US State Department’s educational game: cleaner than Assassin’s Creed

2 Apr

The US State Department has collaborated with IT company SuperGroup to launch an educational game, to teach American English and cultural values. It was clearly thought that the popular commercial games Grand Theft Auto, where players compete to steal cars and kill pedestrians, and Assassins Creed where they shoot, stab and garott English soldiers, did not endow citizens with desirable behaviour traits.

So, Trace Effects was created. Trace is a university student from 2045 who travels back in time, and is required to help six people do positive things to help the future. Trace’s virtual journey takes him through major American landmarks and locations, including Kansas, New Orleans, the Grand Canyon, New York City, San Francisco and Washington. True, his denim-on-denim outfit does not reflect well on the fashion trends of the future, but interacting with these button-eyed characters is believed to be a more effective teaching aid than traditional exercises.

Brad Lewis, Founding Member of The SuperGroup, says “To make language learning effective for the new generation of international students, an enjoyable, and robust environment is needed – one where they can interact with virtual characters, and learn from ‘real life’ situations.” He is emphatic that “This interactive experience allows students to learn English communicatively, and, equally important, to learn about American culture through an educational process that feels natural, not artificial.”

The game was test launched in Peru, Columbia and Indonesia with positive results. It is now available worldwide through Americanenglish.state.gov, the newly created American English portal pioneered by the State Department. There are two mobile games designed for Android systems, and 1 text based game for players without smartphones.

The storyline consists of seven chapters of play, and includes four multi-player practice activities. As an add-on, seven graphic novels are available to extend the learning experience.

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