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Business & Social Science

Computer games allow players to think, talk, and act in roles that may be otherwise inaccessible to them. Students are able to step into identities as scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, urban planners, and other professions, preparing them for future careers and leadership roles. They learn about communities, interpersonal relationships, civics and economics. Innovative companies also use games to recruit, train, and motivate employees.

America’s Army (social science, military skills, simulated combat scenarios) – The Official U.S. Army game is free for anyone to download at www.americasarmy.com. Colonel Casey Wardynski, the Game Project Director, envisioned "using computer game technology to provide the public a virtual Soldier experience that was engaging, informative and entertaining." America's Army developers licensed the Unreal engine as the foundation for their game. A Boston Globe columnist wrote, "America's Army isn't just a time-wasting shoot-'em-up. It's full of accurate information about military training and tactics, intended to prepare a new generation of potential recruits. Amidst all the shouting drill sergeants and whistling bullets, some real education is going on. America's Army is a 'serious game,' part of a new wave of computer simulations that provide entertaining lessons about real world activities." [see article] America's Army also includes an optional combat medical training course that provides information on evaluating and prioritizing casualties, controlling bleeding, recognizing and treating shock, and administering aid when victims are not breathing - all of which is vital knowledge that can be applied to emergency situations in real life.

Genius (business, engineering, physics, history) – This game is a complex strategy simulation / tycoon game based on real inventors (the Wright brothers, Edison, Einstein, etc.) and real scientific discoveries (airplanes, radio waves, semiconductors, etc). The player becomes an entrepreneur, and through a combination of genius and luck, grows a small start-up business into a multinational company. Since the developers based this game on historic events, you get to witness key inventions of the 19th and 20th centuries and see firsthand how they changed the world. As the game progresses, you must complete challenging physics puzzles to obtain new technologies and product improvements. Some require you to be comfortable with algebra, converting between units, and applying formulas. You subscribe to newspapers which contain answers to some questions and the knowledge or equations needed to solve others. You also have to take care of your factory workers, scientists, and accountants, and even worry about industrial espionage. You get to play in five different locations around the world: Detroit, Pittsburgh, London, Berlin, and Melbourne. Genius is recommended for anyone taking physics in high school or college, but "...it might just be one of the few simulation titles that can be played as a whole family; Dad can balance the budget, Mom can design the layout, and the kids can build and terra-form to their heart's content, all the while educating everyone in the process." -Game Chronicles Magazine.

iCivics (civics, government) - This web-based education project offers a collection of free interactive games for students that promote civics education and encourage students to become active citizens. The project was founded by retired US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor because she was concerned that students' failing grades on civics examinations were due to inadequate information and tools required for civic participation, and that civics teachers needed better materials and support. Justice O'Connor suggested tapping into the time teenagers spend online by using games to teach the fundamentals of civics and active engagement. In addition to games, the site includes webquests, curriculum units, and individual lesson plans. iCivics operates in partnership with Georgetown Law School and Arizona State University where James Paul Gee, researcher and advocate of games as educational tools, is currently a Professor of Literacy Studies in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Quest Atlantis (social studies, environmental studies, cultures) - Quest Atlantis and Atlantis Remixed comprise an international learning and teaching project that immerses children, ages 9-16, in 3D multi-user environments to complete educational tasks. This project combines strategies used in commercial games with lessons from educational research on learning and motivation. The interactive online game teaches students about social responsibility, conservation, diversity, and more. Students complete inquiry-based explorations rich in standards-based content, while also learning how people's actions affect communities and the environment. The game promotes collaboration with other students and encourages kids to get involved in the outside world. This web-based project is intended for schools, after-school programs, and homeschool networks; it is not available to individual students or families.

Railroad Tycoon (business, economics) - This business simulation / tycoon game teaches students about the basics of railroad management and the history of railroads. The objective of the game is to start and manage a railroad business by laying track, building stations, managing resources, and buying and scheduling trains. Players can build rail empires in the Americas, Europe and Africa using any kind of train from classic steam engines to modern bullet trains. They also have to deal with some of the same economic and geographic issues faced by railroad engineers in the 1800s. Buy and sell companies within a virtual stock market, and challenge historical giants like Cornelius Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan, and others in single-player scenarios.

Restaurant Empire (business, management) - Learn about the restaurant industry and how to run your own restaurant through a unique combination of strategic business simulation and role playing plus a free-form sandbox game mode. Players design and build a restaurant, choose its cuisine and décor, hire waiters, and even cook meals. Buy, build, outsell and underprice your competition. Travel and meet with people to establish your name as a great restaurateur. Restaurant Empire features three culinary capitals to operate in, five cuisines to choose from, over 30 unique chefs to interact with, and nearly 200 recipes.


River City (science, social studies) - With funding from the National Science Foundation, Activeworlds, Inc. developed this interactive computer simulation for science students in grades 6-9 to learn scientific inquiry. Based on authentic historical, sociological, and geographical conditions, the fictional town of River City is besieged with health problems. As visitors to River City, students travel back in time to address 19th century problems using 21st century skills. They work together in an online environment on small research teams to help the townspeople understand why residents are becoming ill. Students use technology to collect data, form hypotheses, develop controlled experiments to test their hypotheses, and make recommendations. This game is made available for use by schools through a licensing agreement with Harvard University.

SimCity (city planning and zoning, budgeting, government, civics, leadership, business, cause and effect scenarios) - SimCity is an open-ended city-building simulation series developed by Will Wright and published by Maxis (now a division of Electronic Arts). The game was first released in 1989, and it has spawned several different editions as well as a highly popular spin-off series, The Sims. SimCity provides such a realistic introduction to city planning and zoning that it has actually been used to train urban planners. Students assume the role of Mayor and City Planner, and proceed to build a city from the ground up. From the smallest details of parks and recreation to balancing the budget with water, electricity, and road maintenance, students will learn about the big picture of city planning. They get the chance to build cities in all kinds of environments, compete or collaborate with neighboring cities, and follow the lives of individual citizens. As the city grows, players are faced with more challenges such as crime, fires, earthquakes and tornadoes. Students will gain a better understanding of how communities are managed and allow them to see the effects of cities on the environment and on their citizens. As stated by Certification Map, a teaching website, “With great power comes great responsibility…only one of the invaluable lessons taught to us in SimCity.”

Tactical Language Trainer (language, culture, communication) - The Tactical Language Trainer uses virtual-world simulations to teach foreign language and social communication skills (including nonverbal gestures and eye contact) in a cultural context, all of which affects how the simulated characters respond to the learner. For example, the "Mission to Iraq" full-length course teaches how to communicate effectively and safely in Iraq, emphasizing spoken dialogs and cultural sensitivity. It’s the perfect language and culture learning solution for anyone working there in general business, civil affairs, construction, security, and relief aid. The course is also well suited to teach Iraqi Arabic language and culture to high school and university students. The program can be used either as a self-study course or in blended classroom instruction.


Trade Empires (economics, geography, history) - Trade Empires is a real-time strategy simulation in which students learn what it takes to build and maintain a vibrant merchant trading business. You start out simply with one merchant and his donkeys, gradually building up the business until he controls a vast trading network. Build vast transportation routes using anything from dirt trails to railroads, and compete against other merchant families. You can then manipulate the supply and demand economy to dominate the other merchants and deliver superior products, or corner the market and undercut their prices. The game shows how trade economies change over the years as more modern technologies are developed and other products come into play. For example, new markets include silk from the Far East and steel in industrial Europe. This teaches students not only about the economic aspects of trade but also the historical trading periods in human history through the 19th century.

Whyville (civics, economics, journalism, art history, science, math) - Whyville is a virtual city geared for teens and pre-teens. It was launched in 1999 by Numedeon, Inc. to apply over 20 years of research in cooperative learning for developing new web-based educational tools. Whyville enables students to interact with one another and to learn about topics ranging from business to geography. Students develop their skills within the online environment by participating in games and activities. Their characters can earn a salary, start their own businesses, buy and build things in the virtual world. Whyville has its own newspaper, museum, city hall, town square, beach, suburbia, and even its own economy - citizens earn "clams" by playing educational games. Whyville works directly with sponsors such as the Getty Museum, NASA, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to bring engaging educational content to kids. Education Daily has stated that Whyville is one of "edu-gaming's biggest successes." The game is being used in schools, classrooms, and even in post-graduate courses for pre-service teachers. Whyville is free to join.

Honors Project © 2011 by Peter Olsen, Mesa Community College, CIS107 Electronic Game Industry.