Why The Ludus Project?
Ready Player One is a rollicking adventure story set in 2045. It’s the story of Wade Watts, a young man who goes on a treasure hunt in the Oasis, a virtual world people escape to when real life gets too violent and dirty. In Cline’s dystopian future, many kids go to virtual school in Oasis’s virtual universe on a virtual planet called Ludus.
Then I remembered that Ludus was also a Latin word, meaning “school.” … Ludus could mean “school,” but it could also mean “sport” or “game.” James Halliday had spent billions to fund the creation of the Oasis public school system as a way to demonstrate the huge potential of the Oasis as an educational tool. Upon his death, Halliday had set up a foundation to ensure the Oasis public school system would always have the money it needed to operate. The Halliday Learning Foundation also provided impoverished children around the globe with free Oasis hardware and internet access so that they could attend school inside the Oasis.” Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
Cline imagines a learning environment where kids are motivated intrinsically—that is, they learn by getting a sense of competence, autonomy, and relatedness from the learning process itself.
- A sense of competence: they know when they learn something and that feels good.
- A sense of autonomy: they have control over how they learn and that feels good.
- A sense of relatedness: they work with others to learn and that feels good.
In Glued to Games, Scott Rigby and Richard Ryan review compelling research that says that intrinsic learning is not only more fun; it is better: knowledge is deeper and it’s retained much longer.
Where does intrinsic learning occur these days? Sometimes it’s in schools, but often, it’s in videogames and virtual worlds. Kids learn teamwork from World of Warcraft, history from Civilization and Assassin’s Creed, and creative problem-solving from Minecraft and Portal.
The emerging fields of games-based learning, serious games, meaningful games, games for health—all that cool stuff—give me hope. What if people could learn on their own time and in ways that played to their strengths, took advantage of their individual learning styles, and motivated them in effective, intrinsic ways? What if anyone anywhere could take advantage of rigorously researched learning approaches, amazing new technologies, and the best, wisest, most knowledgeable teachers?
We’re not there yet. Not even close. This world, our own nascent dystopia, is full of problems, and sometimes we get discouraged. But most everyone agrees that better education is one of our best hopes for working on problems, reducing conflict, and increasing equality. Right now, at this moment, smart researchers and educators are working on ways to make education more accessible, more effective, and more enjoyable. We want to support those people.
With the Ludus Project, we hope to contribute in some small way to making learning better—and more fun—for all of us.