Ready player one: Murdoch researchers use video game in tourism unit


Murdoch University’s Yohei Okamoto.
Murdoch University’s Yohei Okamoto.

MURDOCH researchers have shown video games can be more than a simple pastime, incorporating one they created into a tourism unit.

Based on the idea they can engage, entertain, offer knowledge and boost problem-solving skills, Eunice Tan and Yohei Okamoto examined how games could be used to teach sustainable tourism.

To do so they created a simulation that parachutes players into the role of Minister for Trade, Tourism and Development of a fictional island called Kamling.

Mr Okamoto said one of the aims was to balance the amount and type of tourists coming in while preserving local traditions and cultures.

Players receive scores, reactions from their team of advisors and feedback from the community based on their decisions.

“Tourism can bring many benefits to a country including job creation, infrastructure development, economic prosperity and a global awareness of social and cultural issues,” Mr Okamoto said.

“But there’s also the dark side of tourism which can mean locals are negatively impacted by increased pollution and waste, damage to nature and resources, elevated crime and higher costs of living.”

Mr Okamoto said the story-rich virtual world allowed for safe experimentation.

“Through role playing, creating an identity and doing quests, the game stimulates thought and self-reflection about the impact of their choices,” he said.

“There is a wealth of research on the effectiveness of digital game-based learning but a dearth of information in the context of sustainability education – and this is what our research seeks to investigate.”

A conceptual report on the game, iPlay, iLearn, iConserve: Digital Game-based Learning for Sustainable Tourism Education, earned the pair the Best Paper award at the 2018 ASEAN Tourism Research Association Conference in Thailand.

Mr Okamoto said the Sustainable Tourism Simulation game had been implemented into tourism units, creating a great discussion point for students.

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