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Games for Change Festival (Part 1): Virtual Learning Spaces

Meld Magazine

Thu Nov 29 2012


VIRTUAL medical machines, construction sites and malls – these were just a few of the revolutionary games cum educational tools featured at the recent Games for Change Australia New Zealand Festival. Tech writers Amy Lau and Grace Yew were there.

Considering “video games are the popular medium of the 21st century”, it did not come as a complete surprise when Games for Change picked Melbourne as the venue for its first Australia New Zealand Festival.

Founded in 2004, Games for Change’s mission statement is to “facilitate the creation and distribution of social impact games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts”. Essentially, its purpose is to demonstrate how games can create change through enhancing education and bringing attention to causes.

The games featured at the two-day event were mostly for educational, fitness, and corporate purposes. Here are a few which we thought were really interesting and useful to current university students as well as fresh graduates.


Developed by Monash University, Victoria University, Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL), and Oztron Media, this virtual world allows medical and pharmacy students to practice on medical machines not easily accessible in the real world.

Instead of sharing a tablet-making machine with 200 others (which they’re actually not even allowed to operate without teacher supervision) students can easily gain hands-on experience with the virtual machines.

The “game” also allows students to interact with virtual patients, diagnose them, and insert the right IV tubes into their arms.

Oztron director, Dale Linegar, states the purpose of Pharmatopia is to help medical students with their studies. Instead of needing to be right all the time like in class, the virtual world allows students to mess up and learn.

“The whole idea of learning through play is being allowed to make mistakes, and learn through consequences instead of being told,” she says.

The White Card Game

The White Card Game, developed by Oztron and Victoria University, and funded by the National Vet E-learning Strategy, aids students undergoing the “Work safely in the construction industry (CPCCOHS1001A) course” at (TGA).

The game’s setting is a virtual construction site where players tackle challenges, hazards, and risks associated with such a location, and avoid getting themselves or their workmates injured.

Photograph: Daniel Von Seld

At the end of each session, players are given a score and a summary of their mistakes during the session.

While scoring 78% is sufficient to pass the session, most students insist on getting 100%, playing the simulation multiply times.

“It’s just something you don’t see happening with the paper-based tests,” says Mr Linegar.

Some teachers have voiced fears about being replaced by this new teaching method but Mr Linegar assures them “these games are not created to replace teachers, but to assist them.”

Master of the Mall

Master of the Mall is a game that can appeal to a wide demographic while imparting valuable life lessons. It covers a range of commerce topics, as well as case studies of real-life shopping and working scenarios.

The online role-playing game (RPG) was commissioned by the New South Wales government and developed by Wasabi Digital founder Stephane Zerbib, the award-winning creator of the online game, Chiko Accidental Alien.

Mr Zerbib describes the game as an “isometric, virtual mall world” with flexible quest narratives and mentally stimulating mini games.

Players enter a virtual shopping mall where an animated narrator, the “Spruiker”, gives them obstacles to overcome. The obstacles include various exercises where players learn about consumer and employee rights, as well as financial literacy.

Although Master of the Mall is aimed at Years 7 to 10 students, the game is also a useful resource for older local and international students to learn about their legal rights as consumers and employees.

Stay tuned for Part 2, on games in the corporate world.