Penn State’s ECON-U Educational Game Demo


(Elizabeth) I’m gonna get us back into the powerpoint. And thank you, Dave and Dirk. (Dave) Alright, so I can go to the next slide. The title kind of spins very nice. So I this what Dirk said, I guess, the main point and what Chris as well, the main point is to have a little bit of a simulator to reality to say, all right, you’ve learned this, that and the other thing can you apply that knowledge in hopefully a realistic setting where we can actually see these ideas at work.
You’ve talked about demand. You’ve talked about incentives and utility marginal benefit, marginal cost. Let’s see this in action. See how it makes sense instead of just looking at a graph or the theory. A theory box. Here’s the intro screen.
This is actually a change that you guys recently made, but I like this. The first time you load the game it puts you through this mini tutorial. Hey, let’s practice building a dorm. Let’s practice hiring a person. Let’s practice setting tuition. But then if you play the game a second or a third time she doesn’t appear. She’s just, she’s gone, she’s a one time thing. That’s pretty good. And through playing the game these are just specific things that I’ve analyzed here. The game is full of choices. So the student I guess, implicitly has to deal with the economic concept of scarcity from the beginning. You have a limited amount, specifically in this game, of funding. So how do spend your funding? Do you spend it on Art, Sciences, football? Do you want to hire an intelligent staffer or not or do you just want to try go it blind on your own.
And a lot of other events can come up too to help you understand cost and benefits. They’ve built random events into the game. And the random events give you a choice.
Do you want to do A, B, or C? And there’s gonna be benefits and costs to those choices as well. I got some examples in a little bit as well. But then you can also look at short run and the long run.
Ok, is there an immediate benefit to this? Or is there gonna be long run recurring costs to building this huge building that I might not be able to take care of over time.
Demand is the showing in the game explicitly too, alright, you have a school or a building, how many people would actually want to use this educational service. You can say, well, is it worth it? Is the cost worth the demand? And demand can then be linked to revenue. How many people would be in this school and this project paying for? Are the prices and the revenue gonna cover that cost?
Utility that’s just the economic way of saying happiness.
Which there is an actual happiness number in the game that we try to maximize as well as money and student population. And also there’s a little imperfect information as well. The advisors try to help you with that, but it’s not always as Dirk said earlier, it’s not always clear cut.
Here’s what you’ll do and here’s their result. Here is the number of students.
There’s a little bit of variation there. Variability. We don’t exactly know what’s gonna happen. As well as the random events too, well hey, maybe my nuclear power plant melted down. Now what? (Chris) Let’s just back up and explain for anyone who may not of gotten the idea. The game itself is sort of a campus builder style game. So you’re half is this fictional president, I guess, of the university who was given a certain amount of terms to build and maintain financial viability of a campus. So as part of that you have to build buildings.
Respond to events like Dave was saying. Deal with different policies decisions.
Things like that. So that’s the basic sort of metaphor behind the game.
(Dirk) There’s also two ways to measure success here, right? Because you got revenues or [ inaudible ] and you’ve got happiness.
So one of the things that I specifically emphasize in my class, is that this is a class about economics, which students normally would think of is being about money and how you spend money. within budget constraints.
Well and that’s fine. But there’s also this broader notion that economics, at least the way I teach it is, how can we get students to use these tools in any decision they might be making. It’s not just about the supermarket, the stock market, financial market, it’s about all of these types of choices and decisions.
This game perfectly embodies that. Because you can have different leader boards.
How successful were you at generating happiness for your students or student population size? And get a couple different ways. Really great that way. (Dave) Yeah, I was able to play the other day.
I think I had a large, large sum of money. But I think it was zero happiness. I think I jacked up tuition. And I had zero health care. Zero food. [ laughter ]
They’re sick, they’re all sick and starving, but they’re learning. So here’s an example what these when you, on the style on the map screen will show a little bit it’s got this nice isometric layout here where you can build your buildings and your facilities on campus. There’s upfront expenses but then there’s also maintenance expense. Hey, you want to build an agricultural school. Here it is. But then it says,
here’s the cost per turn to keep this operational. On those costs you can assume, well, taking care of the electricity, paying the faculty in that facility as well, but there’s also non-monetary expenses that you can consider costs.
One of the random events I remember occurring was, one was do you want to allow alcohol on campus?
And one was, do you want to accept or reject co-ed habitation in the dorms? And giving the certain answer to those questions, can impose a happiness cost on you.
If you ban alcohol and ban co-ed living, the students they’re not happy. And they’re saying, no, that’s ruining my college experience. So maybe you could save money. And I think, there was a cost benefit analysis, in one of those, wasn’t there some group that said, hey if you ban alcohol we’ll give you money for that. Because hey, you’re preventing underage drinking. But then students are upset so, it’s a dollar gain, but a happiness loss. It’s a good way to measure those cost and benefits that way as well. And here’s just another example right here, here’s a random event that I put. A law conference wants to chill at your pad. Costs are twelve thousand dollars for putting these guys up. But then a one hundred P, that’s a demand. Ok! There’s an increase in demand for the law school because now your university is more well known. And that’s just the benefits.
What can actually take to get you more revenue, more population, more student happiness as well. There we go. So here’s a picture. Here there’s this nice isometric layout there.
The demand right there and information needed. Now this is pretty good.
At the top at least that is the new spending per turn. That’s could be considered perhaps real live information that the campus would actually have. How much it’s gonna cost to run and operate this building. So you can upgrade it for sixty thousand. It’s gonna cost eighteen thousand per turn if you upgrade it. And at the bottom there that’s the demand. That’s effectively how many, correct me if I’m wrong here, how many students this apartment then would be able to house. So level one, you got a small school.
Level five, you gotta big school. And then of course there’s additional expenses with that as well.
Not the cost benefit again. Costs are more spending per turn plus the fixed one-time upgrade cost. But eighteen hundred students now there’s maybe a benefit more students, more tuition, more population as well. And then there’s a choice right here that the policy that you can choose. How much tuition would you like to charge? Cost benefits, higher tuition could perhaps, to an extent, mean higher revenue. But maybe if you charge tuition too high, maybe population is not as high.
Revenue might go down. Tuition is too low on the other hand, you won’t make any money. You’ll get the screen that says, you have declared bankruptcy after thirteen turns. And then you’re university is gonna fail. (Dirk) One of the neat things about utility theory, is that it’s kind of hard for students to really grasp. They’re much more comfortable living in a world of using numbers and thinking about relationships between [ inaudible ].
And again, trying to extend what they’ve learned in the course in a different direction that’s going to prepare them, this is the core part for me, for what they’re going to see in the next course, which is Econ 302. Of much more developed model of consumer decision making. That incorporates many more variables. So I like to think of this as a capstone, but also as a stepping stone here. And so getting them to think about all these things and how they [ inaudible ] with each other is what economists do. And what differentiates somebody who’s a higher level thinker from somebody who just got sort of rudimentary skills.
And the game does this really well. By again giving you the opportunity in this particular case, think about whether or not you want to have big class sizes or small class sizes.
How that feeds your bank. (Dave) And with these advisors here, they can help you make you make decisions here, parities of current and past presidents here. But the once again costs and benefits, costs of hiring smarter and higher up PHd level advisors, they obviously cost more monetary expenses. But they can, effectively increase the happiness of your population by steering you more in an appropriate direction.
You know, maybe the finance advisor CFO could say, here’s what I think tuition should be to help increase our revenues and not take too much of happiness hit for example. And the recruiter could say, hey, maybe I think we should increase our art and agriculture and not have so much emphasis on engineering. And if you upgrade all three of them to level three,
they give you a nice little bonus tip at the bottom here talking about population and happiness. So they can give you some hints there.
And when you have nobody hired, you get no pictures on the right.
There’s no help button. If you do have one or more of these people hired at level one, two or three, and a situation, one of those random events opens up or you open up a policy window, you get to click on one of the people and it’ll give you advice. And say, well hey, it will say I think we should change or I think we should not change this policy.
So the advisors are, that’s what you’re spending money on.
Trying to get some advice from them. And there’s some advice. What’s Bill Clinton’s name? William Clifton or something like that. William Clifton, ok!
(Dirk) And the neat part about the advisors is you have to put yourself in the role of a student who’s playing this game. You got two types of students that are gonna play this game. One who’s like, yeah, played the game a few times. This is awesome. And they’re gonna explore it and look around and they’re gonna investigate. They’ll try to figure out whether it’s better to have level three advisors or level two. And then you’ve got the person who, oh yeah, I gotta find this game for Econ. You know, and so, how many turns do I have?
You know, so, what this does is it creates a layer here where the game is not gonna be trivial to win.
Or too difficult to succeed at. So, and this is what, you know, we talk a lot about with Jack and Chris is how do you create the right balance in this game in order to get it point where that typical student can play the game.
Have some success. And realize at the end, yeah, I was using Econ actually to have success in the game.
So this information, the imperfect information, is a crucial component in making it all come together. (Dave) That’s the picture of my college. (Elizabeth) With all those nice buildings on it. Look at that athletic facility.
[ laughter ] On the far right there, that’s my dorms in my campus area there’s a dining hall and I think a student union over there. The top center is where I’ve got all my schools. Engineering, math, liberal arts, agricultural is there on the bottom left or on the far left it’s got it’s little farm that I imagined. In the bottom center you’ve got your football field and you concert pavilion.
(Question) Does the layout have an effect on the game play at all? Or is it purely just doesn’t make a difference the dorms are all in one area or all spread out? (Dirk) Yeah, There’s no geographic location. (Dave) We thought about that. I said, well what if I build a coal plant next to the dorm. (Dirk) You know that is actually something that is useful, but I think it’s hard to built into the game. Because when you have negative externality and positive externality a fun building location, you could certainly see that increasing the happiness of the cohort the campus university.
I still think it’s more difficult to build in was my understanding.
So we did not press on, on that button.
We advertise it. (Dave) This is, and you can look at the screen at any point in the game too.
This is the history screen and for all of your, I guess I don’t have any world statistics, or university statistics checked here, but I got some demand level checks. Your demand is basically saying how much what levels, I guess, have you chosen for art, science and law. But you can also look at what are the world statistics cost in terms of land government funding.
Government funding, I’ve seen, that as the random events in the game.
But how did you guys calculate the world cost of like labor and food? How was that built in? (Chris) So, well basically those world labor statistics are meant to simulate a kind of market tie.
In a sense a world market in the game. And they will influence things like the cost of your buildings.
So for example the price of labor will go up and down throughout the course of the game. What we tried to do was set it up in such a way that there’s actually pattern to it. A savvy student will look at this and be able to get some idea of well looks like now is gonna be one of the cheaper times to build. Now is gonna be really expensive time to build. I should build now and hold off, sort of, save my money during a really expensive time. Because one of the things we wanted to do was because Dirk and Dave both teach large sections of courses, we wanted to build certain things into the game that you could just sort of broadly say to any student if you were building buildings between turn ten and twenty, you weren’t paying attention. You were doing it wrong. Or you were doing for non economic reasons. Because the smart thing to do based on the way that the market I guess was going within hold off and wait till things got a little cheaper.
(Dave) Is that included then in the building screen? Because earlier had the picture which said engineering cost sixty thousand to build. Would that then change the screen and say engineering now costs seventy-three thousand to build? (Chris) Right, yeah! (Dave) Ok, good, good, good! All right! And then at top there I failed.
There I declared that. But if you are successful, right there, I have fifty million dollars and a student population of 127,000 and everyone is completely happy. That’s what a successful university is right there. (Elizabeth) And it only took you a hundred turns. (Dave) One hundred turns is the match.
I got the mega metropolitan two and a half times the size of Penn State where everyone loves it. (Question) Do you value becoming president?
(Dave) Yeah, that’s right. But on the screen that’s the leader board so eventually if you get a hundred students playing this, you can see, well hey, how am I doing compared to the rest. Looks like I’m doing something good or it looks like old kata at the bottom.
Didn’t do so hot there. So he or she could say, I obviously didn’t think this through. And she could try to maybe find econdave and say, what did econdave do?
(Chris) And I think the idea of the leader board too gives another opportunity to look at reflection in a different way. I mean, obviously with a class of three hundred students, right, neither Dirk nor Dave probably has the time to talk to every single student about their performance in the game. But with something like this you could take a little snapshot and maybe see the top two students in the class.
And maybe just have them stand up and say what was your strategy? Or talk to the students who did the worst. Clearly you’ve done something exemplary here.
How were you able to do this? [ laughter ] (Dave) The first idea was great. (Chris) But again just another potential reality of teaching a large section of a course.
Admitting there’s something that you could have teachable moments with. (Dave) These I think this one is my last slide here. I think it is. I wasn’t quite sure about this.
The meetings that Dirk and I have came over here with involved discussing.
You guys show us the game. Say here’s what we’ve done. And then we ask questions.
Can this be done? That’s how that earlier discussion came of the externality.
Can you make so that if you build a coal mine next to the dorm it’s bad? No, that’s kind of difficult to implement. And it’s kind of been the back and forth that’s been you guys have been designing the game and we’ve just been saying,
well here’s some more ideas that we can throw in. So maybe one thing that I’ve suggested is, there’s already been a level effect. Originally there was a, you had 250,000 dollars to start. Now it’s 25,000.
So we’ve started off at the lower level. But I still think we need to decrease the growth rate of money. Cause the money can still, even though you’re starting lower, the rate of it can still explode into millions of dollars. And I wander if the next thing we could do is just make more active role for advisors. And that’s, I think, where me and Dirk can help you to send a bunch of information say, here’s something the advisor could say or should say giving this list of situations. Because right now, I think when I was looking I think the advisors give information,
but it’s information that’s kind of already placed in other parts of the game. So I think instead of giving information you could have them say, here’s what I think you should do. Another idea, I don’t know, you guys can agree or disagree with this is, should an advisor be a prerequisite before doing certain things. Like before you build level five like hey, we need a guy that mans this. We need CFO level two. That’s something I’ve thought about. I don’t know if you think that’s a decent idea or not. (Elizabeth) I think it’s consistent with game theory. (Dave) Yeah, now there’s more costs to do with this action. (Dirk) So there’s many ways, you know, things you could think of that you can embed into this game.
That’s the wonderful part about it. (Dirk) From our version. There’s factors over here. I don’t know about the designer of it cause that just means there’s never ending, you know, essential request. But you know Dave’s idea of the revenue growth rate. That’s consistent with [ inaudible ] return. So if you can throttle something back after awhile and say, well wait a second, it didn’t work as well as it used to work.
That’s a very powerful idea. Students understand but they don’t get it when we teach the theory as much as they would in experience it.
That’s kind of how I see this all fitting together. You should experience these ideas first hand and you either succeed or you fail and you can just blow up the game and start over. again until you succeed. But that’s actually something incredibly valuable is you get the chance to reboot or restart whereas often times, you know, you take an exam in my class and you succeed or you fail.
And there’s no redo, right? This is like a game where you can redo and learn along the way. That’s much better pedagogical way of learning. (Question) When are you introducing this game? The beginning or the end of semester? (Dirk) We have not actually had to worry about that yet.
Because the game is being class tested here shortly.
So I think what I plan to do is give them I have three exams along with activities but, my second exam occurs in the tenth week of classes. I was inclined to simply give them the first ten weeks to learn the bulk of the economics.
And then in the eleventh week of class, come in and say, hey, you’ve got to the part of the course where I’d like for you to think that and here’s a project we can work on now for the next couple weeks.
That would be my goal. (Chris) If it would be helpful, I could jump in and maybe show a few minutes of actual game play. (Dirk) There was a question from Adobe Connect from Shevani, my apology if I pronounced that incorrectly. (Question) Sorry I joined a little late. Is it possible to use this game [ inaudible ], Econ 102 course at Penn State Harrisburg? That might be Hazleton. I’m sorry! (Chris) This was designed to be something that once it’s built, you know, can be shared. I think we’re designing it specifically to Dirk and Dave’s specifications. Cause I know they teach a large majority of Econ 102 students here at University Park. But we’re happy to make this available as soon as it’s complete to anyone who’s interested in using it. (Elizabeth) Ok, now Chris, before you start playing the game are you on Adobe Connect? (Chris) I just logged in. (Elizabeth) All right, so I’m gonna bump you up to host and then you can start sharing the screen. (Dirk) John Shenk also has a question. (Question) A follow up would be how would Econ factor in other campuses at PSU use this? (Chris) So really the way we’ve designed this, I guess there’s two possible answers to that question.
I’m not sure how it was meant. But we have designed this in such a way that it’s really meant to be hands off for Dirk and Dave to use. So their interest in changing of values or adding equations to the game or new scenarios. That’s something that we can set up behind the scenes. It’s really meant to be something that once the students get ahold of it, they just run it on their own. And it doesn’t require any intervention.
It doesn’t require any monitoring or posting from the faculty perspective. As far as literally getting access to it. That would be just something that, ok, yeah, just send me an email. I guess would be the easiest way.
I should say, so, this is in development now. As Dirk and Dave mentioned, we’re getting ready to start pilots with their students. The hope is to be able to use this in one of their classes come the fall semester. And so beyond that we start thinking more about anyone who’s interested in using it maybe after fall. (Chris) All right! I’m sorry! They’re all the same email address. Ok! All right good! [ inaudible ] (Chris) Yeah, so it is, it’s flash base start with a little bit of lag coming through. Yeah, it’s a flash based game.
I should also mention that thanks to Elizabeth’s help we’ve actually been doing a lot of work to try and get it to be accessibility compliant as well.
Obviously that’s a big concern for a large class or any class at Penn State.
Since the game will actually be useful for everyone in the class. Sorry it’s a little choppy. I guess over the wireless connection here. It runs a lot smoother face to face.
But this is what the main interface looks like. And this is what a student would start the game with. Which is basically [ inaudible ]. From here they have the ability to select the kinds of buildings that they want to make.
So we have dorm style buildings. Various academic style buildings. Athletic facilities. Power buildings. A dining commons for food. And then sort of lifestyle buildings. Like a student union building or a health center and things like that. There are policies that students can choose. These other than tuition, which is something that basically is tied to your revenue, are meant to be ways to help students reduce costs or make decisions of trade off, right.
Do I want happier students at the cost of more money returned for health care.
Something along those lines. This is the staff screen that Dave mentioned earlier where you can choose or not to hire different staff members.
Each one focuses on a particular area. So the CFO will tell you about finances.
The recruiter will talk to you about the student population.
For example, back to history screen after I build something. So I’m gonna lay down an engineering building. And that’s really all, that’s all it is as far as the building is concerned. It’s just sort of a click and place interface.
We wanted something that would be fairly easy for anyone. This is not a twitch kind of game. So being a gamer is not really something that helps students cause we wanted to be good for everybody. (Dave) Not a first person shooter. (Chris) Right exactly. So this is the history screen.
And Dave talked a little bit about this earlier. In addition to all the graphs and the charts that are bottom of the screen. The top part of the screen actually has a turn by turn review of everything you’ve done. As well as some more detailed breakdown of your costs and how things are working and population. This is really meant as kind of the reflection screen and hopefully we did.
The students that are really paying attention to the economics concepts, will spend a lot time visiting this screen. Where you can take a look at, you know, comparing the demand of level one art school versus a level liberal arts school or engineering school or math school. You can take a look at all the different economic forces that are driving the market. So the cost of food.
For example, the cost of land. You’ll notice the graph is a little bit fuzzy and it’s intentionally designed that way. Dirk and Dave were clear that they wanted sort of imperfect information. I don’t have any advisors now. So basically my game is kind guessing. And what the future might hold for these products. Not knowing the actual values. If you hire advisors, that tightens up a little bit. The zoom just let’s you take a sort of grand look at your campus for no particular purpose. And then leader boards What’s that? We used it. Oh, yeah, it’s fun to take a look. And so I’ll just go through and build a couple more buildings. Hopefully I don’t go bankrupt really quickly. We tried to tighten this up. So it’s a lot harder than it used to be. (Dirk) To go bankrupt? or to succeed? (Chris) It’s a lot harder to succeed than it used to be. We’re still changing somethings, some numbers on the fly but you can see I’m just building a couple of buildings and you can see my costs are changing. My monetary supply is changing.
My students are pretty happy now. My population is also changing with every building I build. After things are down, I have the ability to upgrade certain buildings. So this is sort of the progression that we want students to go through.
You can only build so much before you run out of money. And then you’ll need to start thinking about well do I want to changed tuition? Do I want to scale down my policies so that my costs are a little lower? Do I want to get some help from advisors? And then there’s also a turn to just go idle.
If you don’t want to do anything. At Dirk and Dave’s request we added that in.
So if students just want to sort of leave their campus alone for turn, you don’t have to spend money or change your policies every turn if you feel like your campus is at a place that your comfortable with. But the way the game is designed, it’s really meant to incentivise action rather than inaction. So you probably will never get to the top of the leader board in terms of money or population if you just build two buildings and then idle all of your turns. It’s really meant to encourage you to interact with your campus in some way. And make good decisions rather no decisions. But you can sort of let time pass if you need to save up a little bit of money or something like that. I can pop up a quick event here as well to show you what that would like. (Question) This stuff on the side is just like [ inaudible ] sort of console right? (Chris) Right! That whole gray area on the right hand side that’s just sort of what we use to actually change codes inside of the game. (Dave) Students won’t see that. (Chris) Right! (Question) Did you create this engine from scratch or was this based on something that was pre-existing? (Chris) So this is actually Zac’s handiwork here. This whole thing was his baby.
And without getting too technically programmatically, it was designed in such a way that Zac worked on some of the real hard core programming of the game. While I can jump in without a lot of programming experience and change numbers, costs, add new events to the game. So it really had broken up the work by making it a more efficient process as well. (Millet) [ inaudible ] reusable engine but there’s other disciplines that benefit from this type of a dynamic.
We could swap out the types of buildings and different interactions.
(Chris) Right! So this is again an example of one of the events that can pop up. There’s a protest of the local construction workers union and that’s going to, depending on your response, change your cost structure, right.
If you support the union maybe it costs you less to build things in the future. Whereas if you don’t, maybe it costs you more. So these are just the kinds of things that we wanted to set up for students that have to make choices on. (Dave) And had you hired a staff he’d be there to give you advice right now. You could mouse over or click his picture and he’d tell you something about it. (Chris) Exactly, he could give you more or less specific information depending on what level he was hired at.
(Elizabeth) So you can have, so the question is about construction workers protesting a work law and you can choose to disagree with the law or support the law. (Chris) Right! And then depending on your response that will have an impact on the way that your game plays out. (Dave) And for the advisors here, maybe the recruiter and student advisor might not have any good advice to give here.
But the CFO maybe he’d have something to say about it, ideally. (Chris) I think this was really to Dirk’s point earlier about the broad nature of economics in world.
We wanted to set students up with a lot of scenarios that could happen. Or decisions that could test their ability to think. You’re banning alcohol on campus, in the it’s really meant as a clear cut decision.
If you ban it, you save money. It saves you resources.
But as a student, you probably go out and drink. So now you have to think, well I am I really willing to commit to that? And hopefully it tests their own level of [ inaudible ]. (Question) Are any of the random events kind of like, I’m thinking like old Sim City where you got like Godzilla come down and like you have to kind of rebuild.
Are there anything you know I hate to think about it, it’s like Virginia Tech with an active shooter or something [ inaudible ]. Obvious stuff that has an impact on the community. Do you have anything that interface in the game like that? Where at level fifty something happens and you have to kind of rebuild or readjust?
(Chris) So right now there are some pretty severe events that happen. There is nothing virtual I guess. (Elizabeth) Fires or
(Chris) Yeah, there are examples, so, I think someone mentioned the nuclear power plant example. You can have a melt down at your nuclear power plant that can just randomly occur. And that’s another, I guess, part of this.
The events that occur are random for students. Because we wanted to set up something in such that you couldn’t have just one student play the game and then post to a blog like here’s the way to win. So every student is going to be confronted with unique situations that is going to force them to think critically about what to do. And they can choose right. They can choose wrong.
They can choose thinking economically or just clicking things randomly. But it will change their game in some way. So you can’t just sort of copy what other students have done. There are also buildings and decisions that were intentionally placed as sort of [ inaudible ]. There is one of the schools, I can’t remember which one, for example, it doesn’t make any sense to upgrade a path level two. But maybe you really have a propensity for a medical school. And so there are things in there that seem like good ideas but there are not. If you really look at the numbers.
There’s lots of different levels I think to the kinds of thinking that can happen.
At least we hope. (Elizabeth) Are there any other questions? (Dave) Just a note on what I said earlier on my very last slide. One of the suggestions about forcing the students to do those advisors. From the programming standpoint, would that be too difficult to implement?
Like before I build a fourth building, all right, if you want to have four colleges you have to hire a recruiter or something like that.
Or just kind of, I don’t know, if I want say force the students to do it, but kind of take that as conditional realism approach. Hey, your campus is getting bigger,
you need to hire a recruiter. You need to hire a CFO or can you just throw a simple if statement in there, hey, you know, if you’re trying to do this. We have prerequisites already built into the engine. So in the event of hiring a staff member, you can add any event you can say any event has happen or any member of the staff [ inaudible ]. Oh, reverse what I said. The events would hold the prerequisite of having hired staff. (Dave) Yeah, you could have a number of things in there like all right before you build a fifth college you have to hire a level one somebody.
Or before you upgrade to level three something you gotta hire a level two. [ inaudible ] (Question) How hard would it be to put in here some sort of if I have a thousand students, all whom [ inaudible ] where they can get online and sort of just chat about their experience. Well writing the game itself on Facebook is [ inaudible ]. We need to do a little more work and research into tapping into the Facebook API so that you can do what you said. Chat about it. Post to your blog what you’ve done.
That kind of stuff. But it’s all [ inaudible ]. (Question) So this framework was all built and you went to them and said, ok, we have this game.
And then you extracted from that? (Chris) I would say it probably was a little more rudimentary that we went to them really with an idea.
And I think Zac has started to prototype a sort of campus filter model of a game. And then we sort of went to them and said,
does this sound like something that could work in your course? And then from there, we really evolved it a lot to fit their specifications
for how they like to teach and the kind of content they had. (Question) I mean it must be really complicated getting all the pieces of information. Was it hard to put the pieces together? Like, you know, all those different decisions that could be made and what the ramifications were? I mean how complicated was that to do?
(Chris) Well I guess I can’t speak from you guys’ perspective. I mean our philosophy with it was really one of the first meetings we had with Dirk and Dave we said, what are your objectives you like to see exhibited through this game? And then subsequently we made sure we had a good understanding of what that content was. And what kinds of examples they use in class.
And then tried to craft events that sort of reinforce that or at least mimic that sort of behavior. So really we were picking their brain for the content and then making sure that it is applied in the right way.
(Question) How long has that process been? How long have you been doing it?
(Dave) We’ve been meeting, the first meeting I guess was last April and then we’ve had periodic meetings every two months to talk of content and update the [ inaudible ] then.
(Dirk) Although I want to say that, you know, this is falling on Zac and Chris.
They envisioned it. They brought it. They’ve talked through it. And Dave concentrated and done everything else. I mean full credit to them. I did think of myself kind of like an external consultant. Who comes in and makes it work for them. That’s an ok position for me to be in. But, you know, on the other side, I think it’s probably that’s where all the work is. (Elizabeth) I guess a question I have is sort of how could it be applied to other scenarios and one I was thinking of is we did an health policy game similar to this, but do you think that could be readapted in this framework? (Chris) Absolutely! I think that’s part of the way that Zac and I did was such that that could happen. You know it could be a security risk analysis style game where maybe instead of thinking [ inaudible ] where your protecting infrastructure or something along those lines. We’ve had folks saying, I could do this as an energy simulator.
Like this is about balancing power grid. Biology has said, what about spread of disease? Write a infectious disease kind of simulator.
So not the most optimistic [ inaudible ]. But I think there’s a lot of potential uses for it. And now that the engine is built, those future applications but those design conversation we’ve focused on pedagogy not all the kind of programming. Stuff like that. (Question) And I wonder if you could then get all those disciplines together to discuss it then? You know, you one scenario and everybody’s involved in a different aspect of it. You know, and they come together and discuss that. It seems like it would be really good.
(Question) And I was wondering about the parameters like giving them parameters for instance like costs you said they’re random.
So I would go in a different time the engineering school cost might be different. Are you guys giving them parameters or is that something that you relative. (Dave) A lot of that is based on your land costs.
What you said earlier, right. We’re gonna have some sort of world exogenous prices built in and students have to examine that and say,
let’s work with what I’m given. (Chris) I think we really relied on them for the philosophy, the idea, the theories behind this.
The specific numbers have changed so much that a lot of that’s just trying to get to a point of balance. So we just went through a period the last time we got together with this game was sort of monumentally easy to succeed in.
So we tried to tighten down some of the original and we’re still doing that. So it’s a lot of massaging. But the goal specifically is to make sure that it falls back on the points that they want to emphasize in class. (Elizabeth) Another scenario I was thinking. And maybe other people have scenarios. Is something like, certain historical scenarios like, build your empire. And you don’t have the same infrastructure as you do today, obviously.
(Chris) Yeah, anything that fits in this idea can certainly be used in future generations. (Elizabeth) Is anyone else, either on the phone or here have any other thoughts on what might work or might not work? (Question) Couple of things that inspired me. I’m wondering if you’ve thought about a couple of IOS scapes I have seen. Like one tiny tower and another one [ inaudible ] There’s a way in either of those games to go and visit your friends towers or friends campuses. In this case to kind of see their progress? Live at like real time. Or if it takes somehow snapshots of what they’re doing. And you kind of visit it? I was wondering somebody was mentioning, I can’t remember who, about networking, Facebook, along that line of social game. (Dave) I think we talked about that it would have to kind of like an end game, saved thing. Like maybe here’s a screenshot of your village. The game wasn’t meant to played like this week long thing. Like, all right, here’s my village, my campus and it’s gonna be, I’m gonna come to it day after day, after day. It’s here’s my village let’s do this.
It’s not like this multiple week Farmville type situation where I give you a couple of football fields or something as a gift. Here’s my campus But at the end then, we did talk about that option, like saving a screenshot, a PNG file, and here’s what I built. But you don’t want to necessarily give too much information because well, he’s successful.
Copy his turns. I win. (Chris) One of the things we talked about in our last meeting actually was having that philosophy but more as an administrator.
So as faculty Dirk and Dave could jump into someone else’s game and say, ok, here’s one of the successful students, maybe bring them up in class literally show their campus to the school. But that may not be somethings that available to everyone. (Elizabeth) Now it doesn’t sound like it, but you guys. do you have any kind of admin screen where you could tweak parameters or is that. (Chris) On this screen, that’s that right hand side. That gray and black area. That’s what this is designed to do.
(Elizabeth) Oh, ok, so that’s something that Dirk and Dave can access, but the students can’t. (Chris) If they wanted to they certainly could jump in there and play around with it. It is a mouthful. There’s a lot stuff in there.
We’d have to write the manual. (Question) I’m just interested as a tool especially for a class like, you know, 102 where you might have some students that are don’t feel engaged by the concepts and can you take a C student and turn them into a B+ student and more engaged now in theory and if not so, then is there actually [ inaudible ] with these concepts. (Dave) Yeah, I think you can.
Certainly on a much smaller scale. I’ve done something like this in the last few years where I would send my students out to play what was called the Lemonade Stand game. And I just simply tell them, this is like the world’s stupidest game. And you know you mentally think, I can figure out the perfect price to sell my lemonade at. But then you suddenly realize that you gotta worry about the amount of sugar that goes in there. And how much ice. The ice gonna melt. Sugars gonna spoil. And then you think I can beat this. And I’ve had students report back to me, well I got on the Lemonade game thinking, aah, yeah, part of my homework. I’ll just crush this in a couple mintutes and print out a print screen and I’m done. Seven hours later,
I’m addicted to lemonade game and you know, I just can’t stop playing it. I know that’s gonna happen to a pretty sizable chunk of the class.
And that’s exactly what you’re talking about, right. The level of engagement goes from marginal to like I’m invested in this. I don’t know if it’s gonna manifest itself and going from a C to a B+, but I don’t care.
Just from the engagement standpoint and how they talk about it with their friends and what we did in class and that’s the value in it. (Question) Do you ever envision this becoming like a course? (Dirk) Well that would be virtual me up there somewhere. (Question) Where you would, you know, have them start at the beginning with some basic concepts and then kind of builds it way up. (Dirk) I think we could certainly see that.
I certainly could see this as being a vehicle in a hybrid course, especially. Or an online course where you’re trying to flush out different ideas at different points in time. I think there is a narrative in a big classroom and a little bit different environment.
So this is more helps plug in or an add on in it’s current form.
But, I mean, I think it’s a very, very valuable piece of sort of saying, this is what you need to get out of this course. (Question) Can you set up the scenarios to focus on particular topics that maybe supply and demand is what you’re covering this week?
Can you limit those scenarios to that just so that they’re learning that and they’re not getting scenarios that are over the topic that they haven’t learned yet? (Chris) It could be potentially. It would require some constraints could be put on the functionality of the game. A lot of it is really tightly interwoven so supply and demand and externalities both have impact in the response and decisions or something that. But yeah, potentially you could certainly set it up that way. (Elizabeth) It’s 1:20. Are there any other questions? Benefit of the order. (Chris) Thank you very much to Dirk and Dave for one being a part of this project,
but also coming down and sharing their thoughts on the game. It’s a work in progress.
Hopefully we’ll have some results to report at some point. (Dave) Oh, I know, is this able for us to login and play? (Chris) Absolutely! Like I said, yeah, I can send you the url. (Elizabeth) Can you put the url in the chatroom? [ laughter ] Well not dirty work of course. All professional development. Absolutely! I was able to keep my campuses from going bankrupt. It was funny cause there’s a really old simulation out there called Virtual U. But it about keeping a campus run from an administrative standpoint. Hiring faculty and making sure they’re happy and so on. It’s really kind of nice compliment to that. (Chris) So I shared it in the Adobe Connect chat, but I’ll be happy to email everyone who was signed in today. If you’d like to take a look [inaudible]. (Question) Is there any talk about branding it? Other buildings or

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