Alongside the recent announcement
of a $50 million grant by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to examine the impact of technology on children, a report from CNET News has highlighted
that $240,000 of the money will create an MMO built around the world and works of William Shakespeare.
The project, titled Arden: The World of Shakespeare
, is a MMO-style academic PC game, and will allow players to live and interact with the virtual landscape of 17th century Europe. In addition, the game, which is being developed with the help of Edward Castronova, an associate professor of telecommunications at Indiana University, will also serve as a tool for serious social-science related research.
“We're going to be building a massively multiplayer world that we hope someday will be kind of like the commercial-grade ones with quests and monsters and so, but we have a somewhat different goal than that of the commercial sector,” commented Castronova, who added, “We'd like to allow our players to learn something valuable, so that's why it's about Shakespeare.”
It's unclear when the game will launch exactly, as according to Castronova, Arden
is still very early in its development. However, the report notes that once released, Castronova, who has authored a book on virtual worlds titled "Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games”, plans to use the game as a means of conducting ongoing social-science experiments involving the game's player community.
"Now we have this technology for making little pocket societies and we can do different governments, different economies, different social norms in the different environments," he said, "and see how it affects the things we care about, like equality and justice and growth and efficiency."