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The Games Teachers Play

When we talk about educational games, what comes to Mind? Do you think of the games that are pointed out by this TechLearning article like http://www.iknowthat.com/ or do you think of games like Civilization III ?

If you were thinking about the games in the TechLearning article then I suggest you explore the links that are provided there and stop reading at this point.

Stop

At this year’s Leading Learning Conference, I had the opportunity to ask Dr. Jennifer Jenson after her keynote on “Education at Play: Exploring the Tension Between Ludology and Learning” about research into the use of Modification tools to create educational games.

Mod tools are the development tools that game companies give away with the games that they sell in order to allow game players to create new levels in the games. This is an industry unto itself, as new games that have done very well for themselves, that were created using Mod tools. One example is the game Counter-Strike which was created out of the mod tools from Half-Life.

Dr. Jennifer Jenson and Dr. Suzanne de Castell had developed an online game called “Contagion” which teacher 9-13 year olds how to avoid contagious diseases such as West Nile, HIV/AIDS and SARS. You can view the game here.ContagionThe trailer looks awesome, but it was the only bit of 3D animation that I could see in the game from what I had played. I have the highest respect for Dr. Jenson.  She was one of my Profs when I completed my Masters in Education degree and I always recommend that anyone going to York University takes her courses. That being said, she must have had a tight budget with this game’s development, as we all do in education, as compared to the multi-million dollar gaming industry, but I’m sure this is the best quality of game that could be created under the circumstances. This game is no World of Warcraft, but it is an educational game with defined purpose.

So that’s why I had asked the question around Mod tools. If researchers took advantage of multi-million dollar gaming engines could a game be created with “flow”, “gameplay” and “learning objectives”. Without having that edutainment feel to a game or trying to artificially add what learning is happening in a particular game.

Dr. Jenson’s answer was that mod tools from games left their own footprints within games that were created using the Mod tools. So a shooter up game like Halo retained the characteristics of a shooter up game when a conversion attempt was created. This seemed to make sense.

Then comes David Warlick’s link from my delicious network feed to an ARS Technica article “Canadian historians mod Civilization III to teach Canadian history.” (Thanks David and to all of my many delicious guides on the side). A number of Canadian Historical organizations have helped to create a mod pack for the game Civilizations 3. You can download the Mod Pack for free at http://www.historicanada.com/ and as long as you have Civ 3 Complete or Civ 3 Conquest v.1.22 you can play this game.

HistoriCanada The idea is to test the “what if’s” and explore and rebuild Canadian History, and then tie back into what actually happened. You explore “As the English, French, Ojibwe, Hurn, Mohawk, Algonquin, Montagnais Mi’kmaq or Abenakie, gamers will venture from early exploration and settlement in 1525 through Confederation over the course of the game’s three episodes.” I even love the games tagline “Just don’t Replay Canadian History – Rewrite it.”

Now off to explore old worlds a new. See you in about 482 years.

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