[ExI] farmville, was RE: RPGs and transhumanism

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Tue Mar 1 18:20:14 UTC 2011

On Sun, Feb 27, 2011 at 4:49 AM, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:
> I wonder what games actually make people go out and do things in the real
> world? RPGs have certainly stimulated me to learn odd subjects, and even
> helped my research. But what about other games (computers and boardgames)?

That gets into the whole "edutainment" category, with a long history.  Most of
the titles that claim to do this, fall short of being either educational (as in,
most players learn and retain some new knowledge) or entertaining (as in, a
sufficiently high percent of first-time players - 50% might be an extreme
threshold - play it more than once, not including those who are bribed to do so
by things not directly connected to the game, such as needing to get a good
score to pass a certain class).  Oregon Trail is probably the most famous
example of falling short, at least on the educational side (if it
wasn't at least
mildly entertaining, it wouldn't have become famous).

But there are exceptions.  When I was in middle school, my class was
apparently used to test quite a few edutainment titles.  One of the better ones
I remember is Robot Odyssey - which is now out of print, but I understand
there's a Java port available named Droid Quest.  The screen shots at
http://www.droidquest.com/ suggest it is what I remember, but I have not tried
the port myself.

A more modern exception is http://eterna.cmu.edu/ - which teaches what is
known about protein folding, entertains in its own right (as a puzzle game),
and attempts to learn more about protein folding (get up to 10,000 points and
you can start trying to figure out unknown real world sequences; the best
guesses get synthesized to see how well they stack up).

There is certainly existence proof that "edutainment" can work.  However, it
appears that most attempts to deliver on this fall short of the mark.  User
testing, of the sort that any top-tier game these days has lots of ("What did
the user find boring, and how do we fix that?"), and a lack of hubris ("Of
course this is educational!  I don't care that 99% of those who played it said
they learned nothing.  That's why I didn't bother to ask them.") would seem
to be the major things needed, aside from the obvious skills (like, art and
programming to be able to create a game, and expertise by the game
designers in the subject being taught).

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list