Imagine students completing their homework through a massively multiplayer online role playing game while the user adventures through a unique and exotic world.
UF professor Dennis Frohlich, who teaches the class The Cultural Impact of Video Games, said he’s never heard of such a thing.
Lindsey Tropf, a UF graduate student, wants to make that game a reality.
She is launching a Kickstarter on Thursday in hopes of raising $50,000 to create the underlying mechanics of the game.
Tropf’s game, called Tyto Online, will have its own world, lore, story and epic mission. The first release will also contain a module of ecology set to middle school science standards.
Her Gainesville-based educational startup, Immersed Games, aims to develop a virtual world as a platform for learning opportunities. Grade school students will complete quests in subjects like science, math, entrepreneurship, history and financial literacy.
Tropf, a doctoral candidate in UF’s School Psychology Program, has dedicated more than 3,000 hours working with schools.
“I understand the practical limitations of teachers if they were to want to implement our game in their classroom,” she said.
Tropf refers to existing educational video games as “chocolate-covered broccoli.” Developers make educational games like a worksheet of problems — the broccoli — but in a pretty game format — the chocolate.
“Answering a math problem to shoot a zombie, it’s fun and novel for a moment, but it isn’t true, deep learning and doesn’t teach the concepts,” Tropf said. “(It) just helps students practice them.”
Immersed Games was founded on the premise that all content should be in one cohesive world where students are able to stumble upon quests for content they never may have known existed otherwise.
Frohlich said that kids know right away when a video game is trying to teach them something.
He said he is curious about Immersed Game’s reasoning for using the genre of an MMORPG for an educational game and whether it will be effective.
“Minecraft has shown that online gaming can be a space for collaboration between players,” Frohlich said. “Online games don’t all have to be about killing.”
[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 7/8/2014 under the headline "Gainevsille startup to create an educational MMORPG"]
A rendering of Tyto Online shows what Lindsey Tropf’s game might look like. Her kickstarter to raise $50,000 for the game begins Thursday.