Monday, January 08, 2007

Online simulation games and learning

I really like the concept of using games to learn something.

Games are fun, and can take a subject that a person may find boring, and put a fun slant on it.

My kids are interested in this MMORPG game called Dofus right now. We did the 7 day free trial and then I bought a month of play time for them. I think they like to concept it shares with Pokemon and other fantasy games: characters that can "evolve" in some way. Gain knowledge and skill, new powers, etc.

I remember when I was a kid, this character development was a powerful thing for me. I used to have loads of fun just talking through being different characters with my friends.

Now, the Dofus game does not have a direct educational element to it. But there are lots of lessons in there.

  • How to work together as a group for a common goal
  • Evaluating risk -- knowing when not to battle with another character because it is too powerful
  • Working toward a long-term goal -- they see other characters further along and see that they can get there too if they work at it

The tough nut to crack is how to make an intentionally educational game as appealing as the entertainment games are for kids.

The first 6 months of the year, I worked on a project funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. We created a prototype of an online, multiplayer game for kids dealing with Global Warming. We called it C02FX

CO2FX is a web based multi-user educational game which explores the relationship of global warming to economic, political and science policy decisions. The game is driven by a systems dynamics model and is presented in a user friendly interface intended for the high school user.

I think in the 6 month time period we had, we did a pretty good job on this game. We used a STELLA model to drive the simulation, and Flash to build the user interface.

Dofus uses Flash as the interface as well, and it is very slick. It is the best looking Flash application I have ever seen. Something to work towards if the team can take C02FX on further.

We are still looking for funding for the next phase of development. We may be awarded a phase 2 grant from NSF, but we need to demonstrate the ability for the application or platform to be productized.

Anyone have any good examples of this?

High Performance Systems used to have a relationship with Harvard Business School Publishing and created a few Learning Environments that were used in course study and sold as stand alone applications. These Learning Environments were CD ROM based and had ithink models driving them.

HPS also created other Learning Environments, that I think were ahead of their time. Maybe now the world is ready for this sort of thing...

No comments: