Project BioD

Setting a New Standard for Educational Games — Six Key Factors of Success

Enviropop by WWF Philipines

EnviroPop is a puzzle game that allows users to clear marine threats such as PET plastic bottles, fish trawl nets, cyanide bottles, and oil drums.

More and more games are being developed which seek to engage players in social causes — such as protecting biodiversity, or raising enviornmental awareness.  One recent example is the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines).  They’ve recently teamed up with AppLabs Digital Studios “to bring forth a philanthropic collaboration concerning marine creatures.

According to a recent release about the game — which is called EnviroPop — “the app aims to educate people about sea creatures, and the need to address the marine pollutants that harm them”

How do we measure if such a project is successful?  Would we look at the number of people who dowload the game (it costs 99 cents)?  How often and how long they play it?  Whether or not the players grow more concerned about marine pollutants?  Whether or not the ocean is more protected because of the game (for example, proceeds from the game go toward supporting WWF’s activity)?  Other measures?

Project BioD hasn’t spoken to WWF-Philipines, and doesn’t know how they plan to measure success.  But Project BioD would like to propose six criteria for evaluating any game that’s developed to further a social cause.  We believe the perfect game would score high in all six criteria; but of course very few games seek to satisfy more than a couple.

1) Fun Factor

Low (1) — The game does not engage users.

High (5) — Highly engaging and fun.

2) Education Value

Low (1) — Players learn nothing valuable from the game.

High (5) — Players learn things comperable to what they’d receive from a formal course in the subject.

3) Practical Rewards

Low (1) — The game offers players no practical rewards.

High (5) — The game offers practical rewards (e.g. verifiable certification, money, chance to network with like-minded people, etc).

4) Value of Data Collection

Low (1) — The game collects no data of any value.

High (5) — The game collects data which would be valuable to scientists and other experts in the field.

5) Hands-on Engagement with the Real World

Low (1) — Users needn’t engage with their real world at all to succeed in the game.

High (5) — Users must interact directly with their environment (e.g. photograph local plants) in order to succeed in the game.

6) Practical Social Impact

Low (1) — The game is not designed to have any social benefit.

High (5) — The game is designed to have a positive impact on an important social issue.

What do you think? Are there are other criteria we should include here?

Perhaps in future posts we’ll try to score some games according to these factors.

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Online Biodiversity Games and Education