Iterative Design & Development of the ‘World of Balance’ Game: From Ecosystem Education to Scientific Discovery
Advances in computer science are continuing to help expand a new subfield of ecology based on computational analyses of complex ecological networks where the nonlinear dynamics of many interacting species can be more realistically modeled and understood. Research has recently elucidated how the network structure of feeding relationships both generally stabilize complex ecosystems and also specifically predict effects of experimentally removing species. Still, further research is inhibited by the exponential increase of parameter space with the number of nonlinearly interacting species. Such increases prevent more thorough exploration and understanding of complex ecosystems. Here, we describe how intelligent interfaces for multiplayer games help researchers surpass these limitations. Our applications including a multiplayer online game, “World of Balance,” educates players about interdependence and non-linear population dynamics among species within ecosystems while helping to explore critically important parameter space in a scientifically productive manner. Our evaluation tests found that benefits of playing World of Balance on knowledge gain and learning significantly surpassed the benefits of reading scientific articles among undergraduates. Such work efficiently leverages multiple resources to expand education and research potential within critically important areas of ecology and sustainability science.
Ilmi is an associate professor in Computer Science Dept of San Francisco State University. She earned both her MS and Ph.D degree in Computer Science at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles in 1996 and 2000. Her thesis was “Web-based Remote Rendering using Image-Based Rendering Techniques.” While she continued her research on Interactive Graphics on the web, she shifted her focus on multiplayer game based learning, computer science education and science discovery game design and development. She has developed “DeBugger, educational MMORPG for computer science students.” She is a PI of NSF Tues grant, “Transforming Experience of Computer Science Software Development through Multiplayer Online Game Classroom Collaboration in Industrial Format”. She is currently developing a Multiplayer Ecology Science Discovery Game, “World of Balance” with ecology research group. She published several papers on these topics.