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Research into online gaming: How do strategy games help learning, particularly in historical studies?

Sasha Millwood led a very interesting action research project today to research the impact of strategy games on learning.

Sasha's research question is:

How do strategy games help learning, particularly in historical studies?

Six researchers met online, using Apple's iChat technology. We spent 2 hours determining the correct network settings for establishing a multiplayer game (Rise of Nations) across 4 different locations. Internet gaming is not new, and has been around for several years, yet the protocols used to establish reliable connections without a Gaming server, is complex and troublesome. So many factors are involved, from people's individual computers, to their broadband connections and how their routers are configured, each being potential points of failure. We worked our way through a maze of technologies and acronyms:

  • NAT - Network Address Translation - allows individual computers to share one public facing IP address
  • DMZ - De-Militarised Zone - a network range that bypasses any firewall and port blocking
  • uPnP - Universal Plug and Play - facilitates device-to-device interoperability
  • Port Forwarding - allocating individual ports to bridge between the public and private IP address range

and is totally dependent on the capability of each router. Eventually we found our way, only to discover dire game play speed where each computer halted as it waited for the host computer to send data.

Ben's strategy was to ensure all machines were set-up within a DMZ, another thought was 'Wouldn't it be nice if all routers were uPnP capable' ... ha!

We have consistently failed to create a multiplayer game with more than two players, without the continual stalling of game play. Has anyone found a solution to playing a multiplayer game of Rise of Nations?

Eventually, we admitted defeat, and we resided to playing two-way multiplayer games, or joining games hosted on the same local network. This didn't force a change in the research question and so several games were played and we have yet to report our findings back as we await the survey form from Sasha.

Well done Sasha for getting us this far.

Just in passing, one 14 year old researcher from Stepping Stones, commented...

"I'm having the time of my life here"

...a lovely moment.

  above: extract from online chat in Rise of Nations game


Thanks for this article, I'm developing a speech on the educational properties of strategy games and this proved to be a good source!

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