About Serious Games

Serious games (SGs) or persuasive games are computer and video games used as persuasion technology or educational technology. They can be similar to educational games, but are often intended for an audience outside of primary or secondary education. Serious games can be of any genre and many of them can be considered a kind of edutainment.

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Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Programming with Alice at Carnegie Mellon

In continuing our ongoing discussion of teaching kids programming skills by having them design their own computer games, Kathy Larason suggested I take a look at Alice over at Carnegie Mellon.

Alice is an introductory 3-D programming language that focuses on animation objects. The graphics are interactive, and could be constructed as games or animations. The main code and accompanying documentation are housed at alice.org.

Alice is a major endeavor. Four textbooks on programming with Alice were published in 2006; one in 2007; and at least one more is slated for 2008. Workshops are ongoing this summer, including sites at Carnegie Mellon, Roger Williams University, and Georgia Tech.

Alice has been widely adopted in schools and colleges. In a PowerPoint presentation led by Dennis Cosgrove, Caitlin Kelleher and others at ACM SIGCSE 2007 earlier this year, several statistics were given. The main site has had some 3.5 million page views, and almost half a million downloads of the program have occurred over the past year. About 250 colleges and universities are using Alice to teach programming.

Alice has a serious agenda. Computer Science majors continue to decline in numbers, and there are numerous ongoing efforts to interest girls and women in programming as well as math and the hard sciences. Researchers being as they are, several studies of Alice and its effect on this serious agenda are ongoing. One study of initial Computer Science class takers at Ithaca College and St. Joseph University showed a jump in grade averages (from C to B) and a large jump in willingness to take the second semester of Computer Science when participants were exposed to Alice prior to taking the class.

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