Mail received which contains game or resource ideas:

19th April

have you thought about contacting a school in Africa for photos and background info and authenticity? We hooked up with a school in Tanzania run by an Australian girl ...Gemma .. address as follows

The School of St JudeFighting Poverty through Education


Address:PO Box 11875, ArushaTanzania, East AfricaPhone: 255-744-566136

18th April 2006:

Worth consideration with perhaps “Food Force” and / or “Escape from Woomera” ? ( site is currently down)

I’m not a programmer so I can’t help in that regard but if you’re looking for examples of African games, may I recommend one called “Pax Warrior”.

It’s a role playing simulation that puts students in the position of the UN Commander in Rwanda just before the genocide. The game’s creator uses actual picture, video and sound files from the period to add authenticity. The simulation is simple to play (compared to others I’ve used) but also very engaging, challenging and open-ended. At the end of the simulation students can compare their decisions to those made by the actual UN commander.

The simulation is web based, so it can be played on any computer platform. That’s is a big plus for schools using Mac’s.

Have you seen President for a Day? It's a simulation type thing aimed at secondary school students.

I've seen it in action, and though it seems to have religious links, it didn't strike me as being overly religious; though I've an idea that it has been updated since I first saw it.

I've had a similar dream for about 25 years.

In c1980 I was teaching in Zimbabwe, and I got together a team of students to play in an IBM sponsored "Mangement Game" - we never saw the computer, only the weekly stack of fanfold paper that arrived showing us a pile of stats about our company, and how much mony we were making. My team won the national finals two years in a row. Fast forward a few years to about 1987 I swapped schools, became Head of IT, bought a lab of PCs and again got my team into the IBM finals... but we kind of cheated because we made a simulation of the IBM game and played this amongst ourselves. From memory the first simulation was in Lotus1-2-3 (many people don't realise what good games you can make with a spreadsheet)... then I wrote one in Pascal, and we started playing it within the school : interhouse games, staff v staff and staff v students. After several iterations I felt that my game was heaps better than the IBM game !

Fast forward to c1991 and I'm Head of IT in a school in Papua New Guinea, and I've PNG-ised and rewritten the game in Visual Basic and same deal : staff v staff staff v students and interhouse comps. Fast foreward to 1996 and the game has been Australianised and rewitten in MSAccess. Then in a few years later I've rewitten it for the the web (in ASP). I've tried to get interest in it (my dream is to play it internationally) and I've been told that if I can do a successful trial that the British Council would be interested and would support my attempt to get it played at schools around the world... but there's bad news, which I think reflects badly about something... but I'm not sure what.

Firtsly the game is quite mathematical. In order to to well, you need to be able to balance income v expenditure. You need to able to juggle spending on R&D advertising, salaries, etc etc. You need to market properly, taking into account your products and the sizes of the markets. You need to be able to infer trends regarding growth and seasonal fluctuations etc etc etc

In Zimbabwe and PNG the kids found this fascinating and sat down and spent some time doing analysis. They devised their own spreradsheets and had fun working out the trends. Teachers also enjoyed the game and there was a great deal of friendly rivalry in staff v student games. (Students almost always won, because they spent so much more time studying.) I should emphasise that the game was played on a "one decision per week" basis. (One decision was really a sheet full of decisions). The idea was to model a real business as closely as possible.

In Australia, there was great enthusiasm about the idea of the game, but most staff and students found it too boring and we not excited by the idea of the mathematical modeling of markets. I've had no success with business studies teachers, but maths and physics teachers have been keen and have played well and enthusiastically (They are probably not so daunted by the graphs). Students, even year 12s play with no thought at all and quickly start to go downhill. To try and make the game move faster, I upped the speed to "one decision per day" and played in simulated rather than real time. Unlike in the third world, students were no match for teachers, and teachers (apart from a handful of maths/physics) were not attracted to it.

I'm very proud of the game... it's taken me 25 years of research... it's been field tested thousands of times in different versions and hundreds of students and teachers have had a great deal of enjoyment from it. But about a year or so ago I stopped any further development because I can't seem to get any interest here.

It would be relatively easy to get say 100 players playing it all in different countries and it would be a great way of bringing people together.

If you have any wisdom, I'd be very keen to fire up my enthusiasm again. My belief is that, partly what is to blame is that PC games have become more sound and graphics and action orientated and that slow thoughtful games are not now popular. (Indeed, chess was immensly popular in Zimbabwe and PNG.. but in South Australia it is extremely disappointing. The state chess championships attracted about 20 ? students last time I checked (a few years ago) - I was horrified !)

Quo vadis ?

16th April 2006:

Last week I listened to "The Race Against Time", the first of the 2005 Massey lectures by humanitarian Stephen Lewis. On the drive home with my family, it was heartbreaking to hear that the international community was using the weapon of economic rationalism to destroy African medical and social systems, opening the floodgates of poverty
and AIDS. The first audio lecture can be listened to online.

What age group will you be aiming at?For younger kids, have you looked at Alison Lester's picture book (short-listed in last year's Children's Book Council awards) "Are We There Yet?" With the publisher's permission, I made the book's illustrations and some text into a knowledge quest that resided on our school's student intranet for 2005, but it would be a great format to use for your project.Kids aged 10-11 might like a choose-your-own-adventure style. Inspiration would be helpful in designing the site. (We did this some time ago, and I used 'We're going on a Bear Hunt' as a model, mainly because everyone knows the story.)

A couple of things. I'm of to the Serengeti next holds with the family via Nairobi. Could get you soem pics maybe.

thought you might be interested in the Africa Jigsaw puzzle at Play kids I usually follow this game with This game 'tests' naming the African countires. If there's time left in the lesson we write entertaining jungle adventures with National Kids might have some inspriational material as well. I'd be happy to volunteer my kids to 'test' a game. They are rural students (we also have a significant aboriginal student enrollment) who enjoy a challenge and it would be useful for them to learn more about our recent immigrants.


this sounds like a rich virtual field trip with roleplay - a MOO might be the perfect place for this - a MOO is made up of chatrooms full of smart things - you could set it up as a walkthru tour, enrich certain parts with learning objects, interactive bits, constructivist bits, roles, assessment tasks, textually, aurally and graphically enrich it with all sorts of relevant media (potted or streaming) and then meet your students in there for a synchronous experience.

... or, you could harness a 3d gaming engine, and construct playable walk-thru parts with quests

... or you could use a specialist MUD to recreate textually the gamespace and knowledge quests

just blarging on here, but there are existing platforms that would do it for you and your kids in interactive ways

..or you could build a less-interactive space inside a Moodle that harnesses learning activities and content staged, but is a lot less synchronous and certainly un-game-like

.. or you could stage this as a webquest and have kids forming cooperative groups with some common purpose

depends on your bent (or amount of bendyness) i guess

I think you should approach Teemu Leinonen who has managed the MobilEd project in Africa (mobile phones searching, screenreading, and contributing to mediawikis). Using such technology would certainly add a new (mobile) dimension to any computer game. I am trying to find sponsors to bring Teemu and his work to Australia/NZ for the TALO swap meet in Dunedin, September 18. If I succeed in finding money (donations welcome) it would be opportune for you to meet him in Dunedin, or piggy back the visit wnd bring him to SA.