My 10 year old son has discovered a new online simulation game called Travians. The game is similar in some ways to the war game Travian, which he played independently for the past year and I played with him as my own character for 10 months in an alliance we joined for mutual protection and to try and win the game.
We recorded two podcasts during the past year to document and share our learning about the game Travian and its online environment:
- Podcast209: A 10 year old discusses Travian, an online simulation war game (16 December 2007)
- Podcast240: Travian Tips and Lessons Learned After Four Months Playing Online (22 March 2008)
According to the homepage for Travians:
Travians is a browser game in which you rise to the challenge of everyday life as a villager. This means more than just specializing in your occupation, building your own home or deciding whether you enjoy games more than fighting: The most important thing is communication within the huge village community. This is the only way to get fun clubs and strong guilds. Become a Travian and experience a whole new online world!
I’m intrigued that one of the most important foci of Travians is collaboration and communication. It’s amazing how much reading Alexander has done in the past year to learn more about Travian and develop his game-play knowledge and skills. I’m expecting the same thing will be true with the game Travians as well.
Alexander told me a great deal about the game this past weekend and showed me what he has learned to do in the environment so far. Based on what he’s told me, the game sounds a lot more like The Sims than the browser war game Travian. It is free to play and uses an AJAX programming environment rather than Adobe Flash. This means it CAN be played from an iPhone where a Flash-based game like Webkinz cannot. Alexander has found it challenging to play Travians with the iPhone interface so far, however. Players can spend real money and purchase “diamonds” which can be converted into game cash, but it is not required/needed. So far Alexander has just played the free version of Travians, we haven’t spent any money on the game.
I am not going to attempt to summarize the entire game here, since Alexander has agreed to record an upcoming screencast where he’ll explain the game and what he’s learned so far playing it. I will just note a few humorous things that he’s said which have stood out in my mind.
- The game takes place in real time, and characters have to sleep, eat, wash, etc. If Alexander’s character does not periodically wash, his hygiene score is too low and other characters will not trade or interact with him because he stinks! He is not wealthy enough to have his own washbasin, however, so he has to go into others’ houses (if they allow it) to wash up periodically. I think it is both humorous good that the game integrates hygiene ideas in this way.
- To earn money, Alexander has made his character wash dishes. While we attending church this morning in fact, he left his character washing dishes for two hours. When he returned to the game, he had earned 80 culture points as a result. His character was quite tired, however, so he had to put him to bed for awhile this afternoon! He only recently earned enough money to purchase his own bed for his house. Before that he had to sleep on the ground. Now that he owns his own bed he can get more rest each time he sleeps.
- Someone who the game identifies as Alexander’s “uncle” gave him a pig early on in the game, which now follows him around and gives periodic advice. Alexander reported the best advice the pig has given so far is, “Play, Flight, Wash the Dishes, that’s the way to success!” That is certainly an interesting set of advice for winning a game.
- One of the point levels players have to maintain is “fun points.” So far the only way Alexander has figured out how to raise fun points is by going to the nearby colosseum and challenging other players to gladiatorial fights. The fights are not actually to the death, but the losing player has very poor health by the end. Like the original Travian game, graphics in Travians are minimal but slightly more advanced than in Travian. The focus of the game is NOT on building up resources and armies, to conquer the resources and armies of other players. Instead, the focus appears to be on building the resources and levels of your character and accumulating wealth within your village.
- The game lets you choose one of three races: Romans, Gauls, or Germans. Alexander (as he did in Travian) chose to be a Gaul.
I do NOT want to give up to Travians the amount of time Travian took to play each day over a ten month period, so I am going to continue to learning about Travians through Alexander’s eyes and descriptions rather than my own experiences. We’ve got a busy week this week, but I’m hoping sometime soon we’ll record a screencast so he can describe the game in greater detail.
I commented to Alexander this weekend how amazing I think games like Travian and Travians are, since they are browser-based and can be updated at any time. The fact that you can play against other live players also adds a completely different element as well. Unlike any of the console games or even computer games I’ve played most in the past, browser games offer a greater potential for variety and engagement since they can be updated instantly with new features and novel experiences at any time. I know one of the reasons Alexander (as well as his younger sisters, to a lesser degree) find Webkinz so engaging is that the environment is constantly changing. These dynamic environments certainly provide a stark contrast to their traditional school environments, which do change a bit but not in the personalized, regular ways of online game worlds.
Sylvia’s list of links, referenced resources, and supplementary materials for her presentation is extensive and superb. Sylvia provides both a good historical overview of where we’ve come with games for education, as well as a framework for educators wanting to evaluate the potential learning value of games as they apply to education in both formal and informal settings. I’ll be keeping many of these ideas in mind as I keep learning from Alexander as he plays Travians in the weeks ahead.
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