Friday, April 22, 2005

Games for education..?

The name of the game is perilously close to the blockbuster "Sin City" - but any Sim fan would know what I am talking about. Sim City, rated by IGN as one of the top games of all time, is easily one of the most complex and addictive games I have ever laid hands on.

BBC reports here that EA and the local authorities of the town of Gillingham, Kent, teamed up to develop a customized version of the Sim City game to teach junior school kids about town planning and environment issues. My heartfelt congratulations to the makers of Sim City on this feat.

Though, this effort was carried out on a small scale, it shows how capable today's computer gaming industry is. About 3 years ago, I attended a conference in New Delhi, India. The start of the conference was delayed due to late arrival of some of the dignitaries. I recall, how an audience of around 80 people was left captivated, as the organizers just left running a CPU Vs. CPU Brazil Vs. France game in FIFA 2002 on the LCD. Since then, I never doubted that given the advanced nature of the game engines and top-notch graphics, many video games can serve more purposes than just entertainment.

Flight sims started out as training modules and proved successful games - I can see many titles go the other way. For example, many sports titles like FIFA series, Madden NFL series etc could be used for sports training and strategy formulation. Sim City like games can be used to hone planning skills - this is evident from the above.

Another game I would like to make special mention of is the Championship Manager series. The CMs have been another vastly popular series involving sports strategy. Despite the fact that the CM series has always been text-based games with no graphics, their game engine is simply superb. Courtesy of their HUGE fan base, they also receive the best scout reports for players from across the world. This allows them to correctly model hundreds of thousands of professional and amatuer players. Diehard CM players will tell you stories of how the CM games were able to predict/scout excellent football talent even before they hit the world stage.

Moral of the story is, that video games can and should play a greater role.


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