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World of EngCraft ?

It has come to my attention that an increasing number of students spend much of their youth playing video games such as ”world of warcraft” and for those more energetic youths games with dance mats are becoming very popular.

About a year I discovered that some people can take a very long time to become attuned to the way their character moved upon the screen, one day I was challenged to have a go of the game. I created a character (partly as a joke) and then went into battle. My wife was surprised at the rapid speed at which I was able to move and control my troll (sadly I could not find a bridge to hide under from which I could menace Billy goats).

I came rapidly to the conclusion that all the hours of getting very seasick while trying to learn to use chemical visualisation software may have acted as a very effective cross training for world of warcraft. A decade of peering at atoms and bonds in lattices has changed the way in which I peer into the virtual world which only exists inside the computer.

Rather than attempting to create an elite shock troop of super scientists by getting the next generation of students to spend much of their time playing conventional video games. I asked myself the question of could we write video games which force students to reach new heights of understanding and ability within conventional fields of academic endeavour.

I considered “world of mathcraft”, this would be modelled on world of warcraft. I might even be inclined to offer the contract to blizzard. Here the students would be immersed in a mathematical world where instead of pressing “1” for a fireball to incinerate the goblin which is swinging a sword at them they could have to press more buttons in a calculus duel with some creatures.

I imagine that the goblin might attempt to differentiate your troll while giving a problem with the string y=x3, dy/dx = 3×2, y = q sin x.

You would need to reply with dy/dx = q cos x, before rapidly typing your own problem to mess the goblin up.

If you fail to keep up with the goblin then you character’s pocket calculator would catch fire dealing 100 health points damage to your character. If the goblin manages to deal three successful attacks in 20 seconds the calculator would explode causing an additional 400 points of damage. However if a character kills another character with a calculus attack and then fails to solve their own calculus problem within 5 seconds then their own character will start to burn at a rate of 50 health points per second, if the problem is still unsolved after 10 seconds then the ground would open up and swallow your character.

Rather than being able to resurrect either at the graveyard or by finding your body you would have to pass a first year undergraduate level algebra exam question to get your character to come back to life. I imagine that this game if made attractive in different ways could lead to a group of 15 year old boys becoming world class experts in calculus.

The world of warcraft game could be modified to teach engineering, I think that instead of making objects such as bombs and the normal WoW weapons. The first item which the engineer should make would be a paper clip, the next item should be a ballpoint pen after making 10 ballpoints I think that the engineering profession in the game should concentrate on making items which are of use in modern society. The game should be equipped with a sketching pad function to force the player to design their own gadget. For example if they make an error in the plans for the rubbish incinerator for Stormwind then the municipal waste incinerator would belch black smoke and the screen would go black. It should stay that way for hours while hoots of derision and anger would be emitted from the game as the other characters try to clear the smoke out of the city.

Another character could get a special bonus for making a fume extraction system which would clean up the city air.

Perhaps the players who have professions should be required to obey health and safety rules, for example the players who mine should be required to don dust masks before using power drills to dig out their ores. Also the forge where the smelting occurs should be equipped with a filter and a scrubber to clean the flue gases. If the players fail to use the right technology to clean their flue gases then either their character would get an industrial disease (a debuff) or the guards of the city would chase after them, arrest them and bring them before a court for environmental crimes.

Some ores would be worse than others, for instance chromium ores would be required for making stainless steels but these would have a tendency to make chromate dust during the smelting. Also zinc plating would be possible by hot dipping, but the characters would need to take care to avoid getting metal fume fever. Perhaps a chemist and an engineer should help with the next version of world of warcraft.


2 Responses

  1. Of course, for the people that are really into games such as World of Warcraft, there’s already a decent amount of math involved to calculate the balance of stats that you need to optimize the damage/healing/etc. done by your character. There’s a whole world of theorycrafting that involves making those calculations.

    • I had never thought of that, but I would be interested to know what level of maths is required for these calculations

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