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GDC: Nickelodeon's Schrier Relives The Revolution

GDC: Nickelodeon's Schrier Relives The Revolution

March 5, 2007 | By Brandon Boyer

In her Serious Games Summit session, Nickelodeon's Karen Schrier told an audience that location based gaming was key to providing a more meaningful learning experience with a breakdown of her Reliving The Revolution.

As explained in her Game Career Guide postmortem, Reliving The Revolution, Schrier's thesis project from her time at MIT, encouraged teams of 7th graders to find out who fired the first shot in the battle of Lexington by gathering information from virtual characters and clues from real-world Lexington, MA locations.

Participants play one of four roles - an African American slave minuteman soldier, a white freed soldier, a female loyalist and a British soldier - each of which gives players a different perspective on the information gathered. For instance, a minuteman talking to another minuteman might gather accurate information, but a minuteman talking to a British soldier might instead receive biased information.

Schrier told the audience that it was mobile and location based learning specifically that excited her based on the ubiquity of the platform, with most children owning mobile phones and bringing them into the classroom, as well as the platform's low cost.

Schrier also found that using mobile technology, her game enhanced '21st century skills,' like media fluency and collaboration, because they were actually in the environment where the battle took place, and gave students the context of the battle.

That context, she said, helped them more effectively remember, recall, and share the information, and turned the real world location into a new social space where students could collaborate and serendipitously find new information, augmenting the usually more passive experience of visiting a historic site.

By juxtaposing both real and virtual information, Schrier proposed, students were compelled to look more closely at both, and made Lexington a personally meaningful space, remapped with cultural, social, economic, and political information.

In her recommendations for other developers hoping to explore their own location based games, Schrier said it was helpful to use authentic learning environments and content, and to find ways to incorporate inspection of that environment into game play.

She also suggested encouraging the creation of a social space with opportunities to collaborate and interact with other players, making the space their own and not a competitive one.

Setting the virtual information in interesting ways against their physical location, she added, ways that might contradict information that the players are getting, also enhances the experience, as does varying the player's roles to ensure more collaboration.

Schrier mention, based on an audience question, that though she didn't explicitly measure the effectiveness of the learning based on traditional classroom sessions, her research looked instead at what the students felt was engaging and inspiring about game, and how they felt about learning history through it - gaining qualitative information about the creativity and imagination inspired by learning about historic moments.

And though she has yet to return to the game, Schrier concluded that she hopes to further explore the ideas of Reliving The Revolution through branching conversations with embodied agents in the game, with more AI control versus passive information collection, as well as creating an online counterpart of the mobile game, to see how the types of learning differ.

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