When the press announcement for a new game comes across my desk with the title "What if Fortnite Taught Kids Something", I tend to take note. As a former teacher and someone who now works in the gaming sector, the possibilities for such a thing are intriguing. So what is Adventure Academy and what can it do for your kids? Let's find out.
If you are the parent of elementary or middle-school kids, you know that it can be a tough row to hoe when it comes to quality learning experiences. With ever-increasing distractions from media bombardment on all sides, convincing them that learning can, in actuality, be fun, is a tough sell. The good thing is that there are like-minded parents, talented developers and inventive educators out there who know that sometimes you take the fight to where kids live in a metaphorical sense.
Enter Age of Learning and their upcoming educational MMO, Adventure Academy.
If you've dabbled in educational sites for your kids, you may have run across ABCmouse.com, a subscription site dedicated to children from 2-8 and packed with games and learning experiences geared for the digital generation. Adventure Academy comes to the world from the same creative team that has spent over three years and $50M creating a unique learning environment for the elementary and middle school aged crowds. The team of over 100 developers has been led by Kevin Beardslee, one of the original developers of World of Warcraft. He brings his unique knowledge of MMOs to the educational sphere.
While Adventure Academy is fun, there is no question that curriculum comes first, but it's packaged in a way that has become the norm for kids today. When first entering, players are asked to create a unique ID and character, complete with customization options you would expect to find in any quality MMO. Players can customize skin tone, hair color, eye color, gender, hairstyle, and choose from a number of clothing options as well.
Once done, then it's off to school, though, again, in a way that will appeal to the gamer in kids. The "school" itself is a stereotypical university-type building, though in its own way, it sort of reminded me of Harry Potter's first view of Hogwarts, though less spikey! Graphically, the game reminds me of a modernized Wizard101.
Entering the larger game world. players immediately see a quest giver. Yes, the yellow exclamation point over the head quest giver is a thing in Adventure Academy. It's an instantly familiar game trope that most school-aged kids will understand. Quest givers are voiced and accompanying text is included. Players set off into the school building to meet the staff that currently consists of the Headmaster, Librarian, Math Professor and Science Teacher. As players speak to each, they are given additional quests to head to the nearby kiosks to try out a variety of tasks.
The kiosk that I visited was one that was themed around grammar and writing. Presented in a video format with a character narrating the action, I was tasked with placing words in the correct places in a preformatted sentence. Success meant moving on to the next mini-story, while failure gave me the option to try again. I progressed through about a dozen different stories before completing the activity which, when finished, awarded me points on the way to...you guessed it...leveling up! I also had the option to "favorite" the activity to return to it at a later point with all new stories to try out or to try on a hard difficulty level. Think of playing through your favorite World of Warcraft dungeon on Mythic+!
Other things are interactive too. Clicking on a poster on the wall reveals tips about where to find various rooms in the school or can even whisk a player off to learn more about archaeology or zoology or other subjects that just might grab the reluctant learner.
Adventure Academy will be a subscription service for $9.99 per month or $60 for a family accessible to multiple children. For those jaded by the adult MMO experience: There will be no microtransactions or ads of any sort. Lastly, online safety is a priority for kids playing Adventure Academy. Chat is filtered to prevent any sharing of personal information and a full-time community management team is on hand to keep tabs on all communication between players that is, by the way, under parental control as to what types of communication kids can participate in.
I can't say enough good things about Adventure Academy. In my time playing, I actually learned a few things and could absolutely see the appeal to kids today. It really speaks well that the team is using the things that kids are engaged with as tools for teaching all the while making it a fun experience complete with leveling up, exploration, and a fully-featured MMO experience.
The game doesn't go live until May 1st, but in the meantime, you can sign up for email updates on the Adventure Academy site.