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SGS 2006: "Serious Games Case Study Blasts"

Serious Games Case Study Blasts

Michael Hillinger, Norwich University
Chuck Kinzer, Columbia University

CO2FX is a global warming simulation for students. The underlying model -- which is preexisting and was built using Stella, a systems simulation tool -- includes not only the carbon cycle but also political, social, and other factors. The front end was built using Flash in less than six months for less than $100,000. It can be played here.

The game is multi-user. Three students sit at one computer, and they represent one country. Other countries are represented and tie into the model. Students play policy, economic, or science advisors. The game is set up to encourage students to take into account the same factors as would the real-world counterparts for their positions -- in other words, to fight for and against the things they'd be likely to care about, and therefore to work with and against each other.

Filip Fastenaekels, VRT
Swen Vincke, Larian Studios

Kids Interactive Community (KIC) is a Belgian service where kids create content (drawings, animations, content, and more). It's linked to a companion TV show. Each day, editors at the service select the "best" content and it's shown on TV, with a VJ-like host providing commentary.

Kevin Harvey, University of Illinois at Chicago
Freddy Guime, University of Illinois at Chicago

Our mission is to train public health workers for the city of Chicago. We've created a massive multiplayer online simulation of vaccine and medicine distribution.

The dangers:

  • Bioterrorism attack (smallpox, anthrax)
  • Outbreaks (pan-flu, the Plague)
Our challenge:
  • Develop an online simulation of a mass medication dispensing and vaccination center (DVC) and record worker performance
  • The game must play on department computers (not gaming computers)
  • 20,000-50,000 need training in a DVC to be able to distribute medication and/or vaccinations to all 2.9 million Chicago residents within 48 hours
Previous solutions:
  • Classroom instruction (limited in size, difficult to get workers away from their desks)
  • Live exercises and drills (hard to get workers to attend, hard to assess performance, shuts down other services)
  • Paper drills
  • Online courses (takes care of theoretical / didactical portion)
Create a computer simulation:
  • Simulate DVC operations
  • Present challenges to individuals and groups
  • Test critical thinking and problem solving
  • Allow for multiplayer communication and collaboration to solve challenges
We decided that what was important was not modeling the physical space (e.g., the layout of the DVC space), but the "thinking space". We use videos of actors for face-to-face interaction scenarios and an overhead view for resource management.

Our first effort was based on the Torque 2D engine, but we ran into technical difficulties -- hardware requirements, IT conflicts, and the like. We decided that we couldn't use a game engine for our project, so we reimplemented using a Web-based solution, specifically, AJAX.

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