Plague World: A Modern Prometheus
This unit was developed through support of the MacArthur Foundation and is a unit in the Quest Atlantis project (see QuestAtlantis.org). Modern Prometheus was based on Shelley's Frankenstein and was developed to better understand the power of videogame methodologies and technologies for learning persuasive writing and engaging in ethics.
Ingolstadt: The Plague Unit (or Modern Prometheus) was developed with the goal of better understanding the potential of converting a classic piece of literature, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, into a game that can be used in schools. Connecting to our theory of
the Plague world highlights the potential of how a context can be designed in order to bid for a specific form of player participation, with players being intentionally positioned as agents of change whose purpose is to help the village of Ingolstadt decide if they should allow "Dr. Frank" to keep looking for a cure in spite of his questionable research methods. Players soon learn that persuasive writing is a necessary tool to resolve the game’s narrative conflict. As the game progresses, players’ experience how their choices and use of persuasive writing dramatically changes Ingolstadt and its citizens. This Unit, one of many in the Quest Atlantis project, allows students to engage issues such as medical ethics and contemplate concepts such as the ends justifying the means and the nature of human existence, as they experience a village affected by a disastrous plague.
The first two Missions, What's Wrong in Ingolstadt? and Two Sides of the Problem, introduce Questers to the crisis that has divided the townspeople and gives them their first taste of persuasive writing. Questers see that different people in Ingolstadt have different opinions regarding the doctor, providing Questers with foreshadowing, and they also get a sense of the realities of a plague when they meet Henry, the reporter they must replace because he has been infected. Players also struggle with their own issues of morality as they have to make decisions, potentially ones that challenge the correctness of the law, as they decide whether breaking the law is necessary to reach a greater good.
More than simply reading someone else's story, Questers are positioned as first-person protagonists—apprentice investigative journalists come to write about the plague—who struggle with ethical dilemmas as they advance the narrative storyline. An important part of the Unit is that the Quester receives an initial letter from "mom", explaining what she knows about the grave situation in Ingolstadt. "Mom" includes a letter she just received from Doctor Frank himself, whose writing further establishes the Quester as the protagonist with an important role. Again, all of this was designed to establish for the player a sense of conceptual play.
The examples below show some of the situations and information Questers gain within the space.