Educational online game on the way from Gainesville startup


Lindsey Tropf and her husband Ryan, with Immersed Games, work at their Starter Space office on Wednesday in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, July 25, 2014 at 6:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 25, 2014 at 6:25 p.m.

A Gainesville startup is developing an educational online role-playing game designed to teach players the same subjects they learn in school.

Tyto is an online game set in the future aimed at middle and high school students. It was developed by Immersed Games, an educational game company based out of the Starter Space at 308 W. University Ave.

"We're really trying to expand what an educational video game is," said CEO Lindsey Tropf.

Tyto is set in a future where Earth is in decline and is evacuated. The player is admitted to Tyto Academy, a facility on a distant planet where he or she helps researchers and scientists solve problems.

The first module will teach the players about ecology. For example, one mission might involve a scientist tasking the player to find out whether a plant on the new planet is invasive, Tropf said. The player would have to find each plant in that species, compare its population over time and make a population map.

The game is in the genre of massively multiplayer online role-playing games, or MMORPG, similar to "World of Warcraft" but with educational puzzle solving instead of combat, Tropf said.

Players gain "levels" in areas such as life science, which allows them to tackle more complicated problems.

Immersed Games has consulted with educators to craft a rich learning environment, according to a news release from the company.

Tropf founded the company in 2012. She is a doctoral candidate in school psychology at the University of Florida, working on her dissertation on educational video games.

The company has five co-founders, among them a writer, a programmer and a creative director. Between 15 and 20 interns also volunteer their time to help with the project, Tropf said.

Tropf was inspired to make an educational MMORPG after playing "World of Warcraft" and realizing that she had learned lore from the game world, complicated game mechanics and strategies for success. She said she realized those kinds of games could be used to teach real-world school subjects.

The project has raised 42 percent of its $50,000 goal on the fundraising platform Kickstarter. The company also got $5,000 from Dell Computers after coming in second place in the Dell Social Innovation Challenge in December 2013.

The game is still a long ways off from hitting the market, Tropf said. Immersed Games is looking to begin a closed beta test later in the summer.

Immersed Games hasn't settled on a business model for Tyto yet, she said. Most games in the genre have traditionally used a subscription-based model that charges $10 or $15 per month. In recent years, more free games have popped up, though.

Tyto might use the subscription model, or it might use corporate advertising in the game to make it free. It also might have a tiered model in which the basic game offering personal-enrichment learning is free, with the option of subscribing to a premium account that is tied to real school curriculum.

"We've got several options," Tropf said. "We're going to have to play around with the business model."

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