Home Computing Teaching Bushcraft Games Writing About
Is Eve Online Educational?
update: sorry for the odd characters, I pasted this in from pages and haven’t quite figured it out yet.
For those of who don’t know, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eve_online . Basically, Eve is a massively multiplayer online game (MMORPG). It is thematically a space game - taking place in the far future, allowing for fantastic technologies.
Eve holds the distinction of hosting all players in one virtual universe. This is different than other popular MMORPG’s, where the game is split into shards or different servers. Often times, there can be over 30,000 simultaneous players online at the same time, from all over the world.
A player in Eve chooses a race, and then travels through a richly realized space - trading, fighting, and interacting with players from all over the world.
I have 2 areas I’d like to explore about Eve: the educational potential, and if Eve can be played casually.
Using my criteria for evaluating games in education let’s look at Eve-Online.
The game has an educationally-accessible context (historical, contemporary, hard science-fiction)
The Eve story: humans left earth many years ago and basically splintered into 4 different factions - factions which are so different after thousands of years that they are unrecognizable to each other.
There really isn’t anything to grab onto here; I would hard pressed to find some thread I could bring from the Eve story to a classroom. However, there are some really interesting things about Eve which are intriguing - but not the context.
Eve is a non-linear, morally ambiguous game. Good guys and bad guys aren’t clear, and there are no clear events which might trigger action by a player. Eve is very much a sandbox for choice - I’ll get to this in a moment.
Game play has genuinely educationally-accessible content
This item demands attention from the teacher guiding the students. Distances are calculated using standard Au (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomical_unit). There is impressive choice tree for play path; be it pirate, merchant. industrialist, explorer, or miner. The skill tree is impressive, and it is extraordinarily difficult to become a master of all skills. Choices are real - that is, different choices make a noticeable difference in game play. The size of the game-world is staggering, and there are multiple, dynamic variables students must juggle in order to be successful. Players simply must work together in order to be successful.
Success depends on intelligent choices and decisions
Eve-Online is not a “twitch” game - success does not depend how quickly you can click on things (although in combat you may need to be a little fast). Success is more defined by the types of choices you make. For example, if you plan on mining, you will want to look at different types of Ores, where they are, and which markets are buying them at the highest prices. You also might want to have good skills in mining - you’ll quickly figure out the faster and more you can mine, the more profit you can make, and the more ships you can buy, etc…
Failure exists and teaches when it happens. It is possible to lose
One of things I love about games is how kids can fail in them and not get depressed and sad about loosing. Failing in Eve is VERY possible, and it is even possible for your avatar to be killed! Fortunately, Eve has instituted:
* High security space, where acts of aggression are very rare.
* Insurance on ships, so if you lose a ship, you can buy a new one.
* Clones, so if your avatar “dies” you can come back to life.
* Good chat channels, so you can learn what you did wrong by simply asking.
The tutorial is crystal clear, and checks for understanding
Yup. The tutorial in Eve-Online is good, walking the player through the GUI and checking for understanding. There is actually quite a bit of helpful instruction. There is a special “tutorial agent” you can activate if you have a question about something.
There are multiple victory conditions
Heh. There are /no/ victory conditions in Eve. This is Eve’s greatest strength and it’s biggest weakness. I don’t see a point in Eve where a player might say “I’m done” except when they are…there is no magic level, or year of completion. Very interesting stuff, actually. Eve can be played in many ways and be a fun game (this is a very difficult thing to do from a game design perspective).
The feedback model is short - students can quickly see how a decision effects a larger whole picture
Well, sort of. Although I have only played Eve for month, I am not aware of a larger plot in which I am involved - the game is purely self-interest for now. This may be due to my playing style, which is casual and occasional.
The game becomes increasingly challenging and difficult
Yes. Eve has two primary modes of play: PvE and PvP (Player versus Environment and Player versus Player). I am a PvE player, and I have found myself increasingly challenged.
The Final Verdict?
There is plenty of educational potential in Eve. However, I don’t think this is a game which would fit well in a traditional classroom - Eve is to big. Students see cause and effect, decision matrices, reputation management, money management, resource planning, and tactical decisions in every aspect of the game.
As I continue to explore Eve, I’ll continue to write about it. When I’m online, feel free to look me up - I’m Boris Enichov (a long time nome de plume for me).