YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK: The U.S. State Department announced last week the release of Trace Effects, a game designed to help foreign students ages 12-16 learn about the English language and U.S. culture. MindShift reports that educators from Karachi "found the story and activities engaging and wanted to play again." The game is heavily narrative-driven and thus provides ample exercise for listening comprehension, although we just played it for an hour and couldn't get too excited over the redundant fetch quests. And for a game that took five years to develop, it suffered from long load times (even on our broadband connection) and major glitches. (EdSurge's Tony hopped the school fence and ran off the map, thus sending his character into an eternal freefall and ending his hopes of ever finding his way back home.)
We're not the intended audience for such a game, of course. But so often, in discussions over learning games and game-based learning, we hear so much from researchers and teachers. But why not the kids themselves? After all, they're ultimately the end users, and they probably have a different--if not more comprehensive--frame of reference for what really makes video games "engaging."