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The Horizon Report > 2013

February 7, 2013 1 comment

Since 2002, the NMC (New Media Corporation) has been publishing a series of Horizon Reports meant to provide insight into the up-and-coming technologies that would have impact in education. In the Horizon Report > 2013 for Higher Education, one of the impact categories identified is “Games and Gamification.” The Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative project was cited as an example in the report.

As game play continues to be a major focal point of discussions among educators, some believe that gamified learning is merely a trend, and carries the danger of immediately disenchanting students if executed poorly. To negate this challenge, more universities are partnering with organizations and companies skilled in game design to develop and integrate games that are relevant to the curriculum and to students’ lives. Games and gamification in education include a broad set of approaches to teaching and learning, and when implemented effectively, can help with new skill acquisition while boosting motivation to learn.

Download a copy of the Horizon Report > 2013 for Higher Ed and check out the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative entry on page 22, under the category of History.

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A Bit of Storyline

August 15, 2012 Leave a comment

On April 21st, 1775, the royal governor of the colony of Williamsburg seized the stored gun powder from the community magazine, which quite angered the colonists and gave rise to a rather angry mob. Some might consider this a tactical error, as the colonists still were split over this issue of British rule versus independence; a heavy-handed action such as this only served to strengthen the hand of independence-minded colonists such as Patrick Henry.

As angry as they were, the colonists were very committed to maintaining a dialog with the governor, convinced that men of reason could come to understanding, and ultimately to agreement on the wisest course of action. And on both sides of the issue, violence was an action that was hoped to be avoided.

But what if, as a result of the gun powder incident, actual violence did occur? Suppose the governor had been assassinated in response by the colonists in favor of independence? That might, in fact, shift the balance of public opinion strongly in favor of the British, in an expression of sympathy as well as an expression of disgust at the “savagery” displayed. History might have turned out much differently.

This is an alternate timeline that will be explored in the game. And it will be the player’s role to prevent the murder from taking place, thereby allowing history to unfold as originally did.

Time for On-Site Research!

One of the exciting things about the Historical Williamsburg project is that Williamsburg is not only a real place, the historical part is to a large extent restored to the condition it was in back in the late 1700s. Research there can be very entertaining as well as informative. Indeed, the city is a living museum, but ever since my father started taking our family there 40 years ago on summer vacations, I’ve seen it as a fun rather than “educational” place to go. But I picked up a lot about American history despite that fact.

From July 13th-16th, I will be there (along with my family) taking photographs and measurements in order to build the map representation of the historical portions of the city within the game. I will be getting the layouts for the major structures such as the House of Burgesses and the Governor’s Palace, along with the interior information for several other buildings (the Courhouse, the Magazine, some of the taverns, homes of prominent residents, etc.). Hopefully the weather will be favorable! There is a lot of work to do on the game itself, but one of my goals of getting the photography work accomplished (in addition to proving me with reference materials for the in-game descriptions) is so that I’ll be able to put together the project’s coffee table photo book that will be one of the rewards for some of the folks that were Kickstarter backers for the project.

During the fundraising phase, I was asked whether or not I would be publishing the photo book for individual purchase, and honestly, I had not considered that. But it does seem like a good idea, so I think that’s a project element worth adding. I’d like to get the materials together, the layout of the book completed, and all the publishing details worked out by the end of the summer. With all the quality self-publishing options out there, I should be able to have the book available for sale, and we’ll see where that goes!

Setting the Stretch Goal

Even though the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative has reached its funding goal, there are 16 days left in the funding period, and we want to put that time to good use. To that end, we are setting a stretch goal of an additional $500 in funding (for a total of $2000 altogether). These additional funds would go toward increased research resources and even some money to market the finished product to the target audience (educators, historians, and IF gamers).

Unlike the initial funding goal, the stretch goal does not have to be hit for us to make use of the additional funds. So at this point, every backer contribution helps us move the needle. Please spread the word and help us to continue to raise funds for the project.

To go to the Kickstarter project page, click here.

Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative Funding Goal Reached

As of this date, the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative Kickstarter project has reached 100% of its funding goal of $1500. We would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank all of our 59 (so far) backers. That’s the good news. The additional good news is that we still have 17 days left in the funding period, so there is the opportunity for us to raise more funding that would go to additional research, development resources, and possibly marketing for the finished project. Continued and additional support will be greatly appreciated!

For Novices: The Top 5 Interactive Fiction Games

Getting into Interactive Fiction isn’t the easiest thing to do, as far as playing a “new” computer game genre goes. In the early 1980s when IF was popular–and the distractions of graphic computer games was non-existent–people spent significant time in the games, reading the stories and situations, thinking about how to respond, and considering the possible (or probable) action choices to take. In the days of playing Colossal Cave and Scott Adams text adventure games, the simplicity of the parser forced people to think in terms of two-word commands. That had the effect of narrowing action choices to some degree, which was probably a good thing as the genre gained its following. As Infocom released its games with more sophisticated language parsing capabilities, the potential for action and conversation was greatly multiplied. But most Infocom players likely had an introduction to the genre that helped to educate them in the conventions of IF communications.

Today, learning IF games can be difficult for several reasons. Finding a local IF community can be difficult (okay, impossible in most cases), which means that players need to rely on online resources–if they can successfully find those. The computer gaming paradigm has shifted greatly over the past few decades, and as a result, people’s expectations for game experiences is quite different.

Fortunately, there are freely available resources that help ease a new IF gamer into the genre. Instructions, primers, and how-to guides can be found by searching the Internet. And there are many good games suitable for novice IF gamers. This article on the gamer site 1up has listed what could be considered the top 5 games for Interactive Fiction beginners to try first. Try your hand!

While the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative isn’t being developed strictly with novices in mind, if it will be used in the teaching and learning environment it will need to be something that students can easily pick up on. To find out more about the Kickstarter project, please click here.

PlayFic: Implenting Inform 7 on the Web

April 22, 2012 Leave a comment

We’ve come across the PlayFic website, and it looks to be a very good tool for building Interactive Fiction through Inform 7 to place on the web. We’ve already built a few test programs, and the implementation works quite well. While we haven’t decided whether or not we’ll place “in progress” versions (perhaps the navigation component) of the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative online through PlayFic, we definitely will be implementing a version of the program there.