* Title * Contents * Introduction * Place * System * Design * Using * Future * Bibliography
* Introduction * Overview
"For better or worse, simulation is no mere fad. Indeed, to think of simulation games as mere entertainment or even
as teaching tools is to underestimate them. They represent a major addition to the intellectual repertoire that will
increasingly shape how we communicate ideas and think through problems. The advent of this new medium has escaped the attention
of cultural critics because it has come in the form of children's games. But the computer simulation game is an art form; when
combined with three-dimensional graphics and sound, it is an extraordinarily powerful one. We shall be working and thinking in
SimCity for a long time." (Starr, 1994)
In recent years, educators have recognized that simulation environments offer rich learning possibilities. Simulation
environments support a critical strategy for understanding our rich and complex world--making evocative simplifications or
models of aspects of that world. For most people, however, there are two kinds of simulations--those with transparent models
that are trivial and those with opaque models that are interesting. Most high school students, for example, would probably see
the behavior of an elastic ball in a box model that was presented to them as trivial and transparently connected to the rules.
By contrast, the same students would likely have a hard time figuring out what the model generating the interesting behavior of
the hit simulation toy SimCity was at all. The big question in research on simulations and learning is how to help people to
add a third kind--simulations with models that start simple and transparent but that develop in complexity in step with the
user's ability to understand them.
One strategy for creating such simulations is to have people build them. For people who find programming accessible, systems
such as StarLogo (Resnick 1994), Logo (Papert 1980), and Stella (Richmond and Peterson 1992; Mandinach and Cline 1994) have
demonstrated that having students construct simulations is a viable strategy for creating simulations of the third kind.
MarketPlace, an Internet-accessible environment for the play and discussion of multiperson market simulation games, takes a
different, albeit potentially synergistic approach. MarketPlace takes advantage of the presence of multiple humans to ease the
representation of complex dynamical social situations. Much of the "model" is moved into the realm of human interaction and
discussion. What the system is a simulation of changes as the understanding of the participants changes their
The formal rules themselves are quite simple and can be quickly explained. When human players are added to the mix, however,
the resulting market behavior is quite complex. This behavior is presented in real time through an interface that helps users
to track the state of the system and the actions of the other players.
To learn about the model, users need to make connections between the rules and what happens in the game. MarketPlace aids this
effort by showing how particular surface behaviors connect to specific rules in the model.
MarketPlace thus provides a new way for people to explore ideas about market mechanisms. While market mechanisms underlie a
wide variety of phenomena in the modern world, people tend to have great difficulty understanding the limitations and
possibilities of market ideas. By embedding its multi-person simulations in a discussion environment, MarketPlace helps users
to think about markets in new ways.