The massively-multiplayer online gaming ecology currently is dominated with games directed at teenagers and adults, just like most video games; however, this doesn’t mean that games—which have traditionally had a stereotype as being for children—cannot be marketed towards elementary school aged children. We’ve seen games such as Wizards 101, Star Wars: Clone Wars, and even LEGO Universe (now closing down end of month) jump onto that bandwagon. What the industry is really lacking, however, are games that also educate rather than simply entertain and that’s where Fantage comes in.
In an expose article on VentureBeat, writer Dean Takahashi speaks about how the MMO publisher Fantage has been looking to expand their horizons by reaching out to schoolchildren by making their massively-multiplayer online game part of the educational and social curriculum.
The publisher, a Fort Lee, N.J.-based company provides a virtual world where kids can interact, play mini-games in a cartoon universe, and even have dress-up contests—or for those not into that there’s also virtual pillow fights. However, according to press releases from Fantage, the developer is seeking to angle themselves into the educational market by taking their product to schools on one-on-one basis with their Fantage School Challenge.
The game currently boasts 2 million active players so that might just give them an edge over others seeking to penetrate this market. Fantage also has a broad age-range of appeal form 6-16 and looks to focus on skills trainable on computers such as math and language.
“Teachers like it because we enable students to learn while playing,” said David Hwang, chief executive of the company, in an interview.
Last year, the company invited a fifth grade class at the Christ the King school in Los Angeles to play Fantage educational games every day at school for an hour. The pilot program involved both online and offline competitions, and the winning team got a cash prize and an Amazon Kindle. It turned out to be a success and now the company is invited even more schools to participate in the Fantage Challenges.
Veronica Castillo, fifth grade teacher at the school, said, “Everyone in the classroom was excited to participate, and the School Challenge provided extra motivation for my students to focus on important subjects like math and geography.”
Educators and the gaming industry will continue to seek a method to combine the two because they’re extremely close together. In fact, video games must learn to train new users to play them–and sometimes we discover they work together extremely well as we’ve seen with Sesame Street and the Kinect.
The education of young children these days is going to have to include a lot of extra resources that include an understanding of the Internet. Almost every household in the United States owns a computer and those who don’t often find themselves at cybercafe’s to use them in order to interact with the rest of the world. The MMO industry is blossoming hugely as free-to-play begins to pull in more would-be subscribers and young children spend countless hours playing with their friends online.
As a culture, we’re beginning to socialize considerably online and this opens up an entire new dimension of communication as well as dangers.
Children introduced early, especially in school, to the Internet and MMO culture can be better prepared for what they can expect when they grow older. They can be taught not just math, science, and language skills via MMO games—but they can also be educated in how to protect themselves from dangers that persist online such as keeping their identity safe and how to interact with unknown individuals.
Early access and introduction to the Internet, to the concepts behind social media, and MMO games will give many schools and children a jump start on understanding how to use their computer at home. With Xbox LIVE, PlayStation Network, and a multitude of others being a mainstay of American life, it’s necessary to make sure that today’s children are aware of how their personal information leaks out through their behavior online and what they can do to sanitize their interactions.
No doubt, educational MMOs such as Fantage and others with their vivid, cartoony outward appearance and educational mission will become the vanguard of this important facet of Internet culture.