I’ve just been taking a look at PowerUp, a free, 3D virtual world launched a few days ago by IBM. The game is aimed at educating teenagers about alternative energy sources and environmental conservation. It’s really quite engaging, and makes great use of a 3D games environment that merges the appeal of fantasy virtual worlds with the educational goal of building wind and watermills to save the world. Playing the game, students work together in teams to investigate the rich, 3D game environment and learn about the environmental disasters that threaten the game world and its inhabitants.
Players meet Expert Engineer characters and experience the great diversity of the field. Conversations with these experts and engaging interactive activities allow players to explore ways engineers design and build systems to harness renewable energy sources as alternatives to burning fossil fuels. Players take on the role of Engineers, working together designing and building energy solutions to save the world.
Despite the strong use of the gaming environment, Powerup has definitely been created with an educational intent – it comes with notes for parents and teachers, including a list of lesson plans, and also has a strong emphasis on internet safety. There is no requirement for users to input personal details that may let them be identified. In addition, PowerUp players use a phrase-based chat system to communicate with each other. There is no blank field into which another player can type a message and send it to the user, rather, throughout the game players can choose from a contextualized list of messages to send to other players. The list has been created by the game designers and includes only phrases that are necessary for cooperation and positive reinforcement between players.
Unfortunately for me it’s only available for PC – no Mac version available (yet?). Take a look at the intro video below for more…