Virtukana .pdf

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Author: Tobias Andre Andersen

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Virtukana
An interactive Japanese Hiragana and Katakana learning tool
Produced solely by Tobias Andre Andersen (Tobandan)

Virtukana

Marts 2014

Tobias Andre Andersen

Introduction
When I first set out to learn about the Japanese language I found that the literature and educational
books required a tremendous amount of both time and dedication. Being the busy-bee that I were at the
time, I simply did not have the time and will to power through books upon books in order to completely
understand the language, let alone be able to understand the alphabet.
Next up came Study cards. These seemed just right for my purposes but, not surprisingly, fell short of my
expectations. They were awkward to setup, and finding the right pack of cards seemed like an unnecessary
hassle just for some cards.
The next step on my journey towards learning Japanese fell upon the digital medium, wherein I discovered
a lot of useful tablet applications like Hiragana Pixel Party and internet communities such as Reddit’s
“learnjapanese” sub-reddit. These were great for getting a grip around the basics of Japanese, but seemed to
lack certain qualities that I could not pin-point at the time.

Let’s gaze upon Hiragana Pixel Party as an example
It was with much excitement in my heart that I installed the
application on my tablet, and witnessed the sound and
graphics of my very first edutainment.
My first play through taught me 10-12 out of 49 Hiragana
before being too repetitive to enjoy and focus for a longer
period of time. I felt defeated in my quest. The game became
an annoyance and it seemed like I had to give up unless I
wanted to discard my current education in favor of that one language.
This hiatus did not conclude my quest for long, since I still had that burning desire to be able to read
Hiragana and Katakana. Both of which combined lay the foundation of the written Japanese and as such
are the very first thing a novice must learn to proceed.
I took it upon myself to figure out the best ways to learn it through play that did not become repetitive
and annoying akin to the aforementioned example.
Something I, and others, can have fun playing and still learn all that is Hiragana and Katakana.
And thus began development of what now goes under the name of Virtukana.

2

Virtukana

Marts 2014

Tobias Andre Andersen

Pre-production - Research
Previous attempts at making Hiragana and Katakana learning tools have been varying in quality and
effectiveness.
Let us take a look at a few select cases where I’ll point out what I perceived as flaws and strengths.

Hiragana/Katakana Pixel Party
Strengths:
The biggest strength of this game is that it is engaging and for a brief amount of time it is actually
enjoyable whilst still taking the player further on his or her quest towards better Japanese.
Sound and graphics were engaging.

Flaws:
This game had some pretty grave flaws; however, due to its nature as a rhythm game, it did not survive for
long seeing as it is not a well-liked genre of mine. It also became increasingly frustrating as one progressed
due to its non-tolerance policy towards errors that may or may not be caused by lacking rhythm rather
than not knowing the kana.

Hiragana and Katakana - Complete Basics of Japanese
Strengths:
This is a very comprehensive and in-depth learning tool, and it is great for looking up details and doing
quizzes.

Flaws:
One of the biggest flaws, which I have witnessed in many similar applications, is that it is both quite rigid
and most are bound to app stores. Ads are obtrusive and annoying.
No real graphics and sound.

Dr. Moku – Learn Japanese fast!
Strengths:
The barrier to entry is extremely low. It is incredibly intuitive and mnemonics are a great way of learning
the Hiragana and Katakana.
One may listen to all the kana without hassle and it is quite the wondrous application.
It features a good amount of both audible and visual education.
Great sound and simple graphics help with immersion.

Flaws:
It is costly and not totally engaging. There is nothing that keeps the user playing beyond learning itself.
It is slightly confusing to navigate.

3

Virtukana

Marts 2014

Tobias Andre Andersen

Pre-production – Mission plan
After trying out as much as I could try out of competition, I decided that what was missing or great in the
existing products and tools were the following:






Engagement
Atmosphere
Fluid and dynamic media
Sound, Graphics, Animations, Video
Game elements

Games in education has been proven to help speed up learning and make it enjoyable
Social element
Optional social sharing as motivational gestures and marketing elements

So, what platform can accommodate the above?
I came upon the conclusion that due to the massive development in browser capabilities and graphical
promise along with my set of skills; that using HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP had to be the optimal
solution. It spares me expenses I would normally use for outsourced programmers and I get to grow in both
Web development, Design and Japanese itself.
TL; DR: Make a game using web technology that is engaging, atmospheric, beautiful and optionally social.

4

Virtukana

Marts 2014

Tobias Andre Andersen

Pre-production – Simple concept

5


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