In an effort to make learning Chinese less painful (and ostensibly to capitalise on the 'MMO as language learning tool' trend that's been talked about a bit in the past few months), Michigan State University's Zhao Yong (professor of education technology and educational psychology) has designed Zon!, where players can graduate from tourist to resident to citizen of this little virtual slice of China:
The goal is to fare well and advance socially and economically, with players advancing from "tourists" to "residents" and finally to "citizens" of modern China. At the different stages, players encounter quests, have access to learning materials - including live Chinese tutors - and can organize and participate in social activities.
Among the many tasks players can complete in the tourist stage are ordering a taxi, exchanging currency and checking into a hotel in China.
"Games are supposed to be fun and educational," Zhao said. "With this one, we have struck a good balance."
I wonder if the Zon! cabbies are as chatty as the guys in Shanghai or Taipei. It's a neat idea for facilitating language acquisition — if only it weren't in hateful jiantizi.