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A plague on all your houses! October 6, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Web 2.0.
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Plague IncEnjoyed a beautifully sunny autumn day out on the bike today accompanied by Tony and Darrel, the EdTechCrew … or rather their podcasts. That’s not unusual; I often enjoy and benefit from their informative and witty banter, but the podcast I caught today (Episode 211) was unusual. Introduced as an interview special with Plague Inc creator James Vaughan, I wasn’t particularly overwhelmed. Though I recognise, value and promote the potential of games to support and encourage learning, I’m not a gamer … there, I said it! But hey, here I was out in the countryside enjoying a blissful ride, so I resisted the temptation to skip to the next podcast. I’m so glad I didn’t!

In words the guys would understand, it was a corker! A ripper! Why? Well firstly James came across as an incredibly interesting guy who spoke with such passion and eloquence, telling the story of how Plague Inc came into being. And what a tale it was. But more than that, this was a story which referenced so many different areas of the curriculum, providing a touchstone for teachers coming from a wide range of backgrounds. The game itself clearly links with Science, Biology and PSHE, based as it is on infection, pathogens and disease. Then of course Geography is important, requiring the player to have some appreciation of countries and their interconnectedness. James’ story linked in with Maths and IT in the way that he developed and refined the algorithms which drive the game, even using Excel to manage the statistics and formulae which underlie the game mechanics. Naturally Design and Art played a large part in getting the game out of James’ head and into the hands of the gamer and there were clear illustrations how Business Studies and Economics help turn an idea into a product. But there were also lessons aplenty to be learned on the importance of the hidden curriculum and soft skills highlighted by James’ entrepreneurship, persistence, patience, determination, creativity, imagination, responsiveness and communication. The way he assembled the resources he needed was perhaps an ideal illustration of how projects can be developed and executed in the 21st century – finding then collaborating with a group of geographically disparate individuals to design, develop and produce a product, yet never meeting them face-to-face. Getting his product onto the market and achieving unexpected and dizzying heights of success … but with no marketing budget! Using social media as communication channels through which he can connect with players, listen and respond to their feedback and improve the game with each iteration. Could all of this been achieved 10 years ago? Possibly. But then there were no iPhones, no apps … no market! Do we have here an ideal example of one of those jobs often referred to in the somewhat hackneyed phrase ‘We’re preparing students for jobs which don’t even exist yet’? I think so.

A fascinating hour for which I thank Darrel and Tony and especially James. The power of podcasting to inspire and entertain!

Do you know what? Following this interview, I’m even tempted to buy the game … heck I might even play it!

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Comments»

1. itmadesimple - October 7, 2012

What a great blog post – very honest and upfront. I think this interview has left Darrel and I with so many more questions about the nature of the changing internet around us. You pointed out the many links to the curriculum we would apply as teachers, but what inspired me was the discussion about the skills James used as a successful online/game business owner or should that be successful online participant (I am not sure entrepreneur is the right title but we will be covering that in the future).

It is a great case study.

I hope you played the game and I look forward to an update on your experiences.

Tony

ianinsheffield - October 8, 2012

You’re absolutely right Tony. James provided an object lesson in how applying the right skills in an appropriate way can achieve impressive outcomes.

(Can’t play the game on my aging Touch, but might give it a whirl on the ‘droid phone)


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