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My application is a large suite of educational games for children ages 6-13. There are about 100 games, organized into a kind of map showing top level categories as balls around a "hub":

enter image description here

(I'm obfuscating some of these because of trademarked images; obviously in the app it's not like that.)

You click on a category to enter it. Each category can hold sub-categories, and eventually you get to a bunch of balls that represent the games. If you click on a game, you leave this hub view to play that game.

Our challenge is this: how do we guide kids to certain games and away from others?

For instance, if a kid is weak in fractions, we want to steer him to the fractions games. But those games are scattered in various categories beneath this hub view. Or we want to discourage playing a certain game, because we think it's below grade level, but we don't want to prohibit/lock it, because maybe the kid needs to review that material.

My best idea so far is to reduce the opacity or color saturation or size of the balls that we don't want the player to pursue as much, but I'm not sure how much I like this.

Is there a better way of guiding the player along certain paths? Or, is there an entirely different way to represent this information and help users navigate through it?

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    Kids are fickle. Kids will always explore and push buttons you and I wouldn't even notice. Kids also love rewards. My kids (6 & 10) use IXL and love it when they 'win' a prize - the prizes are icons in a big grid and they win them by performing well in different exercises. To get them all they have to perform well in every exercise. – Andrew Martin Feb 14 '18 at 15:22
  • Sure, but IXL is pretty linear and you can go through it literally by number. My app is much more varied and a kid should NOT try to do every game, for various reasons. So I still need a way to channel them. – Joshua Frank Feb 14 '18 at 15:33
  • I still think 'prizes' could be the way to tempt them into playing particular games. Put prizes on the subjects they need to work on but none on the stuff they don't need to focus on – Andrew Martin Feb 14 '18 at 15:35
  • Interesting idea. How would you notify them about the prize opportunity? – Joshua Frank Feb 14 '18 at 16:19
  • Maybe a little alert icon on the edge of the relevant bubble? Something like the Facebook alerts? That's something you're going to need to figure out depending on how your UI and Visual Language work – Andrew Martin Feb 15 '18 at 8:30
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Is there a better way of guiding the player along certain paths?

The question can be rephrased to be: "how can we catch their eye and pique their curiosity?"

A child logs in and you want to lead the child down one path as opposed to another.

Movement attracts the eye. Make the path you want the child to go down more vibrant, more interesting, more exciting.

Rewards motivate. Make the path richer in rewards. (We're playing a game here.)

How you do this is dependent upon your imagination. I don't know how you're branding this. Do the children use avatars? As they level up can they add to their avatars? Are there games between levels? Use rewards like breadcrumbs to lead the child to areas he would not go on his own.

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Have a look at what Matheletics does in terms of motivating kids with rewards. They are past masters at it. The kids have avatars and they can earn different outfits/hats etc to put on them. I have never seen my kids get so motivated to perform fairly boring repetitive tasks :-)

The other thing that really works is competition. Mathletics has this built in but other maths games like tutpup (not sure if that is still around ) where kids can challenge others to do games.

Then perhaps giving a kid a personal profile and points and then being able to compare themselves with other kids (could use nicknames) - see who has got the most points this week etc. Award them with star of the week... all that jazz. Not unlike the league tables on stack exchange can encourage you to answer more questions and earn medals :-)

In terms of your visual display I think size might be the most valuable thing to vary... They could still click on the others and increase the size but present them initially as smaller.

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