The government is helping fund a Minecraft-style game for teaching kids about the environment
Minecraft is a cultural phenomenon. The block-based exploration and crafting game was snapped up by Microsoft for $2.5 billion last year and has helped inspire competitors from giant toy companies like Lego.
Even the government is interested in building on Minecraft’s success: The Department of Education is helping fund a project known as “Eco” that looks a lot like Minecraft, except with a few added twists: There’s a looming ecological disaster and players must band together to make a community — agreeing on laws and living in harmony with the environment.
If they fail, the world dies forever. Strange Loop Games, the company behind the game, describes it a “global survival game” and says failure results in “server-wide perma death.”
Eco is designed to help teach middle school students about environmental science and was awarded a nearly $900,000 grant from the Department of Education last month. It has completed a test phase where 60 students in five classes tried it out, according to the grant contract. The prototype for that test run also received a DOE grant of around $150,000.
Here’s what the game prototype looks like in action:
The latest grant will help build out new features, including a teacher dashboard, and let researchers figure out how effective the game is by collecting data on 150 students in 10 classrooms. Half of the classes will use the normal environmental teaching plan, while the other half will supplement the curriculum with Eco — letting the developers see if the game actually helps boost students’ understanding of ecology.
Minecraft itself is already used by some educators for things like building replicas of ancient Roman apartment buildings and teaching problem-solving.
Understand, Minecraft is a phenomena amongst the younger crowd. It is a huge sprawling creative sandbox that allows the children to experiment with construction and even computer design and programming. This atrocity is something else entirely. It is also designed for programming, programming children to become Eco-nuts. It is developed using a gameplay that the kids are familiar with and enjoy, but adds in all of the Eco nonsense that you could ever hope a future generation of children would need to become good little “citizens of the world”.
Minecraft meets ecology simulation in an open-world educational game
By Charlie Hall on Jun 09, 2015 at 3:30p @Charlie_L_Hall
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Veteran studio Strange Loop Games is embarking on an ambitious project to create a new kind of open world multiplayer game where the survival of every player on the server depends on careful management of in-game resources. With funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Eco hopes to become a platform for teaching middle school students about ecology in a communal, cloud-based game world.
Strange Loop calls their project a “global survival game.” In Eco’s fiction there is an impending disaster looming over humanity — an event like a meteor strike, a drought or a flood. The clock is ticking, and players must work together to prevent the onrushing apocalypse or risk “server-wide perma death.”
The tools at players disposal are familiar to anyone who’s played Minecraft. Eco’s world is a lush paradise, modeled after the Pacific Northwest, filled with plants and animals. But unlike Minecraft, real ecological forces are at play in the background.
“Resources are finite,” states the game’s website. “Chop down every tree and fail to plant more? They won’t be growing back. Hunt every elk for food? They’re now extinct. Pollute a section of land with mining runoffs? Your crops are poisoned. This ecosystem is your only lifeline in a race against time.
“You’re facing two existential crises simultaneously: an external threat that you must avert, and the threat of causing your own destruction. A rock and a hard place.”
But the game doesn’t want to be preachy, it just wants to attempt to simulate the real forces at play on our planet, give players a sense of ownership and empower them with the tools the make change.
“In Eco the goal isn’t to save the environment,” said studio head John Krajewski earlier this year in the YouTube video above. “The goal is to build. The goal is to create a civilization.”
In the background the game is constantly keeping track of real complex data, which allows players to see the changes being felt by in-game populations in near real time. While players on the server will be given free choice, the entire community will also have the opportunity to vote on laws that will change how they’re allowed to interact with the environment.
“Every law in Eco needs to be backed up with scientific documentation,” said Krajewski, “that’s based on the actual data that’s coming from the game.”
The game will run on a server in the cloud, which will allow players to access the game from anywhere — including at home or in the classroom. Teachers will be given a toolset to allow them to tailor individual worlds to meet their educational needs, effectively letting them create specific scenarios and influence the game world in real time.
“The classroom time is the chance to have the council meeting. … That’s where we see the role of the teacher is very important.”
The promise of the game has even captured the interest of the U.S. Department of Education, which has given Strange Loop Games a two year, $900,000 grant to develop the game. There is also a Kickstarter expected later this year.
“Eco is possibly the first video game where your character can actually save the world,” says the website, “because the alternative is for once possible.”
The overarching themes of “save the world” is worrying enough, it’s when you get into what the game is designed for is when things get really terrifying. They have actually set it up where you “design laws” for your enviro friendly civilization.
This is blatant programming of children, you take something kids are already enjoying, you change it around to fit an agenda and then you force feed the kids the final result in the school system. If a company tried something this blatant they would be shut down and the heads would probably be thrown in jail. Your federal government at work. Changing hearts and minds, by mandate.