One Spark Reflection | Lindsey
Last week at One Spark was such an incredible experience. Previously we had mainly talked to friends and family about Immersed Games and what we were building – and a few more people we met in the Gainesville startup community. The response had been positive, but there’s nothing that really compares to putting yourself out into the public to get real feedback.
We went with the goal of getting customer validation and asking about some of our assumptions – whether people wanted an educational MMORPG (an online multiplayer game like World of Warcraft) as much as we thought they would, and then also some questions about if parents would pay a subscription, would be okay with sponsorships to help cost, etc. We had an app on our phones for collecting this data as we talked to people, but we stopped using it because (1) everyone was loving the idea, so the data seemed pretty pointless with no variation (2) we didn’t have time to ask many of our other questions when we were so slammed with people and awesome conversations. We did take lots of notes as people recommended resources, conferences, etc. to us.
The one thing I keep thinking back to is a conversation I had with a middle schooler. He walked up as I was waiting to pitch at the pitch deck, so it was just me without the booth display. I asked if he was a gamer and he said he was a big one. I told him we were making an educational MMORPG (I know I can use the terms with gamers). His eyes got really wide and he said he’d never heard of that before. I said, “an MMORPG?” (thinking he wasn’t really that big of a gamer if he didn’t know what that was), and he said, “no, an educational one! Wait, how would that work?”
So I explained to him an example of perhaps an educational task during an ecology unit where you get a quest from a scientist who wants help figuring out the local ecosystem because there is a problem and they need to understand what the food chain is like. You control a nanobot that lets you act as an animal – starting with something small like a plankton. You then get eaten and control each animal briefly as you get eaten all the way up the food chain. You turn the quest in to the scientist and realize that something else could have eaten you at another point, so perhaps it’s more like a web than a chain. And you do it again and begin to chart out how the ecosystem is actually more like an interactive food web. In this way, you’re learning in an active and constructive way through quests in a game.
At that point, he was sold on the idea and we began to chat about the possibilities, and how we were building it (he was actually already familiar with the Unity engine). I believe he shook my hand and encouraged me about 4x before leaving with his father, so thrilled about the idea of an educational MMORPG.
When we talked to gamers, the response was often similar. Commercial games involve a large amount of learning – just learning about strategies and items that aren’t important outside of the game, and most educational games don’t take advantage of the power of what games can truly be. It’s that idea that got people so excited when talking with us, and us so excited about how strongly people believed in our educational game.