A new space shooter online video game developed by a Canadian University uses lush graphics and challenging quests into outer space to teach a little Shakespeare. Gamers become pilots of an elite squadron of ships whose mission is to guard an ancient text called Romeo and Juliet.
The game, called Speare, is available as a free demo, upon registration with a company set up by the university.
Speare was tested on 100 sixth graders but only after game designers specifically devised a game that will not run kids off with its ‘educational’ label:
“They had a blast with it!”
â€œWe took the video gaming medium and made it an educational tool, and it hasnâ€™t been easy, but I think weâ€™ve done an amazing job of it,â€ says English professor Daniel Fischlin, whoâ€™s also the director of the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project (CASP), which will host the game for free on its Web site, www.canadianshakespeares.ca.
â€œGamers are swearing that, in terms of the level of programming and concept, this game is unique,â€ he says. â€œThe game is beautiful graphically, and all the elements are text-based and learning-based. And it teaches literacy without being overly didactic.â€
Plot information is woven into the game in a subtle way to help the players move toward their goals. The names of the planets, for instance, resemble the Capulets and Montague families of the play. Learning certain lines of the text, digging out facts of the Bard’s life, and devising synonyms and homonyms for Shakespeare’s word choices all add to the advancement of the play.
An interactive folio is included if the gamer wants to understand more fully the reason behind the plot, which developers call the most media-rich interactive version of the play ever conceived. There is also a teachers’ component so the game can be used in classrooms including teachers’ modules with activites.
Speare was released this week to coincide with the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The company, Apollo Games, worked on the project for two years and is in development on a number of other gaming products.