Adventure Academy is going to mystify the typical gamer: There are no dragons to fight and no lockboxes to fight over. But if you’re a teacher or you’ve got younger kids, then heads-up because this is one you’re going to want to keep an eye on, especially if you’re angling for ways to get your kidlets involved in online gaming that are demonstrably educational as well as genuinely fun, fully 3-D, and entirely safe.
In studio Age of Learning’s own words, “Adventure Academy is an educational massively multiplayer online game (MMO) for elementary and middle school age students” with “thousands of enjoyable learning activities that are discovered on quests through an interactive virtual world” and a focus “on building critical knowledge and skills in language arts, math, social studies, science, and more.” At launch – slated for May 1st – the game will focus on content for kids in third through sixth grades.
I let my seven-year-old play around in the demo version of the game this past weekend; I watched him create an avatar, wander around the 3-D campus, carry out World of Warcraft-style quests, check out multiple science exhibits, and fall down a rabbit hole of educational videos, after which he dinged up rapidly in very MMO-like levels thanks to accrued experience.
It really does play like an educational MMO with minigames around ever corner, and it’s no wonder: Age of Learning is headed up by folks with an impressive MMORPG pedigree, including Alex Galvagni (former GM of Turbine) and Kevin Beardslee (an original World of Warcraft development veteran, though you might remember him from WildStar and Defiance too), combined with the same studio vets who developed curriculum for ABCmouse, the company’s existing online educational platform.
In fact, I got a chance to pose the studio some questions about the game before we dived in; what follows is our interview with the team!
MassivelyOP: Obviously, the game is oriented for tots and tweens – but how well does it scale up for adults that want to game with their kids? Is it just not built for that sort of play? It seems like from the videos it’s more like ABCmouse in 3-D than like World of Warcraft with educational games – am I wrong?
Age of Learning: Adventure Academy is intended for elementary and middle school aged kids, but parents can certainly have fun playing alongside their children and seeing them learn. In fact, sitting with a child as they play and asking questions about their experience can help further their comprehension and create a deeper understanding of what they’ve learned. Parents may also find the curriculum to be a helpful refresher of their early academic knowledge as well!
In terms of the game format, Adventure Academy is a massively multiplayer online game where kids interact with other learners and explore a virtual, interactive, and expanding 3-D world. Socialization is also one of the main elements of the game, which is different than the single-learner format used in ABCmouse.
I don’t see much by way of WoW-style combat or fighting; is that by design? What about Roblox-style creativity and building?
Adventure Academy is 100% kid-friendly and does not include gameplay with fighting, shooting, or killing. As a game where kids are encouraged to learn and grow, we do hope they are inspired to use their own creativity and pursue what interests them. While Adventure Academy is not a platform for kids to develop their own games, it allows learners to choose their own adventure through questing and exploration. There are also elements such as decorating and arranging your own home – and visiting homes of other learners – which allow kids to express their creativity in a place that is unique to them.
Are you seeing this as more like something school districts will buy into, or something parents will get for their kids, or both?
At launch, our focus is on introducing Adventure Academy to families as an educational game that can be played at home and help augment the learning that takes place in classrooms. As with ABCmouse, our vision is to make this resource available to schools and we are working closely with teachers to incorporate their feedback into the game.
Adventure Academy is a subscription-based model that is a simple, no-surprise option with zero ads or in-app transactions that parents purchase for their kids. Our purpose is to help children build a strong foundation for academic success, and we do not create our products for them to spend their own or their parent’s money to experience new features within the game. The revenue from subscriptions is invested back into Age of Learning so we can continue enhancing Adventure Academy and our other educational programs.
I didn’t see much room for chat in the videos, and I see what look like multiplayer spaces and hubs, but I can’t entirely tell whether multiple kids will be running around there – do those exist in the game? Is there any room for social interaction, and if so, how will it be safeguarded?
We know kids learn best in social environments and there are many opportunities to engage with other players in Adventure Academy. All players explore the same virtual online world, which is busy with real kids exploring by way of their avatars. The neighborhood, which unlocks at level 6, is one example of a zone where players can hangout and visit each other’s homes. The game also has a chat system where learners can communicate with each other at any time. For the future, we are exploring updates to the game that will also support a group setting where players can chat amongst themselves while completing quests and learning activities.
Online safety is a top priority for us. Communication in Adventure Academy is heavily filtered to prevent learners from sharing any personally-identifiable information, including addresses, phone numbers, and social media handles. In addition, we have full-time community management to actively monitor communication across players and remove anyone from the platform that is not abiding by our policy. Players can also report and block other players, if needed.
Parents also control the level of interaction their children have through chat and can block all in-game communication, if desired. When setting up a child profile, parents are required to select one of the following chat settings before starting the game:
- Standard Chat: Child can type in chat. Automatic chat filters are in place to ensure safety.
- Pre-scripted Chat: Child must choose pre-selected messaging. Standard chat can still be seen.
- No Chat: Chat is completely disabled in the game.
I know you folks have devs who built ABCmouse, and it seems clear you’re borrowing from those ideas, so let me ask… how are you going to keep the little ones’ interest longer-term? Or do you even need to? My kids (4 and 7) get bored after fairly short stints playing around in ABCM; things like decorating their rooms and fish tanks and hamster cages have a hard time holding their attention when they know they can go to their tablets or PCs to play something that’s more overtly a game. Are you hoping AA will solve that with more game-ified activities?
Creating an environment where elementary and middle school age kids can learn in a format they know and love was a very important aspect of development. In addition to utilizing the same world-class team of curriculum experts from ABCmouse, we have enlisted experts in game development who have worked on some of the most successful titles in the history of online gaming. This includes Kevin Beardslee, one of the original creators of World of Warcraft, and Alex Galvagni, former General Manager of leading game studio Turbine, creators of The Lord of the Rings Online, Batman: Arkham Underworld, Dungeons and Dragons Online, and Game of Thrones Conquest. Together, these teams have dedicated the past three years to ensure we brought an interactive, enjoyable learning game to life with quality and engaging features on par with those of other premier AAA online games.
Not only does the game include popular features such as avatars, quests, and socialization, it is also comprised of high-quality content to keep kids engaged. Adventure Academy has videos with humor and fun animations; graphic novels that are rich with exciting plots and characters; and live-action videos starring inspirational kids that players can relate with and look up to. At its core, Adventure Academy shows children that there’s a real joy in learning and that building knowledge is fun.
We’d like to thank the folks at Age of Learning for speaking to us! Adventure Academy is slated to launch on May 1st on PC as well as Android and iOS tablets; you can sign up to be notified on the official site.