The IBP Game: World wide learning through online gaming
Posted by Michael Wolf on September 13, 2010
The IBP – game is an online learning game designed for the International Budget Partnership. The umbrella organisation offers training and knowledge resources supporting civil society organisations around the globe focussing on budget advocacy and monitoring.
In the scenario based learning game, players travel to the imaginary country of Polarus. The user takes on the role of an intern working for SeDeN, a budget advocacy organisation. The task is to investigate whether public resources are being used to fight poverty and improve the lives of poor and marginalised people. Users explore development problems, find out how government budgets affect developments and learn how to build successful strategies for change.
Formula D interactive designed the game in collaboration with Wireframe Studio for people who are already involved in budget advocacy work and are committed to an organisation; the aim of the approximately 2-hour long pilot of the game is to explore and test the effectiveness of an extendable game based learning platform for budget advocacy organisations around the world, where they can learn about common strategies and methods that will help them reach their objectives.
The game consists of four missions and can only be completed in chronological order. Players are introduced to each mission by Zuka, the director of SeDeN. In order to complete the game, players have to solve a number of puzzles and collect relevant information that will be offered to them throughout the game play. In the first mission, players find out why a school in Sunset state has no text books. In the second mission they investigate the responsible person and organisation that caused the problem. Mission 3 deals with finding a short term solution to the problem. In mission 4 players are tasked to create long term strategies by learning from real life examples and case studies.
The explorative method of the game requires users to be investigative and curious about everything they find on the screen. Decisions are based on interactions with various game characters in interview situations. The player’s investigations and learning outcomes are reported back to the SeDen office and evaluated.
Once registered, players see a map of Polarus showing a number of states such as Capital State and Sunset State, where the first 4 missions are situated. Clicking on the locations on the map activates a zoom function into the specific area. On the state level of the map, users can click on icons representing buildings or institutions which are important for the game. Not all areas are accessible at all time, but will only be unlocked when the player has reached a certain level of the game.
At times certain interface buttons become more prominent when their use is critical for moving the game along.
- The TELEVISION button opens news bulletins of the Polarus News Network. These bulletins may contain important information relevant to a mission.
- The MAP button is a key means of travelling within Polarus.
- The PASSPORT button opens the “in game” passport. The passport contains registration information under its “Profile” tab, as well as a summary of the players progress in the three progress bars on the right-hand page. To view the details of the progress, players click on the three other tabs.
- The WORLD button opens up a globe with destinations players can visit. This function only becomes active in Mission 3, when players revisit real world examples which are embedded in the virtual world of Polarus.
- The MOBILE PHONE button opens up the “in game” mobile phone. This enables players to view SMS communication from game characters.
- The LAPTOP button links to the “in game” laptop. This button will only be visible when the player is required to prepare a report at one of the learning check points.
The four missions of the pilot game can be completed in more than one sitting. By saving the progress players can enter and exit from the IBP game at times most convenient to them, without having to start from the beginning each time. At regular intervals in the game players will be asked to save their progress.
The IBP game is designed with Adobe Flash and links to a PHP backend and MySQL database. User registration details and game progress saved at learning check-points can be reviewed by the site admin. The back-end interface also shows basic stats and allows to reset or block user access.
The IBP game is an immersive, interactive and transformative environment which offers many learning opportunities. Future extensions of the game will offer communication channels that can be utilized for collaboration and collective knowledge construction between players around the world.