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Friday, January 05, 2007

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: Virtual Real Estate for Sale

Traveling to Calypso is similar to traveling to any foreign country. You exchange your currency for the currency of Calypso and, when you return home, you can exchange left over Calypso currency back to your currency. The only difference? Calypso is not a physical place—not a Caribbean island. It is a virtual world—a metaverse (short for “Metaphysical Universe” aka “online world.”)

In the Calypso metaverse, you exchange real money for virtual money and then, exchange it back. Calypso has its own virtual economy which works almost seamlessly with physical economies. The enviornment, once called Project Entropia (now called Entropia Universe), is free to download and has no monthly fees unlike most MMORPGs. Instead the universe works on a cash basis. You are required to have cash to purchase items like a laser rifle, a house or a vehicle. Cash is King. The Project Entropia Dollar (PED) has a fixed exchange rate linked to the US Dollar currently 10 PED = 1US$.

Once inside the game, you create items to barter with other players, get a job and even find hidden treasures throughout the virtual world. You can mine items of value like gold or ore, manufacture goods or even set up a store or mall and rent out space. Trade on the virtual stock exchange. You constantly exchange PEDs for goods. To date, the largest transaction was for a virtual astroid that sold for $100,000.

Well, the ante has just been raised. After 10 days of bidding for three digital malls the virtual buyers have ponied up a total of $179,668. This is all for "virtual real estate." Places that physically don't even exist.

You can read the article 'Project Entropia' real estate sale fetches $179,000

What does this mean for trainers and instructional designers? It means we really need to understand these 3D online worlds because it is not just Second Life, many online worlds exist and if we let this technology pass us, then we will be playing catchup. Arguing about whether or not these platforms are "learning platforms" is less relevant than figuring out how to provide learning experiences within these worlds...teachable moments.

The educational philosophy of Constructivism is a good place to start in terms of thinking about how learners can create meaning. What if there was an environment where a learner, learning about history or learning about making a sales call could experiement in a relatively safe world with total access to any information he or she needs in 3-dimensions (just like where we really live). The dimensions and the immersiveness of the experience add to the learning.

We are incredibly effective learners (humans that is) we can learn from books, each other, observation or even from a good story...however, as instructional designers our job is to make that process more efficient and effective. If people could simply learn from others in an effective way...then instructional designers would not be needed but every expert is not a good facilitator, teacher or mentor, every person is not able to learn from a journey to many blogs and then reaching their own conclusion (mostly because of time constraints) so, we as workplace learning professionals must be on the forefront to understand how these technologies will impact the future workplace and what we can do to facilitate learning.

We might not like these environment, we might think they are silly or even a passing fad, of course the same was said for television, computers and the Internet.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it would be really cool to have a game (and I don't know much about games, so I can't be sure this doesn't already exist) set in a historical time period where everything in the game is historically accurate. Not a fantasy world, but medieval Europe. Or better yet, a game based on something like Highlander, where you live through different time periods, one after another, and experience them all -- again, each one being historically correct. That would be a great way to teach history.