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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Arden: A Shakespearean Second Life

Looks like even academics are getting into the virtual world space. Edward Castronova, author of Synthetic Worlds, a book about massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), is planning on bringing the world of Shakespeare's Richard III to life. With the help of a $240,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation, he is going to create Arden, a virtual world like Second Life teeming with political intrigue, secret conniving, deal-making and war.

One key difference is that there are plans to test how different environmental conditions lead to different outcomes.
"Now we have this technology for making little pocket societies and we can do different governments, different economies, different social norms in the different environments," he said, "and see how it affects the things we care about, like equality and justice and growth and efficiency."
Where does the learning come in? Shakespearean texts will be key in the game.
"If you collect the 'To be or not be' speech and then take it to a lore master or to a skilled bard, he can then apply the magic to your broad sword or you (could) utilize the magic in a battle situation to give you this massive (advantage)," Castronova explained. "So there (will be) this intensive competition to get the best speeches of Shakespeare in your play book.
Arden sounds very promising, combining education and entertainment. As other similar projects show, wrapping an intrinsically boring (to some) task in the veil of a game is often effective in getting higher rates of user participation (i.e. getting kids to stay awake in class).


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