Its the 1930’s, and you have just been elected president of France on a promise to rebuild the French economy. But you learn that Germany is rapidly building its army, and your advisers are urging you to do the same. What will happen if you break your campaign pledge and divert resources and attention to building up the French military?
Or you’re the British prime minister in 1938. Diplomats in Munich have reached a deal: Germany will be allowed to annex the Sudetenland if it promises that its expansion will go no further. What will the consequences be if you refuse to sign the agreement?
History is filled with such what-ifs, and a company called Muzzy Lane Software thinks they could help high school and college students learn about history and develop thinking skills. To that end, Muzzy Lane is getting ready to introduce schools to a technology that is already familiar to most of today’s students: a video game, but one that is custom-designed for the classroom.
Making History is a multiplayer simulation that puts players in control of European governments before, during and after World War II. With a price tag somewhere between $25 and $40, the game is expected to be available in the fall from www .muzzylane.com.
Computer games have been used in education for years, especially at the elementary level, where there are thousands of software titles. At the high school and college level, though, strategy games are generally limited to stock market and election simulations, experts and teachers say. Muzzy Lane aims to change that.
The challenge is to “integrate the learning without preaching to the player,” said Dave McCool, the president of Muzzy Lane. “You want to create an environment where they’re learning.”
The game’s designers took elements of entertainment simulations – the graphics, the realistic cause-and-effect, the variety of challenges – and adapted them for classroom use by making the game customizable for different learning levels, breaking it into timed sessions and adding a variety of supporting material for instructors.