Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

virtualtreeline1. Aussie Second Life resident Juanita Deharo is part of a new art project called Virtual Treeline, with an associated blog.

2. The Chinese government are further expanding their control of virtual worlds, with social games the latest target according to TechCrunch.

3. Earlier this year we covered PIVOTE, which was being used to undertake paramedic training in Second Life. The platform has now won the Times Higher Education award for Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year.

4. Novicraft, a HR and training-focused virtual environment, now has a blog devoted to its further development.

5. Linden Lab have announced that the beta of Linden Homes is open. They’ve also started promoting SL Pro, an in-world conference for content creators coming up in February.

6. This paper on gender roles in MMOs is well worth a read. The abstract:

Several hypotheses regarding the importance of gender and relationships were tested by combining a large survey dataset with unobtrusive behavioral data from 1 year of play. Consistent with expectations, males played for achievement-oriented reasons and were more aggressive, especially within romantic relationships where both partners played. Female players in such relationships had higher general happiness than their male counterparts. Contrary to stereotypes and current hypotheses, it was the female players who played the most. Female players were also healthier than male players or females in the general population. The findings have implications for gender theory and communication-oriented methods in games and online research—most notably for the use of self-reported time spent, which was systematically incorrect and different by gender.

NoviCraft: virtual world team building

novicraft NoviCraft is one of the more fascinating virtual world business offerings by Finnish company, TeamingStream. That fascination comes not from the platform itself, but the theoretical underpinnings of it. This is a world designed purely for business-related training and team-building purposes.

I took the opportunity to fire a few questions at TeamingStream’s CEO, Petri Ahokangas, about NoviCraft.

Lowell: What platform is the application built on?

Petri: NoviCraft is built on Epic’s Unreal Engine and it was officially launched in December last year. NoviCraft is off-the-shelf multiplayer teambuilding, collaboration, and leadership training game developed by a group of learning scientists, human resource development specialists, and serious game developers for the corporate learning industry. Our customers include top HRD consultancies, big and medium-sized companies, universities and other training organizations.

Lowell: Could you give more detail on the team building specifics that are encountered in the game?

Petri: The game is pedagogically scripted to make the participants aware of the different elements of collaboration, team learning, negotiation, and leadership through five team puzzles – and thus learning from the game experience. The first puzzle focuses on enhancing communication, building of psychological trust, and giving and receiving help among the participants. The second puzzle is about encouraging exploration, coordination of work, and establishing goal orientation. The third puzzle encourages
Thinking–out–loud as a team, sharing of information and helps to create an efficient problem-solving skills for the participants as a team. The fourth puzzle brings in risk taking and strategy creation as a team. The final puzzle is about joint planning and efficient execution of the plan.

In a nutshell, all major challenges of the modern workplace have been modeled to the game and can be practiced in a safe environment in a cost effective way. NoviCraft is not a simulation, it is real collaboration between people which makes it very effective as a learning tool. The learning process is theoretically grounded, supported by metrics, and the trainer or consultant (the game master) can monitor and control the performance of the playing team.

Lowell: So what have been some of the more common utilisations of NoviCraft to date?

Petri: Typical use cases for NoviCraft include leadership and management training, cross- and multi-cultural collaboration, virtual and distributed team collaboration training, team building, supervisor training, personnel evaluation/appraisal, and coaching boards of directors and management teams. Our customers have said that NoviCraft is a fun and efficient way to learn about their teamwork skills and it helps both individuals and teams to improve. After the game the participants can go through a workshop where they can analyze their performance, strengths and areas where they need improvement. The NoviCraft game experience can also greatly add the value of traditional management and leadership training.

Lowell: What level of expense is an enterprise looking at to deploy NoviCraft?

Petri: NoviCraft’s price depends on the number of users and the constellation of the software, but the typical limited license is between twenty and forty thousand Euros (20000-40000 €) depending on the case.

Serious games initiatives are nothing new, but Novicraft seems to be one of more fleshed out models for business. At close to forty-thousand dollars Australian to implement, only the larger enterprises would consider NoviCraft, but its breadth remains appealing. What will truly differentiate NoviCraft is its touted metrics: if tangible benefits for a business are realised, its implementation costs may suddenly seem less of a barrier.

Thanks to CyberTech News for the heads-up.

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