The purpose of this paper is to suggest, in detail, the types and breadth of serious game applications that will be implemented between the years 2020 and 2030. The paper leads up to an explanation of what will replace the K-12 system of education in the USA, including who will pay and who will win and lose.
Third Tier of Game Development
By Ramin Shokrizade
Introduction and Acknowledgments
This work covers a fifty year period of digital game development starting from 1980 and going to 2030. As it is being written in 2010 significant portions are still theoretical. My intention with this approach is to accelerate development by laying a foundation for future game design breakthroughs and applications, thus reducing the collective effort required to achieve these breakthroughs. For the sake of brevity this document is not intended to provide a history of software development. Furthermore, it is assumed that many if not most readers will know more than me about various elements of Tier One game development.
The purpose here is to introduce the Three Tiers and to only discuss the Third Tier in-depth as it represents a radical change in game development focus. I also discuss the sociological and economic implications of this future technology. As I am markedly behind many of my peers in learning many Tier Two game development techniques I will postpone in-depth discussion of those to a future article.
Tier One Game Development
Tier One includes all the nuts and bolts that make a game run and provide stimulus to the operator’s various senses. As of 2010 these technologies are already quite impressive and even twenty years ago would have been the subject of science fiction. Especially in the West, this path of development has been the subject of intense research and resource allocation. In great part this has driven, and been driven by, the interests of various hardware and auxiliary software companies. “Upgrading” has become an obligatory activity for all gamers, governed by individual resources and motivations.
As in the film industry, a huge special effects budget is no guarantee of success and with the exception of Blizzard Entertainment, the products that have advanced the field of game development in the last few years tend to come more from lower-budget independent studios that are experimenting with Tier Two content. Some aspects of Tier One content seem to have actually degraded since the 1990′s, particularly in the areas of story telling and retail box quality. This generalization is meant as an average effect as certainly there are some very high-budget products that have leaned heavily on digital cinematics to tell stories on grand scales.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of technologies that would fall within Tier One development tools and applications. As this is not my area of expertise I apologize in advance for leaving out anyone’s favorite techniques.
Tier One Content: User interfaces, input interfaces, music, ambient sounds, speech, reactive sounds, avatar modeling, 2- and 3-D mapping, mobile and static graphics, login servers, authentication, billing, retail boxed media, localization, speech and textual writing, quest design, skill design, combat mechanics, 3D and inertial physics, motion capture and modeling, sound and cinematic editing, beta test coordination and other QA, and of course the legal aspects.
The vast majority of personnel hired by interactive media companies for development teams perform such Tier One content creation tasks. I will not address the marketing and distribution of software in this article. Bigger is not always better and many large companies are relying on tried and true franchises to make their bottom lines by throwing more and more money at the development side of these projects. This approach lacks innovation and generally meets with only lackluster success. Customers of this form of media, like all media, tend to have short attention spans and pay a premium for innovation, even if the overall quality of the product is inferior. Thus the trend is against the current mainstream Western approach to game development. Again the exception might be Blizzard Entertainment which appears to be in a separate “James Cameron” category where bigger really is better.
Tier Two Game Development
Tier Two includes all of the social infrastructure that allows interpersonal relationships to form in your game environment. While in early multiplayer games your “number of headshots” might have passed for your measure of social interaction, times are mostly changing. Social interaction has in many cases progressed past killing those you meet, especially in the East. Primitive non-violent Tier Two focused games are starting to reach market with unparalleled levels of success. I will hold up Farmville (on Facebook) as an example of such a primitive but intensely in-demand product. A brief and again non-exhaustive list of what might be covered in this category follows.
Tier Two Content: Chat mechanics, guild grouping, marketplace/AH, rules sets, code of conduct, hierarchical or discriminatory pricing systems, intra-factional political hierarchy, pvp/arena or other form of skill-based ranking system, banking, multiple media interfaces, statistical data bases, prestige content, positive/negative/passive time-played feedback, intra- or extra-game forums, challenge systems, all forms of in-game economic activity.
Anything that promotes relationship formation can be considered Tier Two content for the purposes of this analysis. While Tier One content is ideal for single-player games, and sets the foundation for multiplayer games, it is social interaction that drives the move to multiplayer gaming. While previously the obstacles to Tier Two content development were technical, by 2010 this is largely no longer the case. A level of digital connectedness now exists in the youngest generation that they accept as a priori while most members of older generations are in shock that the rules of social interaction have changed so much in so short a time.
While the rules of social interaction previously were passed down from older generation to younger generation, now you see this amazing social and technological revolution reversing this species trend with the younger generations now teaching the older generations how to interact. This change in social structure is so swift and radical that even many (older) experts are unaware that it is occurring.
If your gaming product does not include robust mechanisms for social interaction and advancement, your customers will use some other product while they are using yours in order to fulfill this need. This bodes poorly for the longevity of attention to your product. Even a revolutionary new Tier One product (like Avatar) can only be expected to hold the interest of the consumer for so many hours (three in this example). In the case of new gaming products, this level of attention span might be shorter than the time it takes to learn the interface. Linking your product to a consumer’s friends, or better yet allowing them to make new friends, is key to new product success. The concepts of prestige and social advancement are also powerful components to this latest generation approach to game design. The concept of prestige is linked to scarcity, as something is not prestigious if everyone has it. The application of scarcity allows the introduction of the fledgeling field of virtual economics which as readers may know is an area of intense interest for this author.
Tier Three Game Development
Some of the earliest and most memorable (for those of us that old) games included the concept of level advancement. Games like Rogue and Temple of Apshai were early examples. Both of these games were roughly modeled after the pen-and-paper game Dungeons & Dragons which was very popular at the time. D&D introduced this concept of player avatar advancement by level and it was a powerful lure to motivate players to seek various goals in-game to unlock new content.
This concept of level advancement is now present in almost every massively multiplayer online game (MMOG). I personally prefer wealth-based advancement systems as they incorporate more Tier Two interactions and generally hold the interest of the customer longer. Nonetheless, level advancement is a powerful lure while the levels last. Both of these advancement types exist solely in the virtual space and if it somehow fails to persist (Earth and Beyond, Auto Assault, Tabula Rasa, etc.) then that advancement is gone. Even more painful is the occasion where your account gets hacked and all of your work is erased or sold.
Tier Three game development reverses the 30 year trend of game design by allowing the player to level the human. I call this Trans Realistic Experience (TRE). As you level up in the game, you actually level up in real life! Along with this leveling up comes new prestige and professional and social opportunities as this authentic prestige that people seek is 100% persistent. Identity theft is a real concern that I will acknowledge but not address here as that is hardly unique to gaming.
As our brains and society are just not wired currently to understand Tier Three game concepts intuitively, I will proceed with a few examples to illuminate the concepts involved before moving to a sociological and economic analysis of this technology’s implications.
The Driving Game
Imagine that you log into the Driving Game and you are either in a car in 1st person perspective, or watching from above in 3rd person perspective. You start the tutorial and essentially start with day one of new driver training. At first you are alone on the road and once you can complete the tutorial without error YOU become level Red1 in driving. Just finishing the tutorial might take you two hours and is already more involved and rigorous than most current forms of new driver training.
Now at Red1 you have the opportunity to go to the local DMV or whatever institution issues driver’s licenses and get tested and authenticated for your Red hue drivers license. You are issued a physical license (if chip implants have not been implemented yet) with a bar code or whatever technology is used by this time. I estimate that the technology, if not the infrastructure, could be implemented for this game within 10 years. All cars by this time will have running lights (like on aircraft) that blink approximately once per second and can blink in the 5 hues: Red, Orange, Green, Blue, Violet. Red may also blink slightly faster than Violet in order to accommodate color blind drivers.
You leave the DMV and must swipe your card to start your car. As you power up your electric car your running lights begin to flash Red. As you drive home back to your computer, people see that you are a Red (new or barely capable) driver and give you an extra wide berth. Before I get too much more into the real-life side of what is happening here, let me cut back to the game.
The Driving Game is an example of Trans Realistic Experience. It has 50 levels of virtual and real achievement distributed across 5 hues of 10 levels each. Progression is from Red1 to Red 10, then Orange1 to Orange10, then Green1 to Green10, followed by Blue1 to Blue10 and finally Violet1 to Violet10. Red is the novice level and Green is generally recognized as the socially accepted mark of a safe driver. Blue is a prestige level granting insurance discounts and perhaps low occupancy lane access. Violet is very difficult to get and is generally reserved for enthusiasts and professional/commercial drivers. I would also like to allow Blue drivers to drive 10 kph over the speed limit, and Violet 20 kph over the limit (not applicable to cargo vehicles).
Play is skill-based and you can level down in this game so any amount of play will not help if it does not lead to increased levels of proficiency. Every time you play you are issued a mission, usually to drive from one place to another. Completion yields some amount of experience points with the bonus becoming increasingly time-linked at higher levels. This means that if you take too long to drive the route you get no points. At lower levels time is not as critical. The game is programmed with all of the rules in the local motor vehicle code. Every time you break a rule you lose some experience points.
At the Red levels if you complete a mission with a negative total for that run your score is zero’d and you can start again. Thus you will eventually make it to Red10. At Red10 you can go to the DMV and take a supervised exam to advance to Orange1. This pattern is the same for all hues but there is a minimum number of real miles driven without accident or citation required before you can challenge for a rank increase. Citations or accidents can lower your rank, the amount depending on the circumstances.
Being an Orange hue driver is a probationary rank. You get to Orange by either having just advanced through the Red training period or by having been bumped down to Orange due to poor driving skills or behavior. Some financial penalties will occur if you maintain Orange hue for an extended period of time. If you take too long to advance from Red to Orange you will lose your license and have to start the process over again from the beginning.
The greatest skill you can develop as a driver is the ability to perceive the skill level of the drivers around you. Generally the worst drivers drive either too fast or too slow for the conditions. Trying to figure out how dangerous the driver is next to you can be a difficult task. With this system everyone’s car flashes the license hue of the driver so everyone nearby can see at a glance the skill level of the driver. This allows more advanced drivers to drive faster and pack closer together while extending courtesy and extra driving space to less proficient drivers.
Since it is painfully obvious to everyone around a new driver that the driver is a new driver (if Red hue)
this allows other drivers to be extra careful around them and it also forces new drivers to take their driving behavior especially serious since they will be under additional scrutiny during this period. Conversely, the social benefits of hue advancement are almost unprecedented. The entire community respects you more when you advance. Your parents like you more, prospective mates like you more, the parents of prospective mates like you more, and your boss will trust you more (both in and out of the vehicle). The measure of respect is no longer how fast you drive or how cool your car is, but how safe a driver you are.
Many current driving laws, like speed laws, are based on the concept of 95% inclusion. Driving difficulty is set to a standardized level of mediocrity so that 95% of all drivers will be able to handle it. The other 5% either have the sense to drive slower, or end up losing their license or dying. With this proposed talent-metric system for driving rank, now you can allow higher ranked drivers to drive a bit faster than lower ranked drivers given the same conditions. You can also set a minimum hue rank for dangerous roads like Highway 74 near the Palm Springs area where I live. In this case a minimum of Green. You might even set all freeways to Green+.
Ok back to the Driving Game. At higher ranks the AI cars around you get replaced by real people. You might even have the option to drive in a virtual copy of the city you live in and to have all of your “friends” drive in the same instance as you do. This adds a sense of community that can further encourage participation. More advanced levels can make the locations increasingly urban and complicated, require tricky moves like U-turns, and place increasing amounts of time stress either directly or by putting traffic hazards on the road.
To get an idea of just how challenging this game can be, consider that the average Californian breaks two laws every time they make a right turn at a red light or stop sign. The first is that they fail to come to a complete stop, and the second is that in their haste they make a right turn into a lane other than the right lane. Bad drivers break three or more laws, generally by failing to yield in addition to the other two violations.
In the Driving Game, the current average driver will not make it out of the Orange hue rank and will have to practice many hours in order to learn the various laws previously either ignored or not understood. At lower hue ranks (Red/Orange) the game actually pauses every time you break a law, and puts on screen an explanation of the law and how you violated it. It also tells you how many points you just lost! At higher ranks the violation will post to a corner as you are docked points but the game will not stop since you are driving in real time with other real people. You can read a complete summary of your driving behavior after you complete your mission and see your score.
If you do so poorly in the game that you drop below level 1 of your current hue then you will be told to report to the DMV in some number of days to explain the situation and to take a supervised exam. This can occur if your account gets hacked, or if a family member or pet or cup of spilled coffee interferes with your play session. Failing the supervised test results in hue rank loss. You should be allowed to disconnect from a session instantly with a modest score penalty to handle real life issues during play. Playing drunk or distracted can hurt your score as it should so don’t take the game any less seriously than real driving since you are actually scored on your play. If someone attempts to grief you in-game, you can hit a panic button and the last minute of play or so will be sent to authorities so that the griefer can be apprehended or cited in real life (!). Yes this would be a REAL offense!
All of this infrastructure requires some investment of resources by a country using this system. Modifying the cars is pretty cheap. Developing software has a significant one-time cost and then some maintenance costs. DMV test administration might be slightly more expensive. The cost savings to the economy would likely more than make up for these costs as the costs of accidents would be greatly reduced as accident rates decrease. Insurance would be much cheaper, especially for good drivers, and the worst drivers would pay a larger share of the insurance burden as they should. Unranked (unlicensed) drivers would not even be able to start a car to drive in the first place. Citizen morale and respect would go up as even driving becomes a much more interactive experience both online and on the highway. Some of the maintenance costs for running the game could be offset by charging people to play and to change rank.
You can also provide a version for children with reduced Trans Realistic Experience to allow them to practice before they are old enough to apply for a driver’s license. I think kids would really enjoy this and it would give them a head start on learning how to be safe drivers. They can also become back seat drivers for their parents, kids will love that!
Once a driver reaches Green1 hue rank there is no further need for them to play the game if they so choose. Once every four years or so they will have to retest and it would be advisable for them to practice for this test, especially as some driving rules may have changed in that time. They may also need to play to regain rank if they receive a citation or are involved in an at-fault accident (the equivalent to traffic school).
The Nursing Game
The Nursing Game is more complicated to design but easier to implement. I use nursing as an example because nurses are a scarce form of human capitol and I happen to know a bit about nursing having been one in the 1980′s. The term “nurse” itself is ambiguous as so many people can call themselves nurses while at the same time there are so many opportunities to specialize within the profession that their skills can greatly vary. If you spend two to four years learning the profession you can call yourself a nurse. Most skill acquisition in this profession actually occurs after you start working. This makes it an ideal vocational 3rd Tier Game application.
Many role playing games (RPG’s) feature the ability to advance to new professions after you gain enough experience/rank. Tabula Rasa is a recent example of this (if you managed to be one of the few people that played it). While they were not the first to do so, Blizzard introduced the world to skill trees with the development of Diablo in 1996. As players leveled up, they could advance by choosing new skills and could in a sense design their own characters to meet their play preference. This design feature is very popular with consumers because of the opportunity to customize, and it also adds replay value if you “play through again”.
The Nursing Game combines skill trees and profession pathways with Trans Realistic Experience. Content is broken down into modules, starting with perhaps “General Nursing 1”. General Nursing 1 modules need not be called such. Game designers can call them whatever they want. What makes them General Nursing 1 modules is that they have been certified by a major nursing body as teaching all of the content that is required for that module. Completing any General Nursing 1 module opens up access to any General Nursing 2 module. Soon the skill tree begins to branch and modules like Introductory Pharmaceuticals 1 become available for play.
In order to graduate as a L1 General Nurse you will likely have to complete a number of mandatory modules like General Nursing 15, Introductory Pharmaceuticals 5, Intro Epidemiology 3, Nursing Law 3, Patient Interaction 5, Phlebotomy 5, etc. At key points in the advancement tree you will qualify to take an authentication exam where you will be tested with a combination of a computer based test (CBT) and a practical under supervision of a proctor. Success allows you to advance further. Once you have completed the authentication exam for L1 General Nurse you become licensed. This would take two years in the current academic system in 2010. Using 3rd Tier Game Development techniques this could be done in under one year, at a fraction of the cost of the current methods and it could be done without the student living near a major hospital.
Before I go on let me explain how this game might look. Let’s say the product is called “Gray’s Anatomy” and you play a sexy male or female nurse in an adult-themed academic hospital. You start as a nursing intern. Initially you learn the most basic tasks like reading charts and checking meds while dealing with various interpersonal situations. That hot doctor you like might be interested in you, but won’t talk to you until you complete a few modules, giving you some incentive! Patients come up with all kinds of interesting problems that might challenge you to learn a new technique or become a bit more observant of something that before you might not have realized was medically relevant. Each module is randomized so that students rarely see the same situation twice.
While playing you can make mistakes but here in a virtual environment no one gets hurt so it reduces the pressure a bit and gives some room for experimentation that can lead to advanced comprehension. Your actions are scored, however, so sloppy play could make you fail the module and have to start over. Once you pass a module you have the opportunity to move on to the next difficulty level or you can choose to repeat it in hopes of a higher score. These scores are not “official” as you could cheat at home by getting help. When you reach certain key levels you will have to take a proctored authentication exam to advance and these tests will be graded so it makes sense to practice more if you want to pass the exam with a high grade.
Players/Students can play whenever they have time so they can make optimal use of their time to advance at the fastest possible rate. A single mother/father with two children might have a difficult time attending nursing schools the way they are in 2010 but could advance much faster using 3rd Tier Game content without having to sacrifice as much time with their children.
Please note that there is no minimum age requirement to play this game. There will be prerequisites in order to get Trans Realistic Experience. You will have to complete various modules in chemistry, microbiology, physiology, anatomy, and perhaps speech just like nurses do today before they start their clinical work. It is entirely possible that a highly motivated and intelligent 12 year old could complete the modules and be a fully qualified nurse at this age, but they would have to have completed the equivalent of high school by perhaps age 10. How this is possible will be discussed later in this article.
Becoming a L1 General Nurse makes you licensed and employable but this is really just the start of the journey as very few jobs will be available to L1 Nurses. By playing more advanced Nursing Games you can raise your level and begin to specialize. You might be required to reach L10 General Nursing to unlock some of the harder specialties like Surgical, Emergency Room, Burn Ward, Radiology, or Oncology. Once the gatekeeper level is reached and authenticated you can then start to specialize. Once you reach, for instance, L12 General Nurse and L5 Oncology Nurse, you would be qualified to apply to job postings requiring these levels as minimum prerequisites.
This system allows for accelerated and safe vocational specialization at a fraction of the cost and time of training in the 2010 system. The system is particularly attractive to hospitals and other employers as it takes the guessing out of trying to figure out if an applicant is qualified for the position you have available. Just as in the driving game, some levels might require some minimum amount of “real” time in the field doing the activity in order to qualify for the next authentication exam.
The Hospital Game
While the Nursing Game is a lot more fun than today’s nursing schools, it still is a bit dry for my tastes because of its lack of Tier Two game components. Nonetheless it sets the stage for my explanation of the much more advanced Hospital Game. The Hospital Game is a full blown MMOG. This game can run in a sandbox version for kids that does not grant Trans Realistic Experience but also does not involve prerequisites and authentication. This can be a great opportunity for kids to see what medial jobs appeal to them, and to check how many levels they would need to do the various jobs. This can allow them to focus on the TRE they need to start one of these jobs. I will talk about TRE for kids later in this article.
The Hospital Game involves multiple TRE games in one, combined with a business simulation and the opportunity to compete and cooperate with players all over the world. The game starts with a few AI run “seed” hospitals where players can become orderlies, nurses (various kinds), doctors (various kinds), administrators (various kinds), housekeepers, cooks, radiography techs, etc. In the “real” game all participants must meet the prerequisites for their positions and get TRE credit towards level advancement as they play. Players draw a virtual “salary” that in some cases might be matched with real money if they are participating under an appropriate scholarship program.
As players learn their medical trades they are constantly interacting with other real players and building relationships. At some point groups of players can pool their virtual money and start up their own clinics! This is the equivalent to a guild in many current fantasy MMOG’s. Now they have a vested interest in the success of their virtual business and can make strategic decisions on who to recruit next to their clinic to allow them to do more advanced and lucrative procedures. Even minor operations will require multiple players to perform successfully. In this way multiple players are doing their own minigames simultaneously much as in Puzzle Pirates battles. The better they do, the more experience they get and the more virtual money they make.
If a particular surgery for instance requires four players with very specific levels then you will be most successful if you have four players performing those roles. For a fee you can have an AI “stand in” to fill a role. If you are working on a L3 Radiologist module you will want to find a facility that performs procedures that you can do to get credit towards that module. Since this is the internet, you can cover any distance instantly and move to any hospital/team that needs your expertise. Finding a place where other players need you and vice versa can lead to powerful relationship bonding and a sense of prestige for having contributed to a team with everyone benefiting. Bonus xp would be awarded for having no AI in your group as working with real people playing roles different than yours allows for the maximum real learning as everyone is communicating their needs and challenges as they simultaneously attempt to complete the procedure.
The best experience is going to come from player created hospitals where players have pooled their resources to “build” and upgrade the facility. Here when you log in people know and greet you and you have a personal connection to all the other players. While you may be able to log in at strange times and earn some xp from easier tasks that you can solo, the real xp will come from showing up for a scheduled procedure just like in real life. This is the TRE equivalent to a World of Warcraft raid with multiple players coming together to bag a huge xp cache.
The social element is very important here. If a player has poor social skills, or tends to underperform, they will have a harder time getting group invites. If it is the player’s fault, it will tend to happen repeatedly and will slow their advancement. This is a good thing. If it is not the player’s fault, but just a unique personality conflict, the player can quickly find another hospital to work in and will not be trapped in a situation that unfairly inhibits their advancement as can occur in real life.
The most fun in these games might be for the hospital administrators who have to hire/fire, schedule operations, monitor the facilities to make sure they are being properly maintained by players, and try to limit the amount of consumables used by players during procedures (to keep costs down!). This is the MMOG equivalent of a “guild leader”. This makes this job a lot sexier to players. Even cooking or cleaning could be a lot of fun as a game and learning how to do this in a hospital environment could involve learning a lot of obscure skills that people would not normally have outside of this environment. A L10 Medical Housekeeper could be in high demand relative to someone without this training.
The talent-metric system that this Tier Three game generates in real life makes it much easier for workers and employers to link up. Workers can post their profiles and levels and can find jobs in seconds world-wide in any country that honors the TRE levels they have obtained. Similarly employers can tap the available pool of labor in seconds. Such a talent-metric system emphasizes skills and reduces opportunities for employers to discriminate against religious, racial, or other lifestyle minorities.
Perhaps most important is the opportunity for medical consumers (patients) to evaluate their medical care providers. Currently if you go to see a “doctor” you really have no idea how qualified your doctor is. This allows poor doctors to overcharge, and forces good doctors to undercharge relative to their value to society. In 2010 if a hospital needs 34 nurses for a shift, they will hire almost any nurse to fill that slot without regard to their individual skills. Market forces encourage them to hire the cheapest nurses and this forces medical care quality down. The best nurses actually have a harder time finding work as their skills are not valued as much as their base license. They become “overqualified”.
In 2030 if a hospital knows it needs 34 nurses…. that might mean they need one L20 general nurse, two L10 ICU nurses, 4 L5 ER nurses, one L5 oncology nurse 10 L3 general nurses, etc. This changes the whole dynamic. Employers can now efficiently allocate their resources to provide the best service. Conversely, patients can check to see how qualified their care givers are. If they have a minor ailment a low level doctor or facility might be able to inexpensively meet their needs. If a L4 General Doctor sees a patient and diagnoses them with an ailment above their rank they (or the insurance company) can quickly determine where the closest facility is that can treat that ailment. This allows a more efficient use of medical resources so that minor ailments are not treated in expensive hospitals, and serious ailments are not treated by low level doctors that just result in complications that can multiply the cost of treating an illness. The result is lower medical costs and lower mortality rates.
The End of K-12
As I did the math and followed the path of TRE applications I came to the startling realization that Tier Three game development will mean the end of the K-12 system. This is a radical assertion so I will elaborate in order to explain why this is so. In the current K-12 system participants (children) progress primarily by virtue of their age. If you tell me you are in the 10th grade I know that you are probably 15 or 16 years old in the USA. The implication is that everyone advances regardless of their skills.
There is tremendous political pressure to pass all students as holding a student causes a number of problems. First of all the cost to teach them multiplies as additional years and teachers are needed to bring them up to some minimal standard of education. This can also result in a situation where adult students are in the same grade with minor students, raising the risk of embarrassing and expensive sex scandals. For the purposes of this discussion I will assume that our society is not planning on lowering the age of consent any time soon.
The system of K-12 education as it exists in the USA has created the world’s most expensive educational system with some of the worst results, especially in mathematics. I blame this on our anti-skill-metric system. If you get a “C” in a subject in the 1st grade, is anyone going to care if you did not get an “A”? You will still advance. If an “A” was very easy for you to get, and there is nothing higher than an “A”, is there any incentive to study further? Essentially everyone still advances and I would argue that scholastic achievement is neither encouraged or rewarded.
This whole system is the product of 19th or even 18th century technological limitations. Make the kids walk to a central location where the school and teachers are located and put them in groups so that one teacher can teach dozens of children at once. If a child is either very smart or highly motivated, there are a number of ways of dealing with them in this legacy system:
1.Ignore their potential.
2.Skip them to the next grade.
3.Attempt to treat them special in the class.
The problem with ignoring them is that not only do you waste their potential, but you also turn them off to school and create a situation where your most promising student starts to act out and become a discipline problem. Ultimately this criminalizes their intelligence. Skipping them to the next grade puts them in the middle of much larger and stronger children that are not likely to treat them nicely once they learn they are a “nerd”. Treating them specially splits the attention of the instructor as they are now essentially teaching more than one class at once. This also causes a social disconnect as the students are very sensitive to the fact that the teacher is “playing favorites”.
Once you free students of this ancient system of education, they can learn all of their subjects at their own rate while playing games. They don’t even have to be at home to play games if they have a mobile device. The best games can allow children to “play adult” and can teach them a variety of real-life skills while at the same time allowing them to pass their various academic modules. Once they reach the point where they are ready for authentication an email or text message can be sent to the parent asking them to schedule an authentication exam and come to the learning center.
Given the opportunity to play games instead of going to school, I think that otherwise discouraged students could reach a level of academic motivation that they would not have otherwise had. As long as the student meets some minimal academic rate of advancement, the government has no need to interfere in this child’s life. If the student falls behind, they can be required to attend a traditional classroom environment with smaller class sizes and children of more similar skill levels. Another way to deal with it is to assign a short-term tutor that actually visits the house. Unless the student has an educational disability this should get them back up to speed quickly.
The benefits to this system on smarter kids are profound. I personally think that most children are MUCH smarter than we allow them to be due to the failings of our current educational system. I am not an idle observer, I have been a teacher for six years and a tutor for 25 years. I think that the smartest children can complete the academic components of our current K-12 system in one fifth the time it currently takes. Some concepts are genuinely hard to grasp at early ages but I think at least 10% of our children can complete “high school” by the age of 10. Why not let them?
What about the student that is only average in reading/writing, but a math genius? In second grade do you make them walk down the hall to sit in the 6th grade class during math time (which is what was done with me)? What do you do in 4th grade? Do you advance them 4 years and make them sit in a class where the other students can crush them like a bug? What do you do about their reading and writing skills not being adequate for their new grade level? Our current system fails these students.
Using TRE game play modules to teach our children is a lot more fun for them, and allows them all to advance at their natural rate. What is wrong with a 10 year old student reading and writing at a 10 year old level, and doing math at a 20 year old (college upper division) level? With Tier Three gaming technology you can do this without putting the student at any additional physical or social risk.
In the last example it might be helpful to encourage the student to spend a bit less time doing math and spend more time learning how to read and write. Their lack of excellence in those areas is going to increasingly hold them back (relative to their math ability). For this and other reasons I feel strongly that in this new talent-metric system that many teachers could be converted to counselors that can talk with students and parents one-on-one at least once a month to help guide them through the academic pathways that might be beyond the understanding of both child and parent.
Once a student has completed the requisite coursework/modules for college-level coursework, they should be allowed to play those games for TRE credit. If you accept my assertion that some children can complete the prerequisites for college work by age 10, it is not a huge leap to consider that you might have children prepared, at least academically, for medical school by age 16.
Who Pays for Tier Three Games?
When I tried to answer this question I sat for a long time then almost fell out of my chair. Right now the closest thing to Tier Three games in existence is the America’s Army series. I went into game development to find non-military applications for my skills so believe me when I say this realization forced me to take another look at many of my preconceived notions. America’s Army is funded and produced by the US military and is provided free of charge to gamers, many of which are children. They get the opportunity to practice military professions and interact (Tier Two) with real members of the US military and ask questions that help them understand what it is like to be a soldier in the 21st century.
The America’s Army software is primitive compared to what I expect will be available in 2020 or 2030 but the attempt to develop Tier Three content is both undeniable and successful. While some Tier Three games will be developed directly by public agencies, I envision an environment where public agencies will set module guidelines for what can earn TRE but that the private sector will actually produce the software. What this means at that once the relevant public agency sets the guidelines for Introductory Chemistry L5 modules, software companies can compete to produce the best software that meets these requirements.
“Hey Billy! Have you heard of the new Chem 5 game called Polymer Pirates!?! It looks WAY cool, I can’t wait to play it. I am going to rule that game!” Software makers can advertise their products as they do now, and once an authenticated person completes said game they can post ratings on the game’s fun factor, stability, and quality. This helps consumers decide which products they want to buy. The best products will sell the most units so there will be constant competition to produce better versions of existing games. But who pays?
Again I almost fell out of my chair. Since minor children have their public education paid by the government, the government would have to allocate a budget to each child. This creates the equivalent to vouchers. Oh boy what a can of worms! Currently those students identified as gifted earn more money per day for their schools to pay presumably for better and smaller classes for them. A similar situation will occur with students that are advancing very quickly and are eating through TRE content at a high rate. They will qualify for larger software budgets. To help avoid misuse of funds, I envision that the parent, student, and counselor will conference before each module purchase with the counselor guiding the child down the appropriate academic paths but leaving the choice of which equivalent product up to the parent and child. This feeds the interests of the student and funnels a MASSIVE percent of our total national economy through software development studios!
This shift of money away from school facilities and teachers, and into educationally oriented software development studios will allow them to hire some of those now unemployed teachers and to produce very elaborate TRE games in relatively short time frames. The opportunity to localize these products for other markets can make this very profitable and draw top academic and technical talent to these projects.
Adult participants in TRE games will primarily pay out of pocket like they do now for education. Those countries that favor a bit more central planning can subsidize games that lead to scarce or otherwise in-demand professions. This can help steer workers towards necessary but perhaps not-so-sexy careers. Maybe 20% of the population wants to grow up to be doctors but we certainly have no shortage of doctors. I might agree that we utilize them inefficiently which can cause some local scarcity.
Gamers love to earn stuff while they play. The lure of being able to earn real-life stuff for playing will be an irresistible lure for such consumers, even if the products cost more. In the USA in 2010 increasing structural inefficiencies in both our educational and medical sectors are causing both to eat ever-larger percents of our economy while returning increasingly inferior results. As an example we used to make more engineers than all other countries combined. Now most of our engineers are imported from other countries. Tier Three games will reverse these trends.
By creating superior skilled labor, at lower cost in lower time, unprecedented levels of per capita productivity can be achieved. Currently as the inefficiencies in education and medicine push our country towards what appears to be a mathematically inescapable bankruptcy, reversing this trend is essential to maintaining our “quality of life”. A heavily indebted country has little to spare to deal with species-threatening problems like climate change, overpopulation, diminishing energy reserves and microbial evolution.
Switching from academic and market systems that promote mediocrity to talent-metric systems allows for far more efficient creation and application of ever more mobile human capitol. I would like to think it also creates happier people that can spend less time working and more time improving themselves and their skills. Raising per capita productivity is key to technological advancement. If all of a country’s money is going to feed its population (as in China before their population controls) then there is nothing left over for infrastructure investments or even self-defense.
Highly productive countries can afford to fund infrastructure improvements, educate their workforce, defend themselves, and deal with natural and unnatural disasters. As the USA currently becomes increasingly inefficient, it must rely increasingly on borrowing to maintain itself. This is unsustainable and will lead to a series of “corrections” that will be catastrophic for the citizens of that country.
While Third Generation game development may not be THE solution to this growing crisis, it may be A solution. I feel it important to note that despite the current crisis the USA government seems paralyzed by partisan conflicts. At present there is a lot that both the political right AND left will like in the ideas presented here. I anticipate a period of uncertainty for teachers and educational support staff as they retool to fill new roles. As a teacher myself I think it would be an exciting time to join a new system with such potential but change is always stressful.
One final comment I must make is that by having students telecommute a country can greatly reduce it’s daily fuel/energy consumption. This can be a great boon to the economy and also reduces carbon dioxide production if you are still using an internal combustion engine. This has climate change implications.