What is T-Bag?
Initially, T-Bag can be thought of in a similar way to an eBook reader like Amazon Kindle or Apple iBook, being software that displays a book on the screen.
From here on however, all other similarity ends.
T-Bag is a leisure activity for many, but also an educational tool capable of both teaching literacy skills and others through the use of a Text Based Adventure Game (hence 't-bag'), or it's other common name of Interactive Fiction.
Text Based Adventure Games, or Interactive Fiction, provide descriptions on the screen in a similar way to what you would expect from most books, but then the reader has the opportunity to enter what they want to do next - the reader is the main character in the book.
The reader may want to investigate some things more closely, move around the environment being described or talk to other characters. During the course of the book, the reader will use the descriptions provided - which will also play out like a traditional book and tell a story - to chart their path through the book, solving puzzles and situations, until ultimately they reach the end the book and bring the story to its conclusion.
How does it work?
Interactive Fiction in this type takes the form of a game which appears on screen and is controlled by the keyboard.
Unlike most games however, which rely heavily on graphics and actions such as character violence, racing and competition and combat directed by a game-controller, a text based adventure game requires the player to read the description on the screen (which may be simple, or in the form of proper literature at various reading levels) and then respond by typing real-language commands.
A T-Bag interactive fiction book may be just simplistic text but could also include images or a range of additional media and external links depending upon the individual book.
Any T-Bag 'book' can be configured to maintain the defined appearance (therefore displaying the images, colours and text styles best suited to the genre of the book), or can be edited to display colours and fonts best suited to the individual student (e.g. to cater for colour blindness, dyslexia etc.)
Why is it an Education Tool?
Taking primary school children as an example (though T-Bag is suitable for new readers all the way up to competent adult readers - the challenges are different in different games), the skills explored might include but not be limited to:
- Exercising reading skills
- Understanding communication of information
- Forming logical induction and deduction from information provided
- Forming real-language responses and instructions
- Basic typing skills
- Partnering with a skilled reader, allowing questioning and exploring of what the reader is understanding
- Partnering with one or more other readers to build the idea of team work
- Playing a T-Bag often involves interpreting locations as a reader moves around the game - students can explore map-making, illustration of described locations etc.
- Tasks may involve external research, such as investigating facts in the library, on the internet or in the real-world
- Specific knowledge can be embedded into T-Bag games which explores currently learned subjects
- Other key skills based upon the nature of the individual game, including mathematics, interactive discussion, logic puzzles etc.
An interactive fiction game can benefit a student in the same way as reading any fiction or reference book, but with the added benefit of setting goals through interaction with the flow of the literature.
Why would even a skilled adult play a T-Bag?
The T-Bag software is what we call an 'engine' - the appearance, difficulty, comprehension requirements, range of logic puzzles etc. of a game are based upon the contents of an individual T-Bag book.
While a specific book may be oriented towards a student, other books can be oriented towards skilled players - young and old - and are playable by anyone who likes interactive fiction, specific genres in which the book is played, and working their way through logic puzzles - the difficulty can range from the very simple, to the devilishly difficult.
How is the software started?
T-Bag takes the form of a secure, online web application. This means that a student can interact with T-Bag from anywhere with a web browser - be it the school environment like a class-room or the library, or at home using an account created by the school, or using a personal account created as an individual.
Games are loaded and saved within the web environment, so a player can start a game in one place and continue it elsewhere, including on suitable mobile browsers.
What subscriptions are available?
There are three levels of access to T-Bag:
Personal access provides access to all T-Bag interactive fiction books that we publish1 as a player, with unlimited access to those books. This is the most common subscription used by individuals.
The collective subscription provides access to larger numbers of users, configured by a collective account holder at no additional charge - each of which enjoys the benefits of the Personal account (above).
The collective subscription is used by schools, academies, private libraries and groups etc. to provide access to T-Bag to their friends, users and students from both the organisation premises or externally.
The collective subscription can be taken at several different levels, providing access to different numbers of users (1-50, 1-250, 1-1000, unlimited)
The developer license is a bolt-on to either the Personal or Collective subscription and allows access to the T-Bag interactive game editor.
This utility allows suitably authorised users to create their own T-Bag interactive games for use by allocated users, generally, or for sale through the T-Bag catalogue.
T-Bag is due for public release end of Nov. 2020.
1 This excludes certain premium books which may be released from time to time, which may be based on Interactive Property outside our control (and therefore may require separate copyright license fees payable to initially develop the book), as well as works created by individual authors and developers who are marketing their books via the T-Bag catalogue (see developer license).