Phil Castle, The Business Times
A self-described game evangelist, Robert Madsen believes in the power of video games to not only entertain, but also educate.
That’s why the co-founder of a Grand Junction game company said he’s eager to join in an international effort to develop a video game platform that takes children on space missions while also honing their math skills. “It’s just exciting.”
SynaptixGames has joined with Eduplaytion based in Norway to develop an educational portal titled Numetry.
Kristoffer Hundershagen, founder and chief executive officer of Eduplaytion, said he brought on Madsen as chief technology officer on the project because of expertise as well as his enthusiasm. “He seemed to get it early on. And he seemed passionate about it.”
Madsen said he’ll serve in both technical and managerial roles in writing code for the game and overseeing coders working in Norway and the United States as well as Brazil, Chili, Sweden and Vietnam.
Numetry is scheduled for launch in the third quarter. But preliminary versions of the games are available for testing. Hundershagen said students in 20 schools in Norway are playing Numetry, and he’d like to expand that effort to include students and schools in Grand Junction.
Geared for children ages 9 to 12, Numetry takes players on missions to save a group of lost astronauts. In the process, players learn and apply math skills to solve the problems that arise. Players must complete various levels to advance to the next levels and find out what happens. In the process, they earn rewards in the form of better equipment and spacecraft. At the same time, the platform provides information to teachers and parents on how far children have progressed.
Hundershagen said Numetry addresses a global issue in helping children learn math, but in way that’s more engaging.
“Kids today have a different need, and we need to accommodate that,” Hundershagen said.
Eduplaytion has raised financing for its efforts, he said, including an investment from one of the largest publishers in Norway.
Norwegian companies have joined in what Hundershagen described as a booming ed-tech industry. That includes Kahoot, which has expanded from a digital quiz developer used by teachers into educational gaming.
Madsen said he brings to the project his own experiences in educational game development, including work on projects for LeapFrog.
The key to a successful educational game, he said, is to offer players a compelling story and characters as well as rewards for completing tasks. Parents are willing to buy or subscribe for games for their children if those games help them learn, he added.
Madsen and his son, Stephen, founded SynaptixGames to offer services related to video games, virtual reality and three-dimensional visualization technologies.
In addition to developing their own games, the Madsens provide services to other game developers.
SynaptixGames also joined in the Mars VR Project at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. The Mars VR Project will map the area around the station to recreate the facilities and environment in virtual reality and in turn create training simulations for those working at the station. The station offers a full-scale simulation in which scientists conduct experiments in the same ways they would on Mars — including wearing suits to work outside the station.