UW-Madison educational video game ‘The Legend of the Lost Emerald’ wins top prize at 54th Annual Public Media Awards

The legend of the lost emeraldan educational video game developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, won first prize at the 54th Annual Public Media Awards in the category of educational resources for classrooms. The game, designed by Field Day Labfocuses on teaching maritime archeology to fourth, fifth and sixth graders through story-based play.

Field Day Lab, a Wisconsin Center for Education Research lab that creates educational games, collaborated with PBS Wisconsin and Wisconsin Sea Grant, a program that funds original research with an extension of education around the science of Great Lakes, to create the game.

“David Gagnon – head of Field Day Labs – wanted to find projects where he can advance the same literacy [of the Great Lakes to the state of Wisconsin]said Anne Moser, Wisconsin Sea Grant librarian and educational coordinator. “In this case, I suggested wrecks because I had been doing this programming for a few years and the kids were reacting very positively to the subject.”

Kids play the role of a maritime archaeologist searching for a sunken freighter in Lake Superior while discovering other sunken ships in the Great Lakes. As children uncover clues about the ship type, ship name, artifacts, and historical significance, they learn real-life archaeological techniques and procedures.

Game producer Jim Mathews and his team met with a group of teachers and archaeologists to visit the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc to learn about the history of shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. According to Mathews, many stories and characters in the game contained aspects of real events.

“Each of the shipwrecks is sort of a composite of an actual Great Lakes shipwreck,” Mathews said. “These aren’t real shipwrecks, and there are reasons why we did that, but some characters are inspired by real people or real stories that happened.”

The story allows players to connect with the characters through feelings of happiness, curiosity, and even sadness – all crucial elements of the game.

“Emotion is such a huge part of it – you’re trying to connect with the game and get them to care about this story and go beyond the mechanics,” Mathews said.

Teacher and student feedback and collaboration were other major factors that went into creating the game.

“We brought in a group of teachers to co-design the game and make sure we were making something they would use in the classroom that would meet their needs,” Mathews said. “We tested it with teachers, we tested it with students, and they helped shape it along the way.”

According to Mathews and Moser, they collectively hoped the game would spark students’ curiosity about the history of their own neighborhoods.

“I hope [students] can generate a curiosity in them where they can be excited not only about shipwrecks, but also historical research and learning about the past – especially in their own region,” Matthews pointed out.

Enjoy what you read? Get content from The Daily Cardinal delivered to your inbox

The Daily Cardinal has covered the University and community of Madison since 1892. Please consider donating today.

About Shelly Evans

Check Also

Launch of new visual and sound teasers for the video game Mass Effect 5

The long-awaited fifth main entry in the Mass Effect video game franchise is still a …