The Digital Bahnhof (DigiBahn) Project is an interdisciplinary software development initiative seeking to program a 3D digital game-based learning (3D-DGBL) environment for teaching German language, vocabulary, and culture to advanced high school and beginning university students. The current basic prototype addresses the topics of recycling and waste management in Germany and has been developed to test proof of concept and as a research bed to evaluate how the narrative structures these environments generate can best be leveraged to teach a second language within simulated sociocultural contexts. Project development has been made possible with generous support from the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (CATL) and Teaching and Learning Technologies at Elon University. Future work on the project will be supported through the CATL Scholars Program at Elon University.
The 3D game prototype is the next evolution of an interactive fiction (IF) game that was developed to teach students how to navigate a German train station (available for download here). The 3D game prototype and instructional materials have been developed with open source technologies, freeware, and software that is commonly found in the second language acquisition classroom. Developmental costs have thereby been kept to a minimum, easily within the range of the tight operating budgets that many language departments and programs deal with on a daily basis. Language instructors everywhere are invited to use the game and related materials in their own courses and to adapt or correct them as they see fit. I'm sure that there are numerous errors in the programming code, German language, and instuctional design. It is hoped that the game will show language instructors what is possible with current technologies and will help to serve as a catalyst for them to network in fields traditionally beyond the boundaries of their own discipline (e.g., digital art, computer science). The game, all associated digital resources, and supporting instructional materials are made publicly available under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.
If you would like more information about the project, please contact the project director David Neville (firstname.lastname@example.org). Your feedback and experiences with the game will direct future game development and help create an environment that is fun, educational, and broadly accessible. I did all the 3D development, coding, and instructional design myself in my spare time over the course of one year, so the game doesn't play like Half-Life 2 or Mass Effect 2. It nevertheless hopefully shows the directions that language education can (and should) explore in the coming years.
The game can be downloaded as a compressed .zip file and extracted to your computer. The extracted folder contains two releases of the game: (1) a Windows .exe file, which can be played on a PC, and (2) a Mac universal binary file, which can be played on a Mac computer. An accompanying player guide in .pdf format gives instructions on how the game can be played.
Instructional materials are available for download and include: (1) a PowerPoint presentation on recycling and waste management in Germany, (2) a vocabulary list, (3), classroom exercises; (4) a level-appropriate reading, and (4) a homework assignment. With the exception of the PowerPoint presentation, all instructional materials can be modified in OpenOffice, an open source word processing program.
Game resources are distributed as a Unity package, a proprietary compressed file format that contains all the game source files for 3D models, code, and sound. Please download Unity and install it on your computer before attempting to extract these files. You can either double-click the package, which will prompt Unity to create a new project into which the package will then be imported, or your can import the package into an existing project. As the Unity package is rather large and contains many resources, it may take a while to download and extract all files. Computer code for the game was done in C# in Microsoft Visual Studio Express, 3D model development in Blender, 3D model textures in GIMP, and sound effects with Audacity using open source, royalty free, or collaborative sound resources (e.g., freesound). Once the Unity package has been extracted, all game models, scripts, and sounds can be found in the Assets folder.