FableVision, the company who co-created Lure of the Labyrinth (LOTL) with MIT, have released a new online maths game called Villainy Inc. Like LOTL, the game is free and requires the latest Flashplayer download, meaning it can be played on all types of computers with internet access but not iPads/iPods. Also like LOTL, Villainy Inc . links to the standards of the Maryland (US) Mathematics curriculum.
The game is broken into two missions, and each requires the application of several mathematical concepts to achieve the goal of the narrative. Players take on the role of a secret agent going undercover as one of the evil Dr Wick’s own agents in order to undermine his plans for world domination. The good guys maintain contact with you through a watch you wear, and you have 2 agents assigned to you as assistants should you need help. You can also call upon the mysterious Deep Thought if you become stuck on a problem.
The narrative has a stronger presence in Villiany Inc than in LOTL, and is presented in animation rather than in the comic form seen in LOTL. Each part of the narrative reveals the next step in Dr Wick’s plan, and gives players a preview into what kinds of maths will be needed.
Mission one, the Golf of Mexico, is a great problem solving task where players need to apply their understanding of area and perimeter, addition and subtraction, ascending and descending order, multiplication strategies and tessellations. Problem solving skills are developed, as the player may need to complete three or four steps with a different mathematical skill required within any task.
Tools are provided to the player, such as area blocks and a notepad to type on (although I found myself reaching for pen and paper anyway). Measurements are in miles, but that has no impact on this particular mission, as the problem is about area and you only need the distances to multiply them.
The above problem involves the player determining the most expensive option for building Dr Wick’s Golf Course and recommending it to him in order to send him broke quickly. Again relevant tools are provided for the player. This problem has many steps for completion, and as problem solving is an area for improvement in my grade I am particularly looking forward to using this game with my grade.
While Villainy Inc. lacks the sophistication of LOTL’s monitored chat spaces for students and monitoring tools for teachers, Fablevision have once again provided teachers with tips and ideas for using the game in the classroom. They have also provided clear links between each puzzle and the mathematics curriculum standards and supplemental worksheets to extend and support the learning in each puzzle.
There is only one thing that frustrates me about this game (aside from the slightly annoying characters in the narrative) – within Lure of the Labyrinth is Puzzle Mode, and as I teacher I used this to pinpoint the focus of a lesson, e.g. area and perimeter in The West Garden Puzzle, by using a particular puzzle with the whole class when needed. With Villainy Inc. you must play from start to finish, and cannot skip ahead to any puzzle without first completing the ones before it. On the upside, there is no login/password required and the website for the game doesn’t have the word “game” in it, so it won’t be blocked at school. Another great game from FableVision, but as a teacher I need more freedom in accessing the puzzles within the game in order to facilitate student discussion and model problem-solving using the Interactive Whiteboard.
Villainy Inc. is great for students to explore concepts and discover things through trial and error in their own way and own time. I know my students will love it, and I really like the problem-solving aspect of the game.