Teenage Ethics

Avni Vyas | Justin Kennedy | John Miller
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Overview


Our e-game is an Inter- or Intra-net based gaming resource, targeting the high school learning community and offering a number of playing options. Students log-in to customizable virtual worlds where they are represented by Avatars placed in a specific scenario targeting single or multiple learning objectives.


  • Our e-game can be customized to focus on specific issues where an educator can actively facilitate and manipulate real-life scenarios representing specific social/ethical issues or current events.
  • Our e-game can also be used as a tool to facilitate learning specific subject matter through programmed modules portraying literary or historical events, where students may research and role play prominent figures, interact with other students and NPCs, and have assigned tasks appropriate to their charcter (avatar) in context to that learning environment.
  • Lastly, our e-game is an excellent resource for supporting curriculum in a demonstrative role, by allowing students to observe scripted historical, literary or scientific events play-out before them. In this capacity, our e-game offers the learners the unique advantage of 3D perspective, multi-angle 360° scrolling capability, and zoom capability.

Instructional Objective


  • Given moral and ethical dilemmas from literature and the social sciences in a virtual world, learners will identify and role-play possible responses that will be assessed by a facilitator and other peers.
  • Given a real-life scenario, learners will examine the principles of behavior by interacting with other players and non-player characters in a virtual world.
  • Given the opportunity to interact with other players in a game, learners will exchange information, both written and verbal, inside and outside of a virtual world.

Learners


This game will be played by school-aged teenagers It will be set in a virtual high school, but is applicable to middle school students as well. Learners often have a difficult time in being able to see perspective outside of what they think, this will be an important aspect of this game. Students will be able to be anonymous for many of the scenarios they play out as well, which will help them bring to life a character that they may not be familiar with in a safe and virtual format.

Context of Use

This game will be used in a hybrid format both online and in the classroom. Predominately it will be used in humanties and social science high school classrooms. There is a required facilitator in the form of a teacher, counselor, after school instructor, etc. The faciliator is able to decide if this game will continue over the course of many periods or just be played for a specific time. The game will take place with a group of students and is not meant for individual usage.

Prior discussion of the game with facilitator and the learners will occur in the format of teaching them how to use the game, and then if the facilitator so chooses a pre-game discussion per scenario can occur, but is not necessary. Post discussion will happen in the classroom as well as in online discussion boards. The game will have the ability also to be reviewed in the classroom to discuss each scenario. The students in this game will need access to the internet outside of the classroom in some format (either at home or in a library) as the game may be assigned for homework.

This game can be replayed, but the scenarios will change and are not meant to be replayed. Each scenario will take approximately 1 hour to play. The platform will be on the Internet, with secured and private game rooms.

Scope


Depending on the context in which it is used, the length and frequency of gameplay will vary. Normally students will be assigned 60 minute homework projects where they will log-in at an prearranged time and participate in the assigned project. These projects can be stand-alone scenario or, segments of on-going assignments. A customized scenario might take place in a classroom, on a school playground, or a shopping mall with multiple stores and levels. The facilitator can choose from numerous customizable locations, and loosely script scenarios that facilitate a topic they want the students to learn about through role playing and interaction. In such cases the facilitator might randomly assign specific roles to students or, allow them to represent themselves, depending on the learning objective.


Object of the Game

The object of this game is to complete the specified number of scenarios in the alloted time period while earning the most points possible. A single group or multiple groups of students will participate as player characters in an ethics-themed scenario set on a virtual high school campus or other community inspired location. Player characters will be placed into a situation that requires them to interact with each other and with non-player characters while an ethical dilemma is played out around them. Each group's actions are recorded and will be played back for analysis by the instructor. Each scenario will be debriefed and evaluated by each group. Points are awarded to groups for their contributions both within and outside the game.

Competing Products

A game-based and interactive course has been developed my 360Ed. Conspiracy Code is available to schools as an online option for teaching American History. Players must solve several mysteries that involve time travel and a conspiracy to rewrite history. This game is designed for a single player that controls two player characters within the game. Other courses and subject areas are also offered through 360Ed.

Our game will attempt to teach specific ethical challenges faced my historical figures that led to changes in the course of history by examining point of view interpretations. Current events issues will also play a role in our game.

Quest Atlantis is a multiplayer game that challenges students to solve problems by completing a story-line or quest involving both academic and societal issues. Students view stories by watching video scenarios unfold and are asked to make decisions at specific points in the story-line. Players also explore the 3D virtual world where they can interact with each other and other non-player characters.

Like Quest Atlantis, we will immerse students into a 3D virtual environment where they will participate with other player characters with the goal of solving a content related problem. Our game, however, will take place in a customizable high school environment and involve specific situational interactions that require no more than a class period to finish. Our game will mostly focus on issues related to ethics and principles.

Design Detail

Universal Elements

  • For Teenage Ethics our game will have the feel of a rich 3D environment.
  • We will be using a look similar to that of second life with 3D avatars as the characters.
  • Each character will have different voices, but all with American accents to avoid any unnecessary racial problems.
  • Each Avatar will have a unique identity and feel so that the teenager player can relate to them.
  • Each character will be anonymously decided on by the game or by the teacher to give the Student (Learner) an understanding or context for living in the shoes of someone else.

Specific Elements

Character Dictionary
  • Appearance: An assortment of 3 to 6 students will be playing main characters in each of the scenes, with a close to equal number of males and females. Each student has a different ethnic background (white, black, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Canadian, European, etc. these will vary based on scenarios. The total number of avatars in each scene will vary between 20 and 30. Many of these avatars may be reused in other scenes as well as main characters as students move on to other scenarios.
  • Background: Each avatar will have their own contextual background briefly explained to the player. For example Pamela is from Southern California from a divorced home, she is 15 years old and enjoys playing video games with her friends. For the most part she stays out of trouble, but given the way things are going at home her parents have been distant and she is seeking to belong to a new group of friends. They use drugs, while she hasn't used drugs before it is something she may consider to join this group.
  • Motivational Factors: Each character will have three characteristics (?) that will help the player understand their personality. For example Pamela values family time, friends and doing well in school.
  • Other Characteristics: Side characters will appear in the story but will not be essential, almost like extras on the set of a tv show. They will vary in race and gender. They may comment, at times but in general will not play pivotal roles in the story.

Playing Scenario, Story Board:


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Technical Elements

  • Gaming Enviornment: Would resemble MMOG Avatar-Driven Games & Social Networks, like Second Life, Kaneva, Sims Online, etc.
    • Design & Development Process: Would utilize a combination of Middleware Game Engine & Design Programs as well as standard game design software applications and languages/compilers, such as C++ and DirectX
    • Internet Platform. Students and teachers will be able to log in to the website and access a variety of virtual worlds.
    • Graphics: Would of course be High-Resolution 3D;
    • Access: T1, Cable or High-Speed DSL would be necessary;
    • Audio: Compressed.

Motivational Issues


Teenage Ethics is a game designed to be intrinsically motivating for each player involved. It is also interpersonally stimulating and appropriate for group play. Players are assigned roles to play and are provided with background information on their character. They are dropped into a situation specifically created for them by their instructor and must interact with other group members as they witness the pre-determined scenario unfold. Quick reactions are necessary and keen observational skills will be rewarded when all players return to their classroom for discussion and analysis of each player character’s decision-making process.

Malone and Lepper (1987) describe seven conditions that make learning fun. We’ve identified five that combine to create an inherently motivating learning environment that will fully involve our student-players.

Our game will challenge players by setting explicit scenario goals where the outcome is far from certain. For example, a situation will occur where PCs witness what appears to be a drug deal going down at lunch. They will respond in their own ways to what they are witnessing. However, when witnessed from different perspectives the evidence is less than clear. Evidence used by some PCs to implicate students in a crime will be hidden from others viewing from different angles. We feel this will provide performance feedback and engage students in deep discussions about perception and stereotyping.
Circumstances that are personally meaningful and appeal to their self-esteem and social relevance will empower and motivate players to determine the best solution to each upcoming scenario they are presented with. In turn, gameplay will be enhanced as players become more emotionally tied to their characters.

Students will undoubtedly be interested in which conditions and environments each scenario will present. This curiosity about each setting will be enhanced through striking three-dimensional and interactive visuals. The game world will not only mimic the player’s real high school, but also historical settings. Imagine a scenario where PCs are present during an American Civil War skirmish and they are witness to a seemingly heroic act. The sights and sounds of battle and the smell of virtual gunpowder will add a layer of depth and understanding not found in any classroom lecture and likely missing from their existing knowledge structure.

The actions and reactions of PCs will have powerful effects on gameplay. A perceived level of control over events and outcomes will provide players with a third condition of motivation as defined by Malone and Lepper. Users will be provided with several customizable options for their characters and will be allowed to modify some personality traits. PCs will also be able to choose among alternatives during play with each choice allowing the scenario to fully run its course. Users will be able to see that the choices they make during play may have significant impacts on their character’s “lives.”

Settings that students are unfamiliar with will add to the fantasy aspect of our game. While many teenagers have practical experience with virtual worlds, few are likely to have met and interacted with historical figures and characters in a fact-based scenario. Nor have most had the experience of living in a third world country, or having to react to conditions brought on by war. These elements will play a central role in our game. As students come to indentify with their PCs, they will tie into their emotional needs as well. We anticipate that students will feel empathy for their characters and remember how their PC dealt with each issue they faced long after the game ends.

Finally, we feel that every student that plays this game will also benefit from the positive effects of recognition. As PCs advance through the various scenarios, they must interact with each other. Elements of gameplay will provide opportunities for PCs to earn points and be recognized for successfully completing a scenario. In addition, post-game discussion will utilize video replay of each scene where creative and appropriate solutions and observations will be intrinsically rewarded.


Design Process

While creating this game our initial thoughts related to our board game "Clean Slate." We enhanced our ideas through discussion of what elements would need to be changed from the board game to impact a larger set of learners. While Clean Slate was about reaching a goal of attaining a career or college education, this game is more about the understand of getting through obstacles with ethics and an understanding of variables (such as living inside the world of someone else).

We believe a virtual world environment would best fit our model. We researched several virtual worlds (Second Life, Small Worlds, Kaneva, Active Worlds) on the Internet looking for a similar concept, but found that the artifical intelligence is lacking for such a level of interaction. We feel that this game, although not able to develop in its current form, will benefit from research and development into artificial intelligence and can come to market within the next five years.

We checked with friends and family members that were active in virtual worlds and none stated seeing a similar game. We asked students if such a game, as described above, existed would they be interested in playing it. Our conclusions were that they would and several suggested ideas for us to incorporate into the game. As a result we made the game-play more customizable and added personality traits for our NPCs.

Lastly we saw opportunities for facilitated learning and discussion in our virtual worlds that might normally seem absent from such environments. The blended compound of making this game essentially "homework" allows students to role-play with anonymity as they contribute to the homework assignment, and then offer a unique perspective in class as the assignment is discussed. While role-playing in shared environments is not necessarily rare, the virtual element gives students the opportunity to explore choices relatively free of judgment. While this is certainly a unique learning opportunity, it also offers the potential for abuse and excessive inappropriate use. From this perspective, it is also unique in that the "homework" would require a monitoring element as well, whether that be an online facilitator (teacher) passively participating, or safeguards built into programmed scenarios. We consider this a reasonable sacrifice, given the awesome potential for these games.

References

Books & Journals
  • Malone, T. W. and Lepper, M. R. (1987). Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning, volume 3, pages 223-253. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, N.J.
  • Schell, J. (2008). The art of game design. Boston: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
Electronic