012808 Serious Games Metanomics Transcript


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Metanomics is a weekly Web-based show on the serious uses of virtual worlds. This transcript is from a past show.

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012808 Serious Games Metanomics Transcript

  1. 1. METANOMICS HOSTS DAVID WORTLEY WORTLEY OF THE SERIOUS GAMES INSTITUTE JANUARY 28, 2008 BEYERS SELLERS: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to another session of Metanomics. We’re here on JenzZa Misfit's Muse Isle, and we thank JenzZa for allowing us to conduct our Metanomics event here today. We also thank our sponsors, who include Cisco Systems, SAP, Generali Group, Saxo Bank, Sun Microsystems and Kelly Services. And a special thanks to my own institution, Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, for supporting me in running the Metanomics series. And also special thanks to Second Life Cable Network for making it possible for SL residents and web viewers to join us live and see us, as well, on SLCN.TV. I’d like to welcome two new event partners that we have with Metanomics today. There is a place to see the show with the crowd at the New Media Consortium, that’s a community of hundreds of leading universities, colleges, museums and research centers, and they’ve been making a big push in SL. Also, we welcome as a new event partner, Etopia, SL’s premier environmental eco-village showcasing real-life examples of sustainable development, renewable energy, organic living and authentic community. These two join our current event partners, ComMeta, Rockliffe University, Colonia Nova and the Terrace.
  2. 2. Before we get started, let me also remind our live audience to join the Metanomics chat group to join in on the backchat. So we encourage you to chat away so that we can get some feedback on what you’re finding interesting and topics you’d like us to discuss. And also, please chat any questions you would like us to address. If you are here on Muse Isle and you have good voice quality, a headset, you can ask your question yourself, just IM me, Curric Vita or Yxes Delacroix to let us know you’d like to ask a voice question, and we’ll ask you to go on up to the microphone, toward the front and that way we can get you on SLCN’s camera as well. Okay. So now that that bookkeeping is out of the way, I’d like to introduce David Wortley. David Wortley, welcome to the show. DAVID WORTLEY: Thank you very much. It’s a great pleasure to be here, and I’m looking forward to talking to you. It’s 7:00 here in the UK in the evening, so I’m just sort of home in my spare room. BEYERS SELLERS: Well, you know, a couple drinks in hand, and I’ll get you to say things that you wouldn’t otherwise have said in a public venue. So David, you are the director of the Serious Games Institute at Coventry University. Let me just read something that I got directly off the web site here, which is that you’re responsible for--and here I’m quoting--“... the development of the institute as a brand new, self-financing initiative to establish a center of excellence for the
  3. 3. emerging Serious Games application area, working with academics, regional development agencies and leading computer games companies. David aims to make the SGI a thought leader and focal point for games-based learning, simulation and immersive 3D virtual environments.” Well, that’s an excellent fit for our Metanomics show and things I’ve been very interested in myself. Let me start, David, by asking what do you think of as being Serious Games? What does the term mean to you? Let’s see. David, did we lose you? DAVID WORTLEY: Okay. I’ve just locked my talk now. Can you hear me okay now? BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. Yeah. Sounds perfect. DAVID WORTLEY: Okay. Yeah, Serious Games, I understand, is the use of electronic games, technologies and practices for purposes other than simply entertainment, so it’s really the end product or the output, which is Serious. We still expect the games and the virtual environments themselves to be entertaining and engaging. BEYERS SELLERS: And can you give us some examples of the types of games that SGI is already involved in producing or plans to be producing soon? DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah, I can. But before I do that I should just make it clear that the institute is a public/private partnership. We don’t actually develop the games and
  4. 4. environments ourselves. What we do is work with industry to support the development of those games, so we act as kind of intermediaries and brokers. But the typical kinds of applications that are being developed with the companies that we work with are Serious Games for training people in entrepreneurship, business skills, health-related activities. We have a company that specializes in games for teaching people how to handle trauma injuries in the battlefield or first responders, how to respond to an explosion in a high street and treat casualties. We’ve got a really wide spectrum of applications that we operate in. BEYERS SELLERS: So if I can just ask you to elaborate on the games that sound nearest and dearest to my heart. You mentioned entrepreneurship first. So is the idea that someone would get a chance to start up a company in a virtual environment and deal with all the problems an entrepreneur faces? DAVID WORTLEY: That’s exactly that. It works exactly that way. When someone plays the game, they play the role of somebody starting a business up, and they have to deal with all the kinds of challenges that people have in starting a business up. And they make decisions in real time, and they see the impact of those decisions on the performance of the business, the profitability, etcetera. There are many different types of games that work in this space. Some of them all purely work on a kind of standalone basis, so the player plays by themselves. But there are other games where they work through some kind of mediator or facilitator who works with the individuals so that they help to understand the results of their decisions and why those results came about.
  5. 5. And some of them all work through peer-to-peer learning, which I think also is very effective. So instead of the individual working with a tutor or working by themselves, they work with a group of other entrepreneurs so they learn for each other. BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. Yeah, very interesting. I’d like to go back to something that you were saying just a minute ago where you were saying you guys at SGI don’t actually develop the games yourselves. I know that to do them well they can be extremely expensive. And it also mentions in the summary of what you guys are doing that SGI is a self-financing initiative. So can you just talk a little bit more about how the funds flow and how you get these partnerships to work and how you don’t cost too much money to Coventry University? DAVID WORTLEY: Well, the initiative itself is a partnership between Coventry University and Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, and it all really arises out of the need in the West Midlands to find a replacement for the car industry and the heavy manufacturing that’s disappeared to the Far East. And we’re fortunate enough to have some leading games development companies and publishers in our region already there, people like Blitz Games and Code Masters, already producing games for the global marketplace. So we already have a presence in the games industry. And so the idea behind this funding is to create a model that will develop into a self-sustaining business. So it’s made up of a number of components that will help to
  6. 6. deliver the results that the region’s looking for but won’t cost the taxpayer a great deal of money. Part of that is to do with the role that we play in attracting funding for applied research so mainly public sector funding but increasingly private sector funding through corporate partners who will pay for our researchers to do work, which will provide them with some commercial benefits. The dream ticket that we’re trying to seek is for corporate and public sector partners to work with us. We come up with innovative ideas for projects; those projects will deliver benefits for the public partner or the private sector partner, but they will also provide work for the small games development companies in our region. So our revenue comes from applied research, it comes from rental that our tenants play, who are based within our buildings, and it comes from some of the advanced facilities in the Serious Games Institute. So we’re putting in infrastructure that will allow us to, for example, do hosting of Virtual World applications and generate revenue based on an ASP model. BEYERS SELLERS: And so it sounds like the markets that these games would ultimately be selling to are not just private industry, but also government agencies and public education. So is SGI then playing the role, somewhat, of also an intermediary trying to give game developers access into these markets? DAVID WORTLEY: Oh, very much so. We are an intermediary. Exactly. We are a facilitator. We’re a broker. And when we’re successful, by understanding the needs
  7. 7. of industry, we act as a kind of--and also being very indivitive and entrepreneurial in what we’re doing within the institute, we attract investment which can go into games development companies so that they’re not having to make the market, they’re not having to devote a lot of their energies to sell the concept of Serious Games. We act as a focal point, and we bring potential partners and potential clients to them, so we’re helping to reduce some of their overheads and act as an intermediary in this process. BEYERS SELLERS: Let me follow up on the comment that you made that you’re going to not leave it to the game developers to sell the idea of Serious Games. The term “Serious Games” has been around a long time and, given the type of research and teaching I’ve been doing, I’ve been following it now for close to a couple decades. I see the true believers think Serious Games can do amazing things, but they really, as far as I can tell, haven’t broken into the broader marketplace beyond, in particular, the military and emergency team reaction simulations. So do you see that changing in the near future? And how, exactly, are you making the pitch? DAVID WORTLEY: Well, yeah, I do see that changing, and I see a gradual evolution. I think the main difficulty in developing the marketplace for Serious Games has been the cost involved in developing Serious Games, which have really made the use of Serious Games only economically viable for fairly large organizations with the budgets to be able to do it. And even in those kinds of marketplaces, in a lot of ways the jury is still out on how the effectiveness of Serious Games compares to traditional learning techniques.
  8. 8. But I see that gradually changing over a period of time where, through all the publicity that Serious Games and Virtual Worlds are getting, people are really beginning to understand that this is a new way of engaging people in learning activities, so they are increasingly more receptive to the idea of Serious Games. And the same time as that is happening, there are increasingly productive tools which help in the development process. One of our tenants in our building is a company called PIXELearning. They’re a relatively small company, but they are developing a platform called Learning Beans, with the idea that a lot of the cost can be taken out of the development by having a productive platform where--essentially can be used as a tool to create brand-new Serious Games, particularly for business simulations, where a lot of the cost-intensive parts of development work are taken away by the platform that people are working on. I think that the industry generally is working towards this goal and, as the cost comes down and the awareness is increased, I think the marketplace will continue to develop. BEYERS SELLERS: So actually we’ve just got a whole bunch of questions in from our backchat channel. Let me again remind viewers that you can join the Metanomics Group, and then you could follow the backchat and ask questions as well. One question here is about the difference between simulations and Serious Games. Do you distinguish between those?
  9. 9. DAVID WORTLEY: Well, there’s a great deal of overlap between simulations and Serious Games. I mean some Serious Games are simulations. A lot of the business-related Serious Games are simulations of how a business operates, but Serious Games they don’t necessarily need to be simulations, and not all simulations are Serious Games. But there is a space where, in order to play the game, you’re having to simulate a physical process. And I think, in the business world, most of the Serious Games that I’ve seen are, in fact, simulations of some kind of business process, and that’s how people learn. The reason why games are attractive from a learning perspective is that, unlike being thrown into the deep end of running a business, you can afford to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes without ruining a business. So I think it’s a very positive aspect of Serious Games, which would not necessarily apply to other forms of learning activity. BEYERS SELLERS: One of our very first guests on Metanomics way back in the fall was Sandra Kearney from IBM, and she talked a fair bit about an offshore oil rig set up in a Virtual World, and the idea was that it was a lot less dangerous to train someone on a virtual oil rig out in the middle of a virtual ocean, than to do the real thing. DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah, absolutely. BEYERS SELLERS: So I can certainly see that. I see a number of questions in the
  10. 10. backchat asking about your view of Second Life as a platform and, before we talk about Second Life, I’d like to mention that I know SGI recently announced you were going to use Forterra Systems’ Olive platform. And next week we’re going to have on Metanomics Robert Gehorsam, who is the president of Forterra Systems. So I want to be prepared for that. And so I have several questions for you about your use of Forterra. Before we talk about Forterra specifically, where do you see Virtual Worlds fitting into the Serious Games marketplace and SGI’s efforts in particular? DAVID WORTLEY: Well, the area that we’re particularly interested in is how virtual worlds and physical worlds can be integrated. And this really does fit in with Serious Games because in training, for example, in first responder disaster management, a lot of the situations you want emergency workers to be able to handle it’s either too risky or too costly or just to impractical to be able to do that in the real world. So having Virtual Worlds which really reflect real-world situations, not only in the way the city looks, the place looks, but also in the behavior of the objects within that Virtual World. Very important to have those realistic. So those are the kinds of applications where we see Virtual Worlds playing a real role. You mentioned the virtual oil rigs as well. But all kinds of physical environments where training people in those physical environments is costly or risky. There is potential to use Virtual Worlds for those. And I don’t know whether you want me to go on and talk about Second Life and how that relates to-- BEYERS SELLERS: Yeah, sure. Definitely. This sounds like just the time.
  11. 11. DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah. We feel it’s very important to be, if you like, heterogeneous when we’re looking at different virtual platforms, so we don’t say Second Life is better than Forterra or vice versa. What we’re saying is that these are completely, in our view, different types of Virtual Worlds. And I think we owe a great deal of debt to Second Life and what it’s brought to making Virtual Worlds with such a high profile. My view of it is that Forterra is a great engine for creativity. It’s a really good example of Web 3.0 and making technology available to everyone to be able to explore and experiment. And it’s a great tool for creativity and entrepreneurship. But it’s an environment in which you might say that all things are possible, and I probably share the view of a lot of people who would have concerns about doing, if you like, real- world simulations, serious business simulations, serious emergency exercises in the Second Life environment, mainly to do with concerns about security, lack of ability to host a solution on your own servers, and also the lack of fidelity of reproduction of physical behavior. I know some of these things are already addressed and can be addressed, but I don’t think Second Life can be or should be all things to all men. And so where we draw a line in the sand between--oh, the other aspect of Second Life versus Forterra is the fact that there is a lack of an ability to be able to bring in industry-standard virtual assets from 3D Studio Max and other types of environments to be able to use designs that you’ve created elsewhere or applications you created elsewhere. Those are the main differences between the two. So we see Second Life as a great tool for working with, particularly, the creative sector, looking at how it can
  12. 12. be used as a platform to promote creativity in the music industry, video animation, many, many types of opportunities where creativity is the key. Whereas, with Forterra, we see a strength in its being its open interface, its ability to work with other industry standards, its ability to create an environment and applications that are faithful to fit [AUDIO GAP] its added security. All of those things, in our view, make it suitable for a different set of applications, which are more around the commercial or the corporate environment or the government environment for emergency planning, etcetera. So we see strengths in both platforms, and we will continue to work with both platforms. We’ve got projects going on with both of them, but the projects themselves are quite different in what we’re trying to do. BEYERS SELLERS: So can you talk a little bit more about the actual arrangement you have with Forterra? And the reason I ask this is because I’m just trying to put together a couple things you’ve said. One is that SGI isn’t really in the business of creating the Serious Games itself, that’s going to be farmed out to the corporate partners that you’ve got. On the other hand, you have said that SGI has chosen Forterra as a platform. So are you saying that you’re going to be encouraging your partners to develop content within Forterra Olive platforms? DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah. The relationship with Forterra really comes--its origins are in the fact that we work with a UK company called Ambient Performance, and they’re one of our tenants that are moving into our business. We deliberately have chosen them because we have a high regard for their understanding of the marketplace and
  13. 13. developing some of the potential. And so really working with them and collaborating with them and looking at different solutions, we chose to host Forterra as a platform at the SGI to provide opportunities, not just for Ambian Performance, but for developers of Virtual Worlds and virtual applications to be able to create applications on the marketplace. Because a lot of small businesses they would not have the resources to be able to afford to do that kind of hosting or to afford the licenses to be able to do it themselves. So in a way, we’re providing the infrastructure that will allow small businesses to create new opportunities for themselves and, at the same time, generate a bit of revenue for ourselves as the people who host the services. BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. So you actually are hosting. You have your own servers, you have your own Forterra Olive-based worlds that people can create so SGI’s partners can deal directly with you rather than having to go to Forterra themselves, to say, “We like-- DAVID WORTLEY: Oh, yes. They will not deal with Forterra directly normally. How it would come about is that they would either find potential clients themselves or through the events that we run out of the Serious Games Institute. We would introduce them to potential partners and clients and kind of act as intermediaries that would not only help the small businesses to generate revenue from developing applications, but also for ourselves, because projects might be a project where we would be engaged to become an honest broker and make sure we provide project management, for example, or some applied research, to make sure that the client got best value from the commercial side of it.
  14. 14. BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. Fascinating. Now you do have an island or, I guess, Coventry, I believe, has an island in Second Life, and there’s a building for SGI. How are you using Second Life currently in your efforts? DAVID WORTLEY: Well, the kind of background to that is that our vice chancellor just over a year ago put out an email appeal for any ideas for how to develop the university in new and interesting ways. And both myself and the professor of problem-based learning suggested that an island in Second Life would be a good way of raising the profile of the university and exploring the use of these new technologies for student education. So our first island was bought as a kind of collaborative project, and Professor Savin-Baden, who’s the expert in problem-based learning, she worked with a team of students and consultants that we work with to develop the bulk of the university island. And most of this is not trying to make an exact replica of the university, but to create spaces where they can explore different uses of Second Life technology. What we wanted to do as a Serious Games Institute is to use it as an opportunity for people to not only get a glimpse of what our building looks like and the kind of facilities that are in there, but also use it as a way of providing some of the beginnings of integrating real and virtual worlds. So initially, we’ve begun by--rather like you’re doing here. We create an environment in which a virtual audience sees some of our live workshops. And I guess the only difference between what you’re doing here and what we’ve been doing is that, typically, events that we’ve run also
  15. 15. have a physical audience as well as a virtual audience. So in other words, if we’re running a workshop within the Serious Games Institute, we will have probably 20 or 30 people who are set in the Serious Games Institute and, at the same time, we’ll have a number of people in a Virtual World. But as well as the university island, we recently have bought two other islands for a project called Second Life Science City, and this is very much about developing an island where we can use that as a way of engaging some of the digital media companies in the West Midlands in exploring and using the potential of Second Life for developing their business, whether it is a promotional tool or whether it’s looking at new applications that we can run within Second Life. So we actually have three islands now. BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. Thanks for elaborating on that. I have a question from Grace McDonnough. I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly. Going back to your--you talked about an ASP model. DAVID WORTLEY: Yes. BEYERS SELLERS: So the question here is, “First, can you describe what you mean by that ASP model for working with the developers?” And then second, she also wanted to know about how this might compare to what the Multiverse platform is capable of doing, if you’re familiar with that one.
  16. 16. DAVID WORTLEY: Well, I’m not intimately familiar with Multiverse platform but, as far as the ASP model is concerned, Application Service Provider, what I mean essentially is that you are to serve as facilities manager for a client so, instead of the client having to invest in the capital hardware and pay staff to support hosting their own service, the client pays you a fee for providing the infrastructure, looking after the technology and maintaining a certain quality of service. So it’s normally based on--well, it can be a number of models. It can be based on a kind of monthly arrangement fee, or it can be based on a usage fee. So that’s what I mean by an ASP model, is that people are paying you to provide the infrastructure instead of having the cost and the hassle of doing it themselves. If we’re hosting a number of different clients and applications on the same server and the same network or same banker servers and the same network, then it’s often very much more cost effective to do it as an ASP model than it would be to try and do it yourself. BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. So yeah, I’m getting a better sense then of what your enterprise model is at SGI. Can you give us a little information on the size of your budget, how many people you have working with you? What’s the mix between academics, technical types and business and outreach people? DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah, sure. Well, as I mentioned, I think--or maybe I didn’t mention in the beginning--this project is extremely new. We only had the contracts signed by our development agency ten months ago. So in that ten-month time, we’ve
  17. 17. had to acquire a building, we’ve had to equip it, put all of the technology and infrastructure in, try and build a profile, attract tenants, etcetera. So we’re running very lean at the moment. At the moment, directly employed by the Serious Games Institute we have myself and my research director, and we have one person who looks after the building and acts as a receptionist. So that is the sum total of our staff running the project. But within the building itself, we have or will have over the next couple of months something like five small businesses with between something like 30 or 40 staff. And then we’re in the process [AUDIO GAP]. And currently we have something like 15 or 20-- BEYERS SELLERS: I’m afraid I lost--you cut out just in the last bit of that. The last thing I heard was that you had about five or so small businesses that were going to be moving in. DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah. We have one that’s moved in already, and the others are ready to move in. We’re just waiting for a contract to be signed with a support agency who are helping them with some of the transfer costs to set up their offices there. And these companies, between them, will probably employ between 20 and 30 people. In addition to that, on our applied research floor we have a Serious Games applied research group. Now, this number’s probably 15 to 20 researchers, but these are academics who currently work in faculties at the university, and they will essentially use hot-desking facilities. And they will be supplemented by applied researchers that
  18. 18. we will be recruiting over the next few months. We’re about to advertise for our first two applied research posts. I’m actively working with some of our corporate partners on projects to identify where we could bring additional staff in. BEYERS SELLERS: And actually I have two questions. One is, what is hot-desking? DAVID WORTLEY: Hot-desking is where somebody can come in and sit down at any of the desks at the Applied Research Center and have access to the same set of facilities, the Internet, to access their own space on the server. So it is a space that is not dedicated just to that individual person. BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. That makes sense. I don’t want to talk too much about just the structure of the organization because there’s so many things we can move on to. So you mentioned the public funding that you are getting is coming from a regional development group, not the UK. Excuse my ignorance about the politics of funding in different organizations in the UK. But this sounds like it’s more of a regional funding. Is that right? DAVID WORTLEY: Well, yeah, that’s correct. The way that it works in the UK is that the central government provides different regions of the UK with a pot of money, and the reason behind this is that they argue that the regions know best where they see their economic future, so they have a certain amount of discretion on what industry sectors they try to develop.
  19. 19. So each regional development agency has a pot of money, and then the future of that region is placed in their hands in terms of public sector intervention. So in the West Midlands, as I mentioned, we’ve seen the loss of the car industry to the Far East, and a lot of manufacturing has disappeared from the region, so the region itself looks at its skill base and it looks at its assets and tries to identify those sectors where there is going to be a fairly substantial and sustainable growth. And Serious Games is one which is a very good match to the skills that exist within the region. So the regional development agency are putting something like an equivalent of, say, $7 million into buying the building, putting infrastructure in and creating a capital base around which we can operate. The university then, itself, provides some revenue funding and some seed capital to help pay my salary and the salary of my research director. And then it’s up to us, if you like, that seed funding, that working capital, for us to identify new projects and partnerships where we can build on that, like a startup business, effectively. BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. Thank you. Let’s move on a bit to just talking about what the future holds and where these Serious Games might take off. And one very important market sector is in public education, or more formal education. This is a bit challenging, certainly in the U.S., I can’t speak as well for the UK, but there are concerns, for example, about whether games can be a credible way of providing education, whether it’s possible to make the types of assessments of whether
  20. 20. learning objectives are being achieved. Are you looking at the formal education market, and what’s your take on these problems if you are? DAVID WORTLEY: No. I agree with you, but I think one of the problems is that if you were simply to try and use Serious Games and these technologies simply to provide a different way of educating young people to the way we’ve done it in the past, I think that is not the right way to do it. I think that the information society is changing the nature of the way society works, and I think the way that we’ve educated kids in the past is no longer particularly relevant for the future. If you look at the way the world that the kids are coming into now with the console games, mobile phones and communication technologies, digital media, their lives are completely saturated by that, and it has such an integral part of their life. The other thing that I think--the other impact that it has is it is breaking down the barriers between scientists and artists and programmers and developers. So I think the next generation, the generation Y that are coming through, in a way they’re almost a different species to my generation. And, therefore, I think we need to look at education and how it can impact on society in a different way. So rather than can we adapt Serious Games to teach mathematics, or can we create our scientists through Serious Games, I think we need to look at the generation that’s coming through. We need to look at the needs of society and look at the way we learn and
  21. 21. look at it in terms of a lifelong learning process, rather than training for skills. I think this will influence the way we use the technologies. And from a university point of view, I think that those universities who are able to meet the expectations and aspirations of the generation Y will be the universities that will succeed in the future, certainly, in attracting students to be part of it and also being able to deliver on the expectations of both the students and society as well. BEYERS SELLERS: Now, is SGI going to be actively working to address some of these issues that are less implementing the technology and actually more making the pitch, explaining to people in educational sectors the role these games can play and so on? And I guess the related is, you mentioned the research staff that you have. Are they all sort of technical development researchers, or do you have people who are looking at issues like assessment and teaching effectiveness? DAVID WORTLEY: Well, the answer to both questions is yes, really. I’m already doing this. I speak at a lot of conferences around the world, eLearning conferences. I’m in Paris next week at the iLearning forum. Most of these tend to be academic- type conference, with a mixture of some business people in there, and I’m making these very same points to those audiences, in trying to illustrate that through my presentations. And on the questions of the applied researchers, yes, Serious Games is a very multidisciplinary activity, so we have people in the Serious Games applied research
  22. 22. group from a wide variety of disciplines--from mathematics, from health and life sciences, but also from performing arts. So it’s a real mixture of art and science and people coming together in a way which breaks down the silos of their own disciplines and encourages them to collaborate in ways that have not really been seen in higher education, or not until recently, anyway. BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. We have a question. Earlier you were talking about the younger generation and that Serious Games may speak to them more effectively as an education tool than they would to older generations. So Malburns Writer asks how older people are adapting to the types of training projects that you and others are creating already. DAVID WORTLEY: Well, yeah. I mean you’ve really touched on something that I feel quite passionate about and quite interested in. You know, we often tend to dismiss old people as being technology laggards, but it’s been my experience that, certainly in the UK where older people have a lot of discretionary income there--they have the income, and they also have the time to be able to exploit the potential of these technologies. And one of my particular interests is the use of devices like the Nintendo Wii with--I describe them as ambient technologies. They’re not a games console. They’re not a mouse or a keyboard or a traditional kind of input device, but they’re something that people of any kind of generation can pick up and be able to use to interact with technology. And I think, with older people, this is particularly important.
  23. 23. My pet--I call it a Serious game because I certainly take it very seriously--my pet ambient device is Guitar Hero. And the use of a guitar and to be able to play along with a rock band and to be able to recapture your youth is not only a great incentive, but it’s also a fantastic way of interacting with the technology and one which older people can also get into. My background is--I’m not a hardcore gamer; I have developed Serious Games on a desktop computer before, in the past, some time ago, but I do struggle with games consoles. But, if I were to give the best example I know of game technology, practice, design, everything that is good about the way you develop a product for this market, I would put Guitar Hero at the top of the list by a long way, because it’s got a device-- BEYERS SELLERS: Now you’ve forced my hand, David. I have to ask. What type of music do you like that you like to play on Guitar Hero? What’s your favorite songs? DAVID WORTLEY: Rock music. I mean, I like all kinds of music. My favorite band is Pink Floyd, but I’ve been a fan of Rock music ever since I was at university. So playing along with these bands, like Mountain and Rolling Stones--yeah, it gives me a lot of pleasure. But also I’m using myself as a kind of one-man laboratory to understand how this kind of technology in an older person--I’m in my 50s--whether this can be translated into physical benefits like better hand/eye coordination, more flexibility, better speed of reaction. So I’m using myself as a kind of human
  24. 24. laboratory, with some quite interesting results, as I watch my progress through the different levels of Guitar Hero. Do you play yourself? BEYERS SELLERS: Personally, I like Halo and the first-person shoot-em-ups which, I think, have improved my hand/eye coordination, but I’m still enough slower than my two kids that there’s really no hope in player versus player. DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah. I wouldn’t even go there. BEYERS SELLERS: But I’m glad that I stoke their self-esteem, and that’s the important thing. DAVID WORTLEY: Well, you fulfill an important role, then. BEYERS SELLERS: So they can see that I truly am old. You should know, by the way, that--maybe things are different in the UK, but in the U.S., you’re not allowed to call anyone “old.” People can be “senior citizens,” or they can be “mature.” And “older” is okay, but you can’t call anyone “old.” It just doesn’t sound right. DAVID WORTLEY: Okay. Well, I’ll reserve that description. BEYERS SELLERS: As long as you’re not running for public office here. DAVID WORTLEY: I’ll reserve that description for myself, then.
  25. 25. BEYERS SELLERS: So let’s see. We’re closing in on the end of our hour. We did have some questions. So Lyric Wilberg and Airabella Ella both wanted to hear a little bit more of your thoughts on just education in generation. You made some remarks on how methods of education should change, and they’d just like to hear a little more of that, if you have some ideas you’d like to get out there. DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah, sure. Well, the point I make to people when I’m talking about this and trying to get people to understand the role of games and learning is to make the point that this is something that’s not new. I mean, throughout history, ever since the dawn of mankind and intelligent men, we’ve used games as a way of learning about ourselves and the world around us. So even from the time we’re born, we work in an environment where we can explore and experiment in a relatively risk-free way. So games are certainly not new as a tool for learning. And, as we’ve grown older, certainly my generation, we’ve then been subjected--if that’s the right word--to a model of hierarchical learning where you basically have subject matter experts who transfer their knowledge to you. So you sit in a classroom with a lot of other people, and you absorb existing knowledge. I think, with the technology available now with the birth of the Internet and particularly Webtalk 2.0, learning is much more of a collaborative exercise now. It’s much more based on peer-to-peer learning rather than hierarchical learning because information is so much more readily accessible that the role of the teacher is
  26. 26. changing from being the fountain of all knowledge into being something of a knowledge facilitator, or a broker, a person who can guide you through relationships and help to moderate the learning process, which largely comes from peer to peer or the world around you. And the other aspect of it, which is relatively new, is a greater emphasis on learning by discovery rather than learning by being told something. You explore and discover, and I think technologies of GIS and Google Earth, Microsoft Virtual Earth, are going to be quite influential in the way that we learn in the future. So in summary, I think what’s happening is that the balance of the way we learn is shifting away from the hierarchical model of absorbing knowledge into much more of a collaborative discovery-based type of peer-to-peer learning. BEYERS SELLERS: Well, that’s a great summary and a new and interesting perspective. As the type of guy who stands up in front of a class, teaching more or less by the old-fashioned method, I guess I’m going to have to be used to being more of a facilitator or, if these games catch on, maybe I’ll have to view myself more as a Dungeon master, something like that. But anyway, thank you so much, David Wortley, of the Serious Games Institute, for coming on to our show, and we wish you the best of luck with SGI and at Coventry University. If anyone else has questions, feel free to hang around.
  27. 27. I do want to point out that, in really just a few minutes, there’s going to be another event that should be very interesting: the MacArthur series on philanthropy and Virtual Worlds is going to have a discussion, “Virtual Liberties: Do Avatars Dream of Civil Rights?” And I am going to paste the SL URL into the Metanomics backchat for that so that people can go along and listen to Douglas Thomas, Barry Joseph and, I believe, Jack Balkin. Oh, and Robin Harper, who has also been on Metanomics before. We’ll be talking about avatar civil liberties. Again, David Wortley, of the Serious Games Institute, thank you very much for showing up. Thanks to all of our Metanomics audience for tagging along, and we will see you next week, when we’ll have Robert Gehorsam, the president of Forterra Systems, which should be a very interesting hour. Thanks a lot. DAVID WORTLEY: Thank you very much. [AUDIO ENDS AT 57:59] Document: cor1004.doc Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com Second Life avatar: Transcriptionist Writer