greg (grysar) wrote,

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Learning of the Dead!

RPGs, particularly massively multiplayer RPGs, often have grind aspects. Random battles, leveling, that sort of thing. Often these activies are only kind of fun. Sometimes, they are actively monotonous. However, because of the overall reward system of the game, people still engage in them.

So, my idea is to substitute modules from edutainment type companies for the grind. Say, doing language flashcards to determine how quickly you do your crafting, that sort of thing. This actually could fit with a microcredit concept. I'm inspired by Typing of the Dead, which I've never actually played, but I think would have been a lot of fun when I was kid. I did Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing instead. There were some fun sequences, like a race based on your words per minute. However, on the whole the content was no where near as cool as say blowing away zombies.

Theoretically, one could make a just edutainment game around this idea. Some already qualify I'm sure. But the thing is, making games is hard and expensive. Tying a game to a specific type of learning would greatly limit the potential audience. Alternately, coming up with a wide range of learning tools would just make game design harder and more expensive. So, modularity would be key. Third party developers with domain knowledge could come up with mods. Certified mods could be downloaded through the producers micro-credit network. Uncertified content would work like current mods and would be unavailable in the case of MMRPGs.

There's three core potential audiences:

  1. Those looking to learn. For this group, the value added is better packaging than their exciting study methods. By packaging I mean both graphical/interface presentation and incentive structure. The incentive structure is the really exciting part, as games are just good at getting people to do obnoxious stuff in exchange for in game rewards. Good performance tracking and module appropriate awards (maybe a nice Chinese outfit for someone studying Mandarin). The module creaters may pay the contract the original game designers to give them some appropriate custom content.
  2. Parents. To really appeal to this group, there'd need to be a simplified interface available to the MMRPG bill-payer. They could mandate the use of certain modules, check results, etc.
  3. Minmaxers who don't care about the module. Essentially, some people would play Elementary Arithmatic if it meant slightly faster skill boosting. To prevent the balance from being thrown off, the rewards of doing well with the module can't be markedly better than just doing well with the base RPG sytem.

    Here's a few sample applications:

    • Typing. Typing of the dead easily shows how this could be done. It just isn't hard form someone with a computer.
    • Language study. The increasing prevelence of headsets mean that both auditory and written language study could be done. Consoles will probably generally be better at the auditory, although special controllers could be made.
    • Exercise. Link the performance tracker from an your exercise bike to the system.
    • Music practice. Although obviously that will only work with electronicly oriented instruments.

    A game like the Sims online would be the most appropriate place to initially try out this idea. It may even find ways to do communal study, so you can work with other people, or have a gym where you can talk on your headset while using the exercise bike.
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