   

You can set your screens to night or dark mode a few hours before you intend to go to sleep. Steps on how to set your display for night time mode are available for Windows and Mac. Most smartphone will also have this mode available, so check your phone’s user manual for further information.  

Image of lit up laptop in a dark room
Image of lit up laptop in a dark room

Free Yoga, HIIT, and Meditation.

Cat stretching
Cat stretching

Being physically active is one of the NHS’s 5 steps to wellbeing, but going for a run or attending an online dance class can seem like a lot of effort despite the obvious benefits. Fitness apps such as Downdog offer guided Yoga, HIIT, Meditation and even Ballet Barre sessions at your convenience. You can set the time, level and intensity of the session which gives you control to fit it around your schedule. Even a 5-minute session of chair yoga is better than nothing right? Since the pandemic, Downdog has been and is currently still available free for students. Of course, there are other similar apps available, so if this isn’t for you, explore different apps or digital tools until you find one that works for you.  

Looking after the mental health of university students and staff is not a conversation just for University Mental health day. We hope these tips will help you create ongoing positive change to the future of your mental health.  

If you have any comments or further tips to share. Post them in the comments below! We would love to hear from you.  

Further support and resources
Whether you are a staff member or student, if you feel like you are struggling, it is always good to tell someone about how you are feeling. If you don’t feel able to do this, the University has wellbeing support for staff and students. We’ve also listed some further resources below.

Student minds mental health day poster

Bringing the cohort together: Student solutions to the problems of online isolation

It’s no surprise to anyone that a lack of social interaction has been really difficult for many of us this past year. In our context of university life, this has shone a light into what a social experience learning really is for a lot of us, and what a huge loss there is when suddenly you’re studying alone. Learning together adds motivation, a sense of belonging, a sense that others are in it with you, a way to sense check your own ideas. It’s that intangible magic of feeling like you’re ‘at university’ which is easy to lose online. How can we possibly foster that feeling when we’re all in our own four walls and without the atmosphere of a lecture theatre, library or seminar room? 

This year, the DEO have been working with a team of Student Digital Champions, spread across all faculties in the university, to try and find out. They were tasked to listen to students, hear their concerns and bring them to us so that we could foreground that student voice in our work. They didn’t stop there though, once they identified common issues arising in the student experiences of online learning, they wanted to do something about it. 

One thing they head from students is just this problem of isolation: students were finding the experience of online learning lonely, and felt that they are missing out on the social aspects of university study. We know that a lot of work has already gone into solutions for this problem across the universityThe brilliant Study Skills team ran ‘Study Lounges’ as early as last summer, and we at the DEO worked with them to make a toolkit for these sessions, so that anyone could run them with their students too.  

The Student Digital Champions decided they too wanted to do something practical, and worked with staff and students in their schools to develop and pilot a series of toolkits and case studies for different kinds of events and activities aimed to bring students together online. The idea is that staff or students can use these as inspiration and practical help to run a session like these in their own contexts. 

All of our Student Digital Champion case studies can be found from the DEO Case Studies pageHere are a few examples which are all focused on increasing a sense of belonging and overcoming student isolation when studying fully online, whether that’s within an online session, at a school level, or as a networking or social event. 

Working with the students in this way this year has been incredible for us in the DEO. They’ve been coming up with ideas and suggestions for how to make positive changes, and we’ve been co-creating solutions which are already impacting the current cohort of students. It’s not always been easy, and these aren’t magic bullets, but maybe they’re a step in the right direction? 

If you want to try out any of these ideas, why not find a few likeminded people in your school and give it a go. Don’t forgot to let the DEO know how you get on, we’re really interested in hearing from students and staff about whether these suggestions are helping to make a difference.