Saturday, October 6, 2018

Let's Explore Geography! Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation Exercise

"Let's Explore Geography! Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation."  is an entry in the 2018 interactive fiction competition, written by Carter Sande, using an unusual gaming platform: Desmos.

The game description presents this as educational software. The title was so campy that I wasn't sure if I was preparing to play an actual educational game, or a parody. Even when I arrived at the title page, telling me to log in with a Desmos student code, I still wasn't sure.

I only became familiar with Desmos recently myself. It is becoming a popular online graphing platform for secondary school students, and also features a number of really well developed interactive activities which can be assigned by teachers. If you are a teacher, I recommend the platform. It will allow you to print out a report of the participation and competency of each student in class after an assigned activity.

Regarding this particular Desmos gamelet, "Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation" this thing is the real deal. You drive across Canada in your giant truck, buying various tradegoods or raw materials, and hoping them to sell them at a profit somewhere further down the road. The scale of this simulation is impressive. You can drive across Canada, visiting literally dozens of cities, learning about the cultural attractions in each place and buying geographically appropriate commodites. I have family in Canada (for real) and have visited almost half the provinces, so this part of the simulation was sort of fun for me.

However, as an educational tool, I'm not sure it will have much potential. I was shocked when the game allowed me to become stranded in Manitoba, my truck and cargo stolen from me in the middle of the night. Does that really happen in Canada? I was even more startled to realize that the game can be ended on the first move, simply by "going home". That will  be a game ender for many players.

The radio button interface in Desmos is a little clunky for this purpose. I doubt it will become the if comp platform of the future. On the other hand, this was the first game of the competition that drew my attention enough to write a review, and I'm glad I tried it.