Sunday, August 30, 2009

EdGames has Moved

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Sunday, December 28, 2008


Also produced by the Center for the Advancement of Distance Education (CADE) at the School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago, this public health preparedness module has many educational and interactive features. It includes choice of roles (clinician, lab pro, or public health official) a case scenario, response options, risk evaluations, subject matter resources, and sample answers for the participant to compare their choices against. It also includes a sample phone call simulating the real-life playing out of the scenario and interaction with key partners.

The presentation is clean, authoritative, and accessible. It is in keeping with the traditional case scenario role plays used in medical education. I suppose it could be considered by some to be game-like based on the interactivity - especially those who are used to data filled Power Points. However, after taking 670, I would not classify it as an actual educational game. To cross the bridge to the gaming realm I would recommend adding components like competition and consequence. Does the patient live or die? How could your delays or missteps impact the outcome? How could you improve the outcome? Is your colleague/competitor closer than you are to solving the puzzle? (Okay, yes House could be an inspiration to my interpretation here!) Perhaps at scoring based on timeliness, communication, and response. The video technique in The POD Game could be used to help the player elicit accurate case histories. What is the motivation to learn the information other than professional responsibility?

The POD Game by CADE

During a public health disaster or emergency, it may be necessary to give large groups of people vaccines or medication to prevent or reduce illness. Public health preparedness efforts have focused on methods for accomplishing this rather daunting task. In the case of an anthrax attack, people in an entire region may need to receive medication within a very short time frame - 48 hours! How in the world can this be accomplished? One method planners have come up with is the POD, or Point of Dispensing site. These are essentially medication dispensing clinics where the goal is to get the medication distributed to the individuals who need it - FAST. Potentially millions of people may need to receive medication so this is not the time for face-to-face time with the nurse, pharmacist, or doctor!

The hundreds, or thousands, of staff and volunteers who would be called upon to work at PODS must focus on following the procedures to provide information, identifying those who are sick, and KEEPING THE FLOW MOVING. Since PODS are only to be used in disasters (the closest model may be a flu shot clinic - without the urgency) it is difficult to train the workers on what they must do and how they can do it during the chaos of an emergency. Also, this is a change for providers in that they are not doing in-depth histories or diagnosis. This online game was produced by Center for the Advancement of Distance Education, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago in 2006.

The POD game provides the scenario of an anthrax attack and the player is asked to select a role (medical screener, forms, or dispensing) and is then thrust into a simulated POD with the task to complete a certain number of a cases within 15 minutes and to help the POD reach its target flow of 1200 people per hour. There is a que of patients who present as video snippets and the player is given a choice of responses and actions they are tasked to complete. The player must select the appropriate response to avoid spending too much time with any one person and to refer them to special stations or call for assistance when needed. The time left and flow rate are constantly visible and feedback and corrections are instantly provided to reinforce the objectives. On top of selecting the right response to the individual, the player must also balance additional tasks such as making sure the supplies don't run out, requesting assistance from the appropriate party, and in the case of the dispenser - selecting the appropriate medication and calculating the dosage.

The POD game is a fun solution to the training needs for mass dispensing workers. Not only does it provide the possibly dry concepts and principles, it also provides experience in executing tasks in a difficult and unfamiliar setting. It also avoids the time and resource intensive half-day training that is the frequent alternative for many planners.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Alter Ego

I've had a fascination for those older computer games that I was able to play on my old Apple II. This is Alter Ego, originally created by Peter Favaro and published in 1986 for the Commodore-64, MS-DOS, Macintosh, and of course Apple II and has evolved thru various versions.

Alter Ego is a life simulator taking the user from birth to adulthood and beyond. It is a rather simple interface; mostly a black background with a white text and multiple-choice buttons.

There is a map that that is laid out pictorially with each image representing a facet of one's life i.e. faces represent the social aspect, brain represents the intellect, hourglass represents your age in the simulation, the graph represents your current stats, etc.

The simulation begins by answering a series of true and false questions.

The answers you choose will have a bearing on your character, personality, intelligence, health, and social aspects of your life. Clicking on the graph on the map will reveal your life status.

Overall, this is a fun and entertaining simulation whenever you want to explore the question, "What if...?"

Friday, December 19, 2008

Do you want to learn more about game engines?

While doing the e-game design, I learned quite a bit about the Unity game engine (and its price tag). I wondered if there was a web site out there that compared all of the game engines available. After browsing the web, I found this web site:

If this course has inspired you to make your own e-games someday, you should check it out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Business Simulation Games

The process of starting and running a small business is a complex task suitable for simulation by board or online games. The players seek a desired change of state (no business to profitable business) by following a specific set of tasks. The environment includes competition and risk, and is an area that is relevent and interesting to many individuals.

The Johnny Money Game is presented by The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Young Entrepreneur Foundation to introduce 14-18 year olds to the day-to-day functions of an small business owner.

The simulation can be played individually, or as a class project with teacher instruction and facilitation. The game's length is a minimum of 45 minutes which covers a two-year period. Game hosts, Johnny and Jenny Money offer advice to players throughout the course of the game.

Players can choose between two retail businesses, and make decisions about securing funding, managing employees, and marketing. The game is well documented and guides teachers in the use of the game in the classroom or as an out-of-class assignment.

For younger teens, this game appears to be a high-quality introduction to the concepts of entrepreneurial business. I think the older teens might be put off by the Barbie Doll-like characters and cartoon illustrations. The Home Page/Registration page describes the game for "Young Entrepreneurs" in some circles, this means under 40 years of age. I think a little more information on the home page would be helpful. Otherwise, I was quite impressed by this site.

-Barbara Berkovich

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Augmented Reality

I thought I?d do a post about the technology of Augmented Reality.

Most people have never heard of it. Its actually pretty simple conceptually.

So we know about blue-screens and green screens and how they are used to switch out backgrounds in movies, right? Well Augmented Reality is similar in that its somehow modified by a computer, but rather than a green screen or blue screen being modified it is a pattern, usually of high contrast black and white. The pattern is unique and used to identify a particular object. Anyway what happens is that the computer (kinda) switches out the foreground object, basically covering an area marked by a pattern.

The computer reads a video camera hooked up to it and knowing all (or most) patterns are square attempts to figure out the rotation of the pattern in 3d space based on what it can recognize of its four points. In the computer the object is replaced by a 3d model. The final result is processed and sent to the screen or another visual device such as a tv.

So the result of the block of wood with a pattern you are shaking around looks like a piece of wood to you but look up at computer monitor and you are actually shaking a small village while the residents try their best to hold on.

Maybe this?d best describe it:

Theres a second thing thats being done with augmented reality. In that a 3d model is built that is exactly the same dimensions as a real object. When the pattern is referenced the 3d model can be used for collision detection so the virtual cartoon character can bump against the real physical object.

This is being used all over the place. Its being used as a reference and to train airplane mechanics. By wearing visual monitor glasses by looking at a pattern on an aircraft they can get an overview of the schematics for that section of the aircraft.

There are all sorts of educational applications this could be used for, just think of some, you can probably create a create a greate experience using augmented reality as a tool. Its a great tool to add excitement and motivation to any group of people using it.

The Plural Girls

This is actually going in the list of bad games that could be better. It?s called "The Plural Girls"

I chose to pick a random educational game rather than a good educational game. It suffers from the many failures most educational games do: it fails to be a game but is called one.

You can?t throw cartoon characters or a color changed and horizonally fliped one over some circles and call it a game. The objective in the game is to rescue some people from bubbles. Okay, its a simple enough game about plurality, we don?t need a plot or anything. Mario?s was just about saving the princess, not much of a plot, Qbert just needed to get to the top of a pyramid, why? Who cares! But it was fun. Educational games can be fun to, you just need to try a little harder. I know I shouldn?t say it but what about some animated Technologies such as flash? You could get a much better experience.

Heres where I?m going to start my rant. Games are not forms. Games are not forms. Games are not forms. Games are not multiple choice questions. They are supposed to be fun. There are fifty ways you could take a concept such as teaching pronouns and go somewhere fun with it.

There are different levels of difficulty which is useful in a educational perspective you can chose between multiple choice, difficult multiple choice, fill in the blank, and tough fill in the blank.

What I really think the issue is that companies or institutions want to create some games in large quantities with little attention to quality.

What this game could use is some loving attention to story, pacing, and a purpose. You could add suspense and a sense of urgency by adding a timer, not just a timer but a timer linked to something happening. Add some cheering, some audio. Children that don?t know plurality don?t know how these things sound. As a child would you pronounce cacti, the plural of cactus as cack-tee or cack-tie. You?re educating them where you could just because it doesn?t fit into the narrow objectives you?ve set. It is easy to play an audio file after they answer.

In my opinion educational experiences should also be linked together in a cohesive manner either through a world or a story. Rarely are you educating someone on a singular topic but a series of related topics. You need to immerse the student in a fun educational experience for it to hold and give them the motivation to continue playing. The Plural Girls game could be part of a larger story that children could progress through (or they could start with that one) but that also would give children an incentive to continue playing through curiosity.

Motivation and imersion is everything; the same is the case with casual games, the only difference is you must immerse them quicker and faster. You don?t need a story, but you need to start them having fun right away. You can and should use as many tools as possible to immerse them, animation, music, gameplay, story, anything. But do it quickly, and don?t be lazy. Because if you don?t do a good job noone will play it. So its worthless.

Don?t give them a form. A form is not a game.



Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ayity: The Cost of Life

Never have I played a game where I felt so heartbroken and exposed when it was all over.  Ayity (Creole for Haiti) puts you in control of a family of five living in the slums of Haiti.  The game is about work, living, survival, health, and happiness.  You, are in complete control of all of these elements.  As the game begins, you are faced with a decision.  Do you strive to be happy, healthy, educated, or wealthy? I decided to go down the path of happiness.  The landscape is defined by several physical elements:  The family farm, the family living quarters, a hospital and a school.  The scope of the game is 4 years, broken down by seasonal weather in haiti: Hurricane Season, Dry Season, etc...As the season come and go, you witness the implications of your actions. You ultimately get to decide which individual does what.  Do the kids go to school? Do the parents go to work? Does the oldest son work?  Does the entire family work?  Where do they work?  In the family farm? As rum distillers at a factory?  As the season progresses you get to see first hand exactly how much goud is made, how much is lost, who gets sick, who gets happier or depressed. 

I had a goal to achieve.  I wanted this Haitian family to be happy.  What I found was the exact opposite.  Under every circumstance, I found that the family was losing happiness, getting sick from the weather and from work, and ultimately losing money for hospital visits and school tuition.  Every season I tried to make it better, but it only got much worse.  The family was evicted from their living space, the family never made ends meat; in fact they stayed in the negative the entire 4 years, the children died, and the family suffered.  Ayity presents a harsh Haitian reality.  The season are harsh and unforgiving.  Individuals die, suffer, and are inextricably tied to eternal impoverishment.  

Overall, I give my highest ranking to Ayity.  Never have I been so affected by a game before.  

The Vynil Game

It is a simulation about the PVC Industry and its sustainable development

The idea of this game is to represent in a very fun way the efforts that the European Industry is making to ensure the sustainability of its production, processes and applications of PVC.

In terms of game design, I found it a bit confusing. I think the instructions on how to play are inadequate. I played the easy level and I had to play it four times in order to get an idea of the logic behind it.

The content and the development of the simulation are very attractive. The background information is good and the game layout is eye catching, however the complex interaction of variables whose behavior is not made explicit can demotivate. Importantly, I really did not feel I was actually learning the content i.e. how to make a PVC industry profitable but green at the same time. I felt I performed actions almost unconciously, which sometimes had positive results, but other times negative, in other words, I did not receive feedback of how my actions improved or made worse my situation within the simulatio.

To conclude, the game is obviously a business simulation game. In order to make decision making more strategic and satisfying, the player needs to understand better what the stakes are. For students who are not business orientated, we need some pre coaching on what makes a business and a sustainable one profitable.