Zapdramatic is a web-based interactive game and simulation series for developing life skills with a focus on Negotiation, Dispute Resolution and Ethics. It was founded in 2000 by Canadian filmmaker Michael Gibson and negotiation experts Allan Stitt and Frank Handy. Recent productions range from a University Certificate online course on Negotiation to the online murder mystery game Ambition which has attracted hundreds of thousands of users world-wide.
Zapdramatic has won the Excellence in Learning category at the Canadian New Media Awards and the Vortex Prize in New Media at the McLuhan International Festival of the Future. Now Gibson is planning a relaunch. Zapdramatic is subscription-based, costing 35 Candian dollars a year. I have used them extensively in my business English classes, so I find they are a really good deal. Many of the games are available for free: The Zapdramatic negotiation games for adults include The Raise, The Print Shop and Interview with a Vagabond.
A new game, Sir Basel Pike Public School, is in the works. It targets bullying among boys and girls age 10-14 and will be launched on 1 October. Part one of the game can already be previewed at www.zap.ca/pike.
To use these games in class you must be online, have Flash installed on the computer(s) you are using and have audio set up. I generally play the game / do the simulation as a whole class activity (using a laptop with internet access and a projector), brainstorming the situation up front, and then designating a player, with the rest of the class as advisors discussing every step and reviewing and analyzing the strategy. In a media lab with a number of computers you can do these simulations as group work. Like most interactive games, they also lend themselves to writing summaries and reenacting elements in live roleplay or simulation. Since the games have word-for-word subtitles (for the hearing impaired) they are great for EFL work on phrases.
These games excel because they force players to empathise with someone who thinks very differently than they do. As the player must invariably fail, they force learners to overcome their fear of failing in order to reap the reward of winning. They appeal to a generation that has grown up playing games, moving up competitively, level by level. And they are psychologically interesting enough to appeal to women in particular.
Try them out and let Michael Gibson (firstname.lastname@example.org) know what you think.
He has just been featured on the Interactive Ontario website with this video interview:
Mark Powell introduced Zapdramatic as part of the LCCI CertTEB course I attended a few years ago.