Tag Archives: gaming

Fort McMurray Disaster — Fort McMoney a documentary game

I (Clare) like many Canadians are watching the news as the fire in Fort McMurray fire RCMPAlbertaspreads to 850 square kilometres with; thousands being airlifted. It is reported that the “The wildfire in Fort McMurray could be the costliest disaster in Canadian history as estimates for insured damages run as high as $9-billion. Thousands of homes and businesses in Alberta’s fifth largest population centre have been destroyed.” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/alberta/fort-mcmurray-exodus-swells-as-fires-rage-a-lot-of-people-are-working-to-get-you-out/article29883034/

This catastrophe is on a monumental scale but it has touched me in a different way. For two years I worked with a teacher research group, Eureka, and one of the teachers, Mike Farley, did his research on the use of Fort McMoney http://fortmcmoney.com/#/fortmcmoneyin his geography class. Over a period of time the students played the game and he studied their reaction to using the game and their learning.

His data showed that the game had a HUGE impact of their learning. Fort McMoney is s an interactive documentary game that lets you decide the future of the Alberta oil sands, and shape the city at its centre.

Through the research group I watched/played the game which gave me an insight into the community and the complexity of the issues of the oil sands. I emailed Mike when I heard the news about the fire. He said that he and his students were so upset by the events because they understood Fort McMurray and the impact on this fire community. This is an example of gaming that brings the real world into the classroom. His students probably have a much better understanding of this devastating fire as a result of the playing this highly interactive and informative game.

 

There is a long description from the Globe and Mail of the game below and it is well worth checking out the game. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/what-is-fort-mcmoney/article15583598/

A frozen highway spools out ahead of you, in the distance giant factory facilities with spewing smokestacks are carved out of virgin forest. It looks cold, cold like one of those Soviet factory towns in the Arctic Circle.

That’s the scene that greets you when you boot up Fort McMoney, which is a virtual world that went live online Monday. There are many places to see and even more characters you can interrogate and interview. Scores will be kept and leaderboards maintained to reflect actions taken by visitors: the more curious you are the more points you collect. This world is also episodic, new places and people will arrive every week over the next four, and visitors can vote for changes they’d like to see based on what they experience inside Fort McMoney.

If you have a passing familiarity with modern video games, you will recognize this structure. But while it is a game, it’s not fiction, it’s an interactive documentary about that most consequential Canadian oil town: Fort McMurray. It was produced by The National Film Board with French, German and Canadian partners, including The Globe and Mail. (Columnists Eric Reguly and Margaret Wente will be writing about their evolving views as they play along. Read Ms. Wente’s first take here and read Mr. Reguly’s here.) The makers of Fort McMoney call it a game and call users “players,” but there will be no “winners,” or rather there is no way to “lose” the game.

(Also, for such an innovative project, the language to describe it is lacking; we need a new term like Game-Umentary, but one that isn’t terrible.)

Functionally, it owes some of its game design DNA to 2012’s episodic zombie adventure The Walking Dead from Telltale Games. The winner of multiple video game awards, Telltale’s creation follows a similar forking structure: Like in Fort McMoney, each player’s experience with the game will vary because each decision you make, each question or action you commit to, changes the sequence of the next thing you see or are able to do. In The Walking Dead that often meant people you met in the game got eaten by zombies, in Fort McMoney it just means you visit a different part of one of Canada’s fastest-growing boom towns.

Over the next month players can dig through about eight hours of interviews and conversations with the real residents of Fort McMurray, a city which lies at the heart of Canada’s oil sands. The game asks players to choose whether the city should help crank oil production up to 11, or if it should essentially shut down the industry. That’s where the SimCity element of this game comes in: How the city grows, and how that affects Canada’s energy future, will be displayed in a series of projections, updated each week by the latest referendum.

This laboratory of democracy is hosted in the “dashboard” part of the game, and this is where it strays from being a pure choose-your-own adventure story (if still a documentary, there are no actors here), and turns into a civics experiment. Players will be invited to debate, share their in-game discoveries and vote on policies for the town and its ever-present oil.

The issues the Fort McMoney asks players to vote on in the weekly polls are ones the real town faces: If you could, how would you vote to change things about the trajectory of Fort McMurray and Canada’s exploitation of the second largest energy reserve in the world? The results of player voting will create a hypothetical Fort McMurray, one in which the future has been directed by the votes of this digital public square, like in a classical Greek democracy. Only here, the amount of debating, sharing and exploring you do can net you a higher score, and thus a heavier vote during the polls. It’s why a documentary is keeping score at all, as a reward for spending time “playing” the game.

The elephant in the room is that this game/documentary is about oil in those sands, and the environmental and human cost of boiling it out of them. Fort McMoney starts by introducing you to people living on the margins of this rapid growth, the young woman who was hoping to clean work camps but instead works as a waitress, the alcoholic who collects cans (claiming to clear $52,000 in one year recycling the discarded booze containers of Fort McMurray’s residents). In short order you meet the mayor of the town, and eventually oil sands executives and other leaders.

Creator David Dufresne talks about our civilization’s “addiction to oil” when he talks about the conversation he wants this game to spark. This is the part the NFB, Dufresne and his whole team, are really excited about. As Dufresne explained during a recent live Q&A about the project: There are no shortage of great books, documentaries or journalism about the “tar sands.” He says he was drawn to Fort McMurray thanks in part to stories about the town in The Globe and Mail. But for all of that, do Canadians feel any urgency to take action? He hopes to change that by giving people something gorgeous to look at, deep to explore, fun to argue about and which creates consequences for the user’s decisions. He hopes his video game will convince people to be the change they want to see.

 

 

 

Literacies Gaming

I (Cathy), my family, and friends have been playing many different kinds of ‘party’ games as of late . Some have boards, in some you create the board as you play, and with others there are just cards. One of my favorites is a game called Codenames.

group

This game intrigues me because it is similar to coding data in a study as it’s about making associations between words, categorizing, and/or generalizing. (There is a narrative component to the game where everyone is considered a spy, but we just ignore all that). It can be played in teams or individually.

In this game many word cards are laid out in a grid across the table (25). One person is designated the clue giver and gives his/her team (or other person) a word and a number. The clue word might be ‘flight’ and the number might be ‘2’. The team then has to identify two words in the word grid they think are associated with flight. The challenge for the clue giver is they may not pick just any words they want in the grid to associate. They may only use certain assigned words and sometimes it is very difficult to make associations. The challenge for the team is, if they pick the wrong word, the point goes to the opposition.

Let’s have a trial run… Your clue is ‘weapons, 2”

again

If you guessed pistol and missile, you just won two points for your team. Let’s try one more, but a little bit more challenging this time! Your clue is ‘Olympics, 3’

third try

If you guessed Bolt, Greece, and Beijing, you earned another three points. (If this is mystifying to you, Usain Bolt set the world record for the 100 m dash at the Beijing Olympics, and Greece is the birth place of the Olympics).

This is a wonderful means of exploring word meanings and associations. It is also interesting how so many words can be both verbs and nouns, or connected as possible compound words, or have special meaning depending on culture and context. (Knowing your teammates well also helps, as I find I can understand my husband’s clues better than other people can). On many levels it is a great pass time with friends and also a great language game for the classroom. It is also, on many levels, literacies in action!

*****

 

Coding is the Fourth Literacy?

I recently came across an article that suggested “coding is the fourth literacy,” and digital skills such as learning how to code should be part of the contemporary classroom, in order to prepare children/youth for the future job market. The article noted “the UK government instigated a complete overhaul of the computing curriculum in England and Wales…. [with] programming skills placed at the heart of the new curriculum. Now children as young as five are being taught computational thinking and digital creativity… By embedding coding into the new computing curriculum, the UK Department of Education stated the new subject would “ensure every child leaves school prepared for life in modern Britain”.

Link to the article: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2015-05-04-coding-has-become-the-fourth-literacy

 

Using Video Games for Assessments

There has been a movement towards using gaming for educational purposes. Incorporating gaming into lessons for the purposes of engagement has been the most popular use thus far. However, now a case is being made for using games for assessments. Kamenetz (2014) writes an interesting blog explaining the benefits of this non-traditional type of assessment.

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 4.26.06 PM

An excerpt from the article:

Imagine you’re playing a computer game that asks you to design a poster for the school fair. You’re fiddling with fonts, changing background colors and deciding what activity to feature: Will a basketball toss appeal to more people than a pie bake-off?

Then, animal characters — maybe a panda or an ostrich — offer feedback on your design. You can choose whether to hear a compliment or a complaint: “The words are overlapping too much,” or, “I like that you put in the dates.”

You can use their critiques as guides to help you revise your poster. Finally, you get to see how many tickets your poster sold.

This little Web-based game isn’t just a game. It’s a test, too.

The article also touches on Schwartz’s theory of assessment which focuses on choice. Schwartz argues that “the ultimate goal of education is to create independent thinkers who make good decisions. And so we need assessments that test how students think, not what they happen to know at a given moment.” I wonder how this form of assessment may change a student’s relationship with test-taking. I’m curious to follow this trend and find out.

Read entire blog here:

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/08/could-video-games-measure-skills-that-tests-cant-capture/