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Role Playing (Games) Education

Academic Games Are No Fun 159

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-neither-are-most-games dept.
Ponca City, We Love You writes "Academics have been flocking to use virtual worlds and multiplayer games as ways to research everything from economics to epidemiology and turn these environments into educational tools. A game called Arden, the World of Shakespeare, funded with a $250,000 MacArthur Foundation grant and developed at Indiana University was supposed to test economic theories by manipulating the rules of the game. There's only one problem. "It's no fun, " says Edward Castronova, Arden's creator and an associate professor of telecommunications at the university. "You need puzzles and monsters," he says, "or people won't want to play ... Since what I really need is a world with lots of players in it for me to run experiments on, I decided I needed a completely different approach." Part of the problem is it costs a lot to build a new multiplayer game. While his grant was large for the field of humanities, it was a drop in the bucket compared with the roughly $75 million that goes into developing something on the scale of World of Warcraft. Castronova is releasing Arden to the public as is and says his experience should serve as a warning for other academics. "What we've really learned is, you've got to start with a game first," Castronova says. "You just have to." The new version is titled Arden II: London Burning."
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Academic Games Are No Fun

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  • Why use money? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by suso (153703) * on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @09:41AM (#21584109) Homepage Journal
    If there is one thing I've seen on The Linux Games Tome [happypenguin.org], its that it only takes a few people to build a MMORPG. If anything, they should just use the quarter of a million to mobilize some open source programmers around a game that is open source.
    • Don't hurt me. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Shivetya (243324) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @10:07AM (#21584335) Homepage Journal
      but it only takes a few people to make a MMORPG only a few people will ever want to play.

      Considering all the angst displayed here when World of Warcraft is mentioned there should be no shortage in OS programmers creating new and great MMORPGs to bring down the evil and all so boring and all so many people are leaving and etc etc World of Warcraft.

      But there isn't.

      The problem in crafting a MMORPG is that it takes a long long time. I can find any number of people "with great ideas for a MMORPG" I just cannot find anyone who is a. willing to expend the real time it will take, b. compromise with others, c. just be available for group meetings, and d. willing to code the grunt side of the setup.

      Hell this guy is just making a module for NWN or such... all the ugly stuff most programmers hate is provided (art work etc)

      The days of just tossing out something (laughable anyone think a MMORPG can be made quickly - even muds took time to evolve beyond copies of diku)
      • Re:Don't hurt me. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @10:25AM (#21584473) Journal
        The problem in crafting a MMORPG is that it takes a long long time.

        True, but that's mainly because of one time-consuming thing you didn't list: building up the user base and getting them to stay there, so that the network effects take off. (The feeling that they're being toyed with isn't good for that.)

        I was rather unsatisfied with the claims in the summary: A MMORPG needs puzzles and monsters? What about Second Life and Club Penguin? And why is it so hard to add them? $250,000 is quite a lot if you think in terms of "how much you'd have to pay five geeks to set up a vitrual world in a month".

        Convincing people to come can pose other problems for the economic analysis as well. The fact that people can quit any given game but not real life, can influence results.
        • by edunbar93 (141167)
          Or, for that matter, what about Yahoo Fantasy Stock Market? Objective: get as rich as you can. Faster than everyone else. Kinda like, uh... the stock market. The same thing happens in WoW because the game lets you. And there are many avenues by which to make that happen.

          Really, his complaint is "My idea for a game was dumb, and I'm looking for something to blame for all that money getting wasted."
        • by cgenman (325138)
          The problem in crafting a MMORPG is that it takes a long long time.... mainly because of one time-consuming thing: building up the user base.

          Actually, as a game developer, I'm going with A: tens of thousands of hours of content to churn, B: a multi-server technological platform infrastructure which is both synchronized and massively parallel across disparate random hardware, C: character separation via deep customization and minimum 5 - 8 primary paths, and D: intricate system interactions frequently orders
      • by Hatta (162192)
        Considering all the angst displayed here when World of Warcraft is mentioned there should be no shortage in OS programmers creating new and great MMORPGs to bring down the evil and all so boring and all so many people are leaving and etc etc World of Warcraft.

        That's assuming the angst is directed towards the specific game WOW and not just MMORPGS in general. An MMORPG can be made by a couple of people in a couple of months. A good MMORPG can't be made at all. Besides, we already have MUDs.
      • by xtracto (837672)
        The problem of making open source games is not the development of the programs, but the development of the graphics (models, textures etc.). You see, graphic deisgners value their time and "products" more than programmers. That's why you see almost all open source games with incomplete and fugly graphics that does not compare to graphics available in games from 1995 (like the original Command and Conquer game [wikipedia.org] or Ultima VIII).

        The problem in crafting a MMORPG is that it takes a long long time. I can find any
      • Well, Argentum [argentum-online.com.ar] is pretty decent and lots of people play it, although some of those people can be quite annoying.
    • by GWBasic (900357)

      If there is one thing I've seen on The Linux Games Tome, its that it only takes a few people to build a MMORPG. If anything, they should just use the quarter of a million to mobilize some open source programmers around a game that is open source.

      I think World of Warcraft has something like 64,000 objectives within the game.

  • by hanssprudel (323035) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @09:41AM (#21584117)
    I still know when you can ford a river in covered wagon and how to die of cholera.
    • Unless more fun games are available. I remember having Oregon Tail and it was played a lot unless there was a normal video game available. Then that was played.
      • by CRCulver (715279)
        At my elementary school, Oregon Trail faded as Bolo became more widely-known. If the developers of Oregon Trail had made a network-ready version where you could descend on other people's caravans, slaughter the inhabitants, and take their goods, sending the player back to Missouri, they would have been more successful.
        • by PriceIke (751512)
          LOL .. I can just hear my teammates on Vent flapping their hands in front of their mouths (producing that silly indian warcry o-bo-bo-bo-bo-bo-bo-bo-bo-bo) as they trash a 4th grade class's little education trek.
      • by Firethorn (177587)
        I remember that game...

        Honestly, I'm surprised my settlers didn't get scurvy from all the meat they were eating.
    • I always like Organ Trail, I just wish they had a Mormon Trail version. Where you not only had to worry about surviving, but keeping your wives from killing each other.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Organ trail? Good God, what kind of sick, gore-filled rendition of Oregon trail have you been playing? At least it teaches anatomy...
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by siriuskase (679431)
          They need a Magic School Bus game based on that episode where they drive around in someone's bod, and another whether they drive out to Pluto.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by ampathee (682788)
            They exist! See here [amazon.com] and here [amazon.com]

            I remember playing the solar system one at the library. It was pretty fun - jumping around in low gravity and such.
        • by slackerboy (73121)
          Organ trail? Good God, what kind of sick, gore-filled rendition of Oregon trail have you been playing? At least it teaches anatomy...

          The special Donner Party [wikipedia.org] version?
  • by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @09:43AM (#21584119) Journal
    Didn't we just have this discussion in June? [slashdot.org]
  • by snarfies (115214) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @09:46AM (#21584151) Homepage
    I see Arden is just yet another module for Neverwinter Nights. And so long as I need to have THAT installed to play Arden, why don't I just, like, put on my robe and wizard hat and play the main campaign? Of COURSE people don't want your module - you've lashed it to something that's far more compelling.
    • by panda (10044)
      Yep, exactly.

      They were a couple years too late in doing this project if they're going to base it on NWN. From my experience playing NWN online, I'd say that the online population of players for that game hit its peak in 2005 or so.

      Many players have moved on to other games, and most of those who remain are fairly dedicated players of the servers where they do play and have been playing. Most won't bother to try out a new server unless it has something more than Castronova's name going for it.

      Plus, I think i
    • by amrust (686727)
      Exactly.

      And at the least, couldn't they maybe have based it on something like Oblivion, as a mod package?

      • And at the least, couldn't they maybe have based it on something like Oblivion, as a mod package?
        No. Despite the fact that TES IV takes on the worst qualities of MMOs, it is not, in fact, a mulitplayer game.
  • by faloi (738831) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @09:49AM (#21584177)
    World of Warcraft is the biggest name out there precisely because it is fun for a lot of people with multiple playing styles. How many games that either weren't fun at all, or only fun for a small subset of a potential player base have gone by the wayside in recent years? There's still something to be said about gabbing a niche for a player base, but the game has to be fun to attract enough people to keep it going. Once the game stops being fun, the only thing to keep it going is the sense of community with the people you're playing with. Once that's gone, people move on.
    • I found WoW boring, but have enjoyed DAoC and Eve in the past. Go figure.
    • by morari (1080535)

      World of Warcraft is the biggest name out there precisely because it is fun for a lot of people with multiple playing styles.
      Grinding with an ax wielding warrior or grinding with a magic user?
  • by Skiboo (306467) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @09:50AM (#21584183) Homepage
    Perfect Competition [perfectcompetition.net] is a game that seems to have similar goals, but I guess it must be fun enough for at least a few people to play. It wasn't really my thing but it is a business/economics sim that is quite active. From their site: Players can establish companies, run a hedge fund, direct a company as the chairperson, recruit and dismiss staff, choose markets, set up business units (shops, factories, oil rigs, mines, livestock farms, crop farms, logging camps), deal with suppliers, decide on locations and transport, manage production, pay wages, set prices, innovate and differentiate products, carry out R&D, patent intellectual property, advertise, build brands, sell products, sell services, buy and sell land, invest in real estate, borrow and lend through company bonds, issue shares, invest in shares for dividends, speculate in shares for capital gains, acquire and merge companies, execute hostile takeovers, create horizontal and vertical business conglomerates, buy market research, analyse balance sheets and profit and loss statements, monitor cash flow, examine financial ratios, view economic statistics, and base business decisions on the economy of the game: interest rates, inflation, commodity supply shocks, and more. It is the most comprehensive, realistic and popular business simulation.
    • by Kirth (183)
      Well, the fun part isn't replicating the real world, but to change the rules. And I doubt you can implement a monetary system with negative inflation in that game.

      Things like this were done in a live-roleplaying game: Money made out of clay (Adobe, so to say): It would crumbe with time, making for an automatic deflation. People tried to get rid of money as fast as possible...
      • by Boronx (228853)
        Money that is both deflationary and causes people to try to get rid of it as fast as possible is pretty neat.
  • Oh yea... Fun! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FredDC (1048502) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @09:56AM (#21584231)

    to test economic theories by manipulating the rules of the game

    Have you thought this through? Whenever a regular MMO changes it's rules, an almost instant flamewar commences and many people leave the game.

    If you want people to play your game, and keep playing your game, you will not be able to simply change the rules to test some theory of yours concerning economics... No, you'll have to be busy keeping people interested, and not randomly changing the rules is one aspect of that!

    It's a great idea, I give you that, but it's simply not feasible for real...
    • by tttonyyy (726776)

      If you want people to play your game, and keep playing your game, you will not be able to simply change the rules to test some theory of yours concerning economics... No, you'll have to be busy keeping people interested, and not randomly changing the rules is one aspect of that!

      It's a great idea, I give you that, but it's simply not feasible for real...

      Don't be daft - people love economic rule changes.

      By the way, I've changed the rules to add a my-reading-your-post tax, which incurs a two cent administrative fee per word. Thus you owe me $1.78, which exponentially increases if there are replies to this (and possibly other) thread(s) unless a) they are moderated Insightful b) Jupiter's third moon aligns with the rhombus of Capricorn. On a Tuesday.*

      *Rules subject to change at my discretion and with no notice. It'll be more fun than crack cocaine, honest

    • What you miss is that the rules are already constantly changing, or in reality being discovered. When a game is released people go and play without much attention to all of the rules. At time goes on, combinations of certain abilities (rules) are found to be more powerful than others so people flock to those. When those combinations are 'balanced' people then flock to other combinations which are more powerful. What's interesting to me is how quickly a population of gamers can discover the optimal set o
      • Rule changes bother many people, but they give fast learners an edge. Good game deveropers know that and are careful not to drive away more people than they keep. Not all changes are fun for everyone, but an unchanging game gets boring for others. But, no one likes to be jerked around with no return of entertainment value.

        It might be better for the professor to use his grant money to study games that already exist and have been around for years. Most games have in game economies, but many have interact
    • by Firethorn (177587)
      not randomly changing the rules is one aspect of that!

      But doesn't this effectively happen often enough in the star wars MMORPG, even WoW and EVE?

      I'm not convinced that the scientists wouldn't be less than current games. After all, it'd be deliberately introduced by the scientists to test a theory and make measurements. Scientists who're probably looking for more subtle results, and not some semi-mythical 'game balance'.

      It could even be things as subtle as changing the federal discount rate by a tenth of a
    • by ps236 (965675)
      If it was done properly, I don't think it would be a problem except for the people who just want to power-play. As long as this was publicised beforehand. Eg, if one week it was announced that banks would lend you up to the value of your property at 0% interest. What's the problem with that, and it would be an interesting economics experiment. Or, if someone discovered a new gold-field, or goblins started up a new 'uber-sword' factory so the market got flooded with those or whatever.
  • by archen (447353) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @09:59AM (#21584257)
    Acedemic games no fun? That's because the focus is WRONG. Games are meant to be fun or entertaining: that must always come first. Same thing with Christian metal bands. If you focus on the message first and not the music, people aren't going to bother even listening because the music is sub par. There are more examples I could go on and on about, but simply put most educational games are misguided because that's the nature of acedemic games. I mean who is going to fund an educational game where only 5-10% vaguely seems educational? But that's what is required.

    Actually I don't even think it's that hard to come up with educational games. For instance I can identify every kind of ship in the Star Wars universe and I don't even LIKE Star Wars. Why? Because when playing Tie Fighter it's just secondary knowledge that you picked up. I took a class in college where the class worked on an academic game, and it had potential. It took place in the old west and kids were meant to do various things. Now you aren't going to be able to quiz kids every 30 seconds, but you can easily drop in things that are somewhat educational like what people used to buy, what sort of horse does what task, etc. No one would be rabidly pleased at how educational your game is, but it's not that hard to get people to pick up small bits of real knowledge.
    • Now you aren't going to be able to quiz kids every 30 seconds

      I think you hit the head on the nail there. Education is obsessed with testing even tough most people in education agree it is a poor way to judge learning abilities. The problem with most educational games is that it is focused on giving the players easily testable skills vs. actually bringing the student into a world where they virtually become primary sources of the topic, (where most primary sources of history will normally fail the test the
    • Actually I don't even think it's that hard to come up with educational games. For instance I can identify every kind of ship in the Star Wars universe and I don't even LIKE Star Wars. Why? Because when playing Tie Fighter it's just secondary knowledge that you picked up.

      The work of James Gee and Kurt Squire is all about this - the idea that all successful video games are (almost by definition) ideal learning environments. You necessarily have to learn stuff to progress in the game - if it were too easy or

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AmberBlackCat (829689)
      I think the guy needs to try to get professors from other colleges to encourage their students to play the game and use what they've learned from the game in their classes. Maybe if they get a grade for it, they'll be more likely to do it.
    • Actually I don't even think it's that hard to come up with educational games

      I agree, and I'll point to Age of Empires as an example.

      In junior high and the beginning of high school, I had a number of history classes focusing on the ancient world. Simply knowing the vocabulary -- having an idea what a phalanx is, or a trireme -- was useful when writing essays. Of course, Age of Empires is not a faithful simulation of ancient combat, but it gets enough right that its educational value is definitely nonzero. In fact, the manual that came with the game (do people read those? I d

      • by nelsonal (549144)
        I've yet to meet anyone who played Pirates! who didn't learn far more there than in school about sailing, piracy, or 17th century colonial economic systems.
    • by MrCrassic (994046)

      I can attest to this. While learning Japanese, probably the most useful asset that helped me memorize the kana was Slime Forest by Project LRNJ. The game itself was set up like an RPG (with a kind of unusual plot; fun nonetheless!), but winning any of the fights throughout the game was completely reliant on one's knowledge (and quick recollection) of the Japanese kana.

      I think what made that game entertaining was that while the academic incentives were there and clearly visible, the actual "game" itself wa

  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by r_jensen11 (598210) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @10:04AM (#21584313)
    I remember plenty of fun, academic games that I used to play.

    Number Munchers, Super Number Munchers, Donald Duck's Playground, Oregon Trail, Oregon Trial 2, anything involving Sesame Street.

    Of course, it's easier to make educational games for children. Part of the reason is that even if they don't know how to play the game as it was intended, they'll play it a different way. I suppose this is also mimicked by adults with Grand Theft Auto, but then again, adults aren't learning much other than the various ways of killing prostitutes.
    • by ultranova (717540)

      I suppose this is also mimicked by adults with Grand Theft Auto, but then again, adults aren't learning much other than the various ways of killing prostitutes.

      Hey, that is very important knowledge. It helps you stay alive in the only job still available once globalization and the outsourcing trend reaches its logical conclusion.

  • Nomic (Score:4, Informative)

    by Urban Garlic (447282) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @10:10AM (#21584355)
    The idea of a game where the main play activity is to change the rules has a fairly old pedigree -- one variant, called nomic [wikipedia.org], was popularized (OK, in a geeky sense) by DouglasHofstadter [wikipedia.org] in the Metamagical Themas column in Scientific American way back in 1982, and the game itself is older than that.

    Nomic is a little different from the emphasis of TFA, in that nomic's creators focussed on the political implications of self-referential, self-modifying rule systems, and TFA seems to be mostly about the economics of such systems.

    I and a group of my friends took on nomic many years ago, and found it to be mostly theoretically interesting, and not all that fun in practice.
    • Oh hey, thanks! We played this in a summer class I took in high school, and I've wondered recently if I could find the instructions online or something, but I couldn't remember the name of it.
    • Interesting - I was exposed to Nomic [wikipedia.org] via Monochrome [mono.org], it can be quite fun for a while, but then I started to get bored with it as the game progressed. It's a good intellectual challenge, with more than a fair share of game theory sprinkled in for good effect - for example if someone is close to winning, then it is in the interest of other players to change the winning condition, whilst ensuring that they maintain their own position.

      I think it's a game best played online with decent records available to

  • by weave (48069) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @10:10AM (#21584359) Journal

    "You need puzzles and monsters" eh? Explain Second Life then.

    I don't "get it" (SL) and actually remarked to a co-worker after trying it for a while that it wasn't any fun because you don't kill anything, but lots of people spend a lot of time there.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by urbazewski (554143)
      Shakespeare's work has sprites, fairies, wizards, witches, wars, feuding street gangs, feuding royals, treachery, broken alliances, hidden identities, and yes, even a puzzle or two. There's plenty of material to create an interesting world. Then there's the amazing language games that Shakespeare plays.

      This was a failure of imagination, methinks.

    • It's a "virtual world". I think they're trying to make it something similar to the web. As in, the web is not a game, but you can implement games in it. Same way, SL is not a game, but you can implement games inside.

      I'd say it parallels the web quite nicely in that SL is really a medium for doing things. Some people play. Some use it as a 3D chat. Some as a base for programming/building projects. Some role play. For some it allows simulating their dreams: If you want to be an anthropomorphic cat, or to live
      • by weave (48069)

        Of course not everybody gets SL, just not like everybody gets the web. If you asked my parents they wouldn't have a clue why there are so many people posting here, for them it's not "real" and completely pointless.

        A pretty good summary. I've wonder that as well. I see a lot of parallels in SL compared to the web back around 1994. Some companies tested the waters a bit, a lot of ugly web sites were up, most of it was a novelty. Like I went into the Sears and Circuit City "stores" in the IBM island and th

        • by vadim_t (324782)

          Like I went into the Sears and Circuit City "stores" in the IBM island and they were deserted, not very useful, and lacking in content, but it made me wonder if I was looking at an early Web 3D basically.

          I hear IBM is quite happy actually, it seems they own quite large amounts of land there and use it for meetings or something like that. Personally I almost never visit corporate areas, so I don't really know.

          One thing though: It's normal for a shop in SL to be deserted. That doesn't mean it's failing. SL is

    • by vorpal22 (114901) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @11:03AM (#21584875) Homepage Journal
      Agreed. Anyone remember M.U.L.E. [wikipedia.org], which was essentially a simulation of economics? It was, IMO, quite possibly the best game of all time, and the one that my friends and I played the most when we were kids. I bought a C64 emulator just to relive the memories.

      Not a single puzzle or monster in it (well, the wampus, but chasing a black dot through mountains hardly qualifies as a real monster :D).
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      "You need puzzles and monsters" eh? Explain Second Life then.

      Easy. Second Life sucks.

      Or, how's this? It's a puzzle how to build anything moderately interesting! And it's filled with monsters who are just there to indulge their deviant fantasies!

      Or, another simple one. "Hype hype hype."

      I could go on for hours^Wminutes!

      • by MrCrassic (994046)

        Isn't Second Life supposed to be a virtual reality environment and NOT a game? If it's a game, where does winning come in and what are the benefits of doing so?

        In my opinion, I'd be hard-pressed to compare this with something ilke World of Warcraft. Then again, I'm not a gamer by any means, so I could be very wrong about this.

    • by MORB (793798)
      Does anyone have any reliable number on second life anyway?

      The official ones are grossly inflated because they count free trial accounts that were only ever used once.

      I strngly suspect that despite the hype there are really not many people playing it.
      • There isn't one, because it's not something that can be defined.

        You can get starts on the number of accounts, and the number of accounts that were used in the last X days. The actual amount of people is impossible to tell because SL doesn't require paying to login anymore.

        But I don't get what's with the obsession with numbers anyway. You can login and see that there are a lot of people. Whether it's 1, 5, or 50 million doesn't really change much.
        • by MORB (793798)
          Yeah, since when actual numbers were of any use? Personal hunches and hype are enough.
          • Did you read what I said? There's no way to calculate actual numbers.

            It's like trying to calculate the number of *people* using Slashdot. Some have one account. Some will have many. Some are probably not even human (there are quite a few bots in SL).

            Point is, not even Linden Lab has accurate stats on it. They do however have stats on the number of accounts, the number of them used in the last 90 (I think) days, how many are paid subscribers, and how many are logged in right now. It's about as good as it get
    • by Pvt_Waldo (459439)
      In Second Life, the "puzzles" are the creations of the players and the players themselves and the "monsters" are the other players and the interactions they enable.

      I think Prof. Castronova used a poor choice of words. I think a better way to say it would be, "You need things to interact with that challenge you, and you need either AI or other players that give you challenges to overcome."
  • It needs to be addictively competive! You know, with a scoring system, frags maybe, level-up stuff ...
  • Wouldn't setting up a M.U.D. [wikipedia.org] be a lot more affordable? Granted it's so 1970-ish and not as sexy as "Second Life".
  • Ostensibly the idea is to study human populations. The nature of RPG games (or FPSs or Combat Flight Sims etc) is not conducive to that goal. Of course, I could have told them that for considerably less than the $$$ they spent.

    I would have chosen a model like Second Life - set up the conditions/environment/physics, and let the users/test subjects run with it.
  • by cliffski (65094) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @10:36AM (#21584607) Homepage
    I make games, and 95% of my focus with a game is to make it fun, and entertaining, and popular. that used to be 100% of the focus until I made this [democracygame.com] which started getting enquiries from university teachers and students who wanted to integrate it into lessons. That game now has a number of site licenses for schools, and apparently goes down very well. The reason I think it works, is that ultimately, it's just a fun game. The game may make you think about the subject matter (politics) but it doesn't ram it down your throat. It's also not vaguely preachy, and basically tries to be neutral on all issues, which avoid antagonizing or irritating any of the players.

    Democracy is popular enough for me to do a sequel (nearly done!), and this time round it does contain a whole bunch of real world statistics and background data (in wiki-style form) which is presented as additional (and optional) to the game itself. This is just like those historical RTS games which have a built in encyclopaedia. You can play Age Of Empires just for fun, but it you really want to find out a bit more about trebuchets, the game is happy to help.
    that is as it should be. Games on interesting and intelligent topics that encourage the curious player to learn more. You should never ram the educational bit down the players throats. People play games for fun. If they want to do hardcore learning, they break out a textbook.
    • Back In the Day, I wasted a lot of time (a lot of time) in a TinyMUD called DragonMUD. It's still up and running, FWIW, but the days of text-based VRs are long gone.

      In DragonMUD I built a "quest" which required the player, in solving it, to learn a few words and grammar rules for ancient Egyptian, the language of the hieroglyphs. Everyone said it was one of the hardest quests in the game, and it ranked very, very highly among the players. It got academics interested in VR, and in fact DARPA poured $63 mi
    • Democracy is popular enough for me to do a sequel (nearly done!), and this time round it does contain a whole bunch of real world statistics and background data (in wiki-style form) which is presented as additional (and optional) to the game itself. This is just like those historical RTS games which have a built in encyclopaedia. You can play Age Of Empires just for fun, but it you really want to find out a bit more about trebuchets, the game is happy to help.

      I think the reason why this sort of learning game is so effective is because it provides relevance to the historical facts. When you look at the strengths and weaknesses of different governments, it's one thing to read about them in a book, quite another to live through the consequences when playing Civ. My personal learning style is more oriented towards participation than lecture. I fall asleep in conventional classes but if I am actively engaged in the process, I'm all eyes and ears.

      The story I heard ab

  • It seems pointless to build an economic game that nobody will play, or that (in the best possible world) will:
    - be played by a bunch of self-selected participants who are conscious of the testing and metrics, and thus will actively seek to 'game' them if possible.
    - be played by too small a group to draw reasonable statistical inferences (seriously, in their wildest dreams, do they expect more than 25,000 players?)

    I would argue that it would make much more sense to approach Blizzard, sign NDA's out the wazoo
    • by Firethorn (177587)
      - be played by a bunch of self-selected participants who are conscious of the testing and metrics, and thus will actively seek to 'game' them if possible.

      Any more than people try to 'game' stuff in things like WoW? Make it fun and people will probably forget that the 'game' is actually a research device.

      Otherwise, well, people gaming the system would kinda be the whole point of the system - figuring out secendary effects of rule/market changes.

      besides, as a WoW player, I'd love to have an economist speak
    • by belg4mit (152620)
      25,000 is more than sufficient. Do you have any idea of the sample sizes used in polls gauging public opinion in a
      nation of 300million? 1,000. You don't need unfathomably large data sets for them to be statistically meaningful,
      just well selected and more than you can count on you and your housemates' digits...
  • I think the use of the term "game" may be misleading here. If the goal of the project was to provide fun and entertainment, then in this case, it appears to fail. But if the goal was to provide new tools and new ways of looking at data and systems, then maybe this shines? Just because something isn't fun doesn't mean it isn't useful.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Yes, but in this case they needs a lot fun people to play. If it's not fun your not going to get a lot of people to play.
  • Why aim for Warcraft? Unless the aim is to limit research to owners of high-end computers who rank graphics at least as high as gameplay and have large amounts of spare time and will put up with grinding, then it's the wrong model to compare such a project to.

    Planetarion [planetarion.com] peaked at over 100,000 players (before it went pay-to-play) and all you need to play it is a browser. It's a simple game to code, as evidenced by the countless clones that were quickly written when the owners started charging. Gameplay ther
  • Use the funds and partner with other mmorpg to capture a periods worth of data?
    So capture everything that happens in several different mmorpgs servers(1 per mmorpg) for a year, and put it into a simulation and change the events.
  • "You need puzzles and monsters," he says, "or people won't want to play ... What we've really learned is, you've got to start with a game first," Castronova says. "You just have to."

    That formula worked wonderfully for Typing of the Dead [wikipedia.org]. It may not be quite the kind of "academic game" they're talking about, but I'd argue it is because typing is a crucial skill. In any case, it's the only typing tutor I've actually enjoyed playing, which lends credence to his statement.

  • My girlfriend is in her Masters in Ecological Education; one of her professors wants me to demo WoW for him because he's considering a project for an academic MMO based on playing a part of an ecosystem.

    No, you wouldn't be a plant looking for the bursting seed pod powerup. You would be a lion hunting gazelles, or a gazelle dodging lions, and dealing with the normal cyclical changes environmental changes, or manmade ones. The idea would be to view an ecosystem from within it, but (hopefully) with enough of
  • The article is far too eager to make the leap from "this academic game failed" to "academic games fail". Apply the same logic to commercial games, and Daikatana should have proved that FPSs are no longer popular.

    Arden failed. Is it because:

    A. it was an attempt to make an academic game, or
    B. it was an addon module for a commercial game that might not appeal to Arden's target audience, or
    C. its subject matter just wasn't interesting to its target audience, or
    D. the game design was poor, or
    E. the game execut
  • I don't know what's more impressive to me:

    I) A professor did not realize people would not play his game if it wasn't fun.
    B) Someone in charge of $250k did not realize this.
    or
    3) He doesn't realize that if Arden wasn't fun, no one will even look at Arden 2
    Conclusion) Now he's got funding for an Arden2???
  • After failing miserably to draw any attention to themselves for releasing yet-another MMO, it seems the developers have found the true key to any game's success: Marketing.

    I'm relatively informed about gaming, and I'd never heard of this one until they made a big deal about how it failed. And of course while the article is all about how they tried really hard to make this first one good, it spends a few paragraphs reassuring us how the next one will be much better because they've learned from their mistake

How many QA engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 3: 1 to screw it in and 2 to say "I told you so" when it doesn't work.

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