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Serious Games and Marine Domain

Serious Games and Marine Domain

Serious Games, we know, are powerful tools or better a powerful concept for training and education but why in Marine Domain? Because it is a very complex scenario, in particular for safety and security procedures, with several critical infrastructures that represent nodes of the complex global logistic system. Such infrastructures must be protected. But ports, ships, off-shore platforms or underwater pipes and cables are ruled by complex international laws and rules and moreover different kind of actors operate in: indeed there are military and police forces, private companies (such as terminal operators or cruise lines) and public agencies. Furthermore human operators work every day on board or in terminals performing difficult and often risky procedures.

So why not to use a serious game based approach to train and educate in the extended maritime domain?

Prof. Bruzzone’s research teams are working on serious games for safety and security procedures education with a focus on interoperability, Intelligent Agents and modeling and managing different Unmanned Autonomous Systems in the extended maritime framework (underwater, sea surface, coast, air, space and even cyberspace).

RAMSES (“ReliAble ship Management and Security Enhancement by Simulation based on Serious Games”) is a sample of this R&D activity: it is a multiplayer, systems-based Serious Games for training technical nautical operations and ship procedures:

  • refueling at sea,
  • man overboard,
  • mooring to a buoy,
  • UASs interoperability
  • etc

 

alt

Figure 1 samples of RAMSES scenarios

ST_VM (Simulation Team Virtual Marine) is another sample in which the simulation team’s researchers are currently testing scenarios with traditional assets such as boats, vessels, helicopters as well as vans and people are interacting dynamically with Autonomous Systems in the Extended Maritime Framework. In the current scenario UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are present both with fixed and rotary wing; these element are simulated as well as UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicles) and AUV(Autonomous Underwater Vehicle). Obviously the use of Intelligent Agents is fundamental to direct these elements and to populate the scenario with active entities.

alt

Figure 2 samples of ST_VM game scenarios

 

Translation and Accessibility in Serious Games

A few weeks ago in Barcelona (Spain), the Transmedia Catalonia Research Group hosted the 3rd edition of Fun for All: International Conference on Translation and accessibility in Video Games and Virtual Worlds and Educational Design. GaLA was represented in the educational games and tools panel, with the presentation of the paper: Multilanguage adaptability in Game Based Learning for teachers: MetaVals Serious Game interface; a study focused on how the design of a panel for teachers could help them to easily implement a Serious Game in class, and guide students through a game that has been graphycally and linguistically adapted to them.

As highlighted in the opening session, this conference aims to become a place for academic, professionals and students who are involved in the game industry. The main aims of Fun for All are to foster the interdisciplinary debate of game adaptability and accessibility, and to consolidate them as academic areas of research, contributing to the development of best practices in the field. In accordance to these objectives, the conference addressed the following key issues:

  • Discuss on the emerging fields of game localization and accessibility, as well as accessibility to virtual worlds, taking into account the role that translation plays in these contexts.
  • Share the current State of The Art of games being used for “serious” purposes beyond entertainment, such as education.
  • Discuss how developers and publishers can reach a wide audience in order to maximise their return on investment.
  • Focus on the advances on game translation and games that can be played for a wide spectrum of players, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

The topics addressed were, broadly speaking, game localisation, development and use of specialised pedagogical tools, cultural adaptation in games, creativity and humour in games, app games, game localisation, accessibility and audio design. The participants who presented advances in the field of translation and adaptability pointed at the need to create special tags in order to avoid or minimize gender issues when translating from English to Spanish, for example. They also highlighted the need to be aware of the existing cultural differences as a key aspect for internationalization of games; making games linguiscally and culturally appropriate to the target locale. Game designers should therefore be creative when facing technical issues but, most important, they must respect the culture and the language when translating.

Concerning the Serious Games panel, both presenters and audience discussed how games could be designed inclusively, to facilitate access by all types of players. Particular studies focused on the implementation of SGs as complementary tools for cognitive evaluation, such as cognitive impairments or as a context to rehabilitate patients with acquired brain injuries.

The main outcomes of the conference were in the direction reaching a broadest audience for games. However, the organizers admit that there is still a need of more interdisciplinary teams and alliances that could bring together academics from different disciplines with various research backgrounds and methodologies, including translation studies, media studies, pedagogy, psychology, linguistics, usability, engineering and ICT experts in order to promote further advances in this field.

 

… a campfire and a can of beans!

 Using virtual environments for educational purposes

Teaming up in great virtual worlds – meet and learn together no matter of the physical distance – communicate, discuss, and play – talk to experts – master quests – experience adventures – see worlds you’ve never expected to see – experience events from the past or the future…

Virtual worlds offer an indescribable range of possibilities to meet, communicate, experience, and learn as individual or in groups. Virtual worlds offer, in contrast to the regular classrooms, a strong motivational potential, they are boosting interest, curiosity and the will to explore. Virtual worlds are a perfect educational playground!

alt

Virtual environments, for example based on the ‘save’ islands of OpenSim offer great possibilities for education and teaching; students from all over the world can meet ‘at a campfire’ and practice a second language, classes can enter ancient Rome and experience the life of Caesar, or students can ‘feel’ what topography really means when floating through the mountains of the Himalaya.

 nextREALITY offers ideas and guidelines of how to use OpenSim in the ‘real’ classroom; it leads you through safety and technology concerns and illustrates pedagogical approach for an effective uptake of virtual worlds in ‘serious’ teaching.

But nextREALITY is more! In the light of monitoring, controlling, and assessing what is going on in a virtual scenario, educators need technological support. With the desire of formatively supporting and teaching students in the most individualized way, teachers have to gain a deeper insight of individual achievements, performance and behaviors.

Imagine 20 people entering and spreading all over a virtual world - keeping an overview about what's going on is too much for a single person. Thus, nextREALITY offers a software application that helps teachers by gathering information about what each and every student is doing in the virtual world and about the entire ongoing communication. This is nextREALITY’sTeacher Control Center (TCC)!

The TCC allows connecting teachers to the virtual world by analyzing the protocols (which hold each and every activity and communication). Teachers can view a variety of statistics of what happened and about who did or said what: Communication intensity over time, collaborations, or the frequency of certain activities

alt

 In addition, TCC provides real time monitoring. This means that a teacher receives information if someone uses specific terms (e.g., inappropriate language) anywhere in the virtual world. Activities and terms can be freely defined by the teacher.

A link to competencies. Not only activities are important! It is important to link activities to competencies and learning performance. Ideally automatically. Thus, TCC comes with a heuristics engine. This allows teachers to define rules and link behaviors and communications to competencies or learning progress.

All the information gathered and all the results of heuristic based analyses can be summarized in comprehensive reports and exported. More importantly, TCC offers interfaces to other components such as myClass., so achievements can directly be exported to other tools.

 What about a journey to the village of Chatterdale?

Chatterdale looks like a very normal, calm English town - but there is a dreadful secret! All the people have suddenly disappeared and it seems that Prof. Jones was the only one who was aware of the threat. Unfortunately he has disappeared as well. Various institutions, including a private investigation company, that was hired by Prof. Jones' aunt, send teams to Chatterdale to find out what had happened ...

This is one of the two fully worked out, ready-to-use quests in the safe world of OpenSim that make part of the nextREALITY package ...

nextREALITY has been developed in the context of the European Next-Tell project! Check it out at www.next-tell.eu!

 

For OpenSim/Chatterdale: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
For the Teacher Control Center Software: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

 

Playing the Logistics Game - A student's experiences

Even excellent students have shortcomings. And usually that is not being able to translate directly lectures and textbooks to results in a real world context. At first glance it would seem straightforward enough to apply theory, but when it comes down to it, people find it quite hard to apply it correctly. They will probably focus on something the lecturer emphasized on, and disregard other aspects, without taking into account the application and how results are generated and measured. Lectures and textbooks make excellent building blocks, but without a construction plan I’d dare say it’s quite hard to create the full picture and apply what you’ve built. Enter the logistics game. The way that I know for a fact helped me get some things straight, focus on important aspects of production planning and was much more memorable than most of my lectures that semester.

It’s simple enough. The game conductors are a customer ordering to a production company a product. There is a predefined layout (far from optimal), lot sizing, and rules that simulate a production environment that was not thought out very well. Yes all the building blocks are there, and the business could run as is, but it’s far from perfect. Participants assume positions in production, quality control, shipping, logistics, even in planning and management. Orders are coming in every month (1’ in real time), and there are more than 12 periods in a game year. Delayed orders are getting in a backlog, same with bad quality products. Costs are allocated to raw material in the production line, WIP, finished parts in stock, workers employed, and penalties are given for bad quality and accumulated backorders. And you need your average cost per part to be as low as possible. In broad strokes, this is the logistics game.

You start the game and quality suffers and the first thing that comes to mind is “put more people in quality control”. And at the same time the team completely disregards the learning curve effect. Then quality gets much better and people see “redundancies” everywhere. ‘Let’s fire someone’ they think, and they save some money, but they don’t try to fight the bottlenecks so they could reduce backorders and keep the real cost drivers in check. And that is why the logistics game is brilliant. You get 4-5 iterations of a “year” and you get to see what really matters in a simulated but somewhat realistic production scenario. Even if you’re driving blind (which hopefully you aren’t), you try things and see what sticks. If you’re lucky (or not driving blind), then you get to see real results and you get a nice feeling of accomplishment. If things are not going all that well, all the better. You leave the game, and for the rest of the day, you think what you could have done better. And quite probably you talk about it with the other players/students/friends. It’s a great experience, and it really engages participants much more than a typical lecture would hope to do so. And in the end, the learnings stick with you, because you had a number after each period’s end, telling you were good enough – or not.

If I were to give a crash course introduction to logistics, operations, and production planning principles and “good practices”, I would definitely play a game with the participants. And then any theoretical discussion on the matter would find real traction on the impression that the game left to everyone. And as a student I found it much more interesting than a lecture (so I was more motivated and paid more attention), and as a company employee I would see it as a nice break from work and going back to basics. It can be a lot of work for the game conductors, but teaching is always a lot of work. At least this one, really pays off.

 
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