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GCG Feature: 'Increasing Student Retention in Computer Science'

In the latest feature for Gamasutra's sister educational site Game Career Guide, University of Rhode Island faculty Peter Stephenson introduces the attraction o
In the latest feature for Gamasutra's sister educational site Game Career Guide, University of Rhode Island faculty Peter Stephenson introduces the attraction of virtual environments, followed by postmortems of simulation games by URI students Stephen Lecrenski and Brent Peckham. In this excerpt, Stephenson introduces the University of Rhode Island's Research Experience for Undergraduates program, which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation to encourage student retention in computer science in graduate programs and scientific careers, and the two student developed games that follow in the feature: "One current research direction that we are pursuing in the program is the use of serious games in education and entertainment. Serious gaming is a burgeoning industry with several well known titles, the most famous and infamous being America's Army with over 7.5 million registered players as of October 2006. America's Army was developed by the U.S. government as a public relations and recruitment tool but they freely admit that they cannot quantifiably state how well it serves these purposes. For what training or teaching purposes are serious games useful? Is realism critical? Can tasks be simplified and maintain their training impact? Do serious games improve on or augment simulated and classroom training? From a research perspective, many of these questions are open. In these two projects we developed two small yet serious games with the aim to evaluate and compare their educational impacts. The first takes players into the unreachable environment 4000 metres below sea level. The second, allows people to explore the world though the eyes of someone with a visual impairment. Both of these games puts the player in a situation that they could otherwise not be. But as gamers know, that is the beauty and attraction of virtual environments." You can now read the full Game Career Guide feature for more on the students' deep sea and visual impairment simulations created under the Research Experience for Undergraduates program (no registration required, please feel free to link to this column from external websites).

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