Lure of the Labyrinth

Lure of the Labyrinth Employee Lounge

Lure of the Labyrinth is an on-line puzzle adventure game, designed to promote math and literacy learning, and is targeted at middle-school students. The product of a collaboration between The Education Arcade, Maryland Public Television, and Fablevision, Johns Hopkins University, and Macro International, the development of Lure of the Labyrinth was orignally funded by the U.S. Department of Education through a Star Schools grant. In 2011, The Education Arcade received additional funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation under a Next Generation Learning Challenges Grant to examine the collaborative potentional of team-play and the in-game messaging system.  During the spring of 2011, more than 25,000 students world-wide participated in the Lure of the Labyrinth Challenge. Nearly 15,000 of those participants were based in US classrooms.
Play Lure of the Labyrinth

 
The Story

You are deep in a mysterious labyrinth, searching for a lost dog, trying to rescue it before who knows what will happen to it. You are not entirely alone; from time to time you are visited by an unearthly sprite who takes the form of a young girl. You can't quite figure out whether she is helping you or leading you astray. More ominously, you occasionally feel a chill wind, and the shadow of a Minotaur falls across your path. You flee in terror, not sticking around to confirm what it was that you saw.
Your one comfort is that you are in regular communications with others who are similarly lost. From time to time you glimpse these fellow wanderers down long corridors, but before you can call out to them they disappear through doors that don't obligingly open for you. Nevertheless, you have access to message boards where you exchange encouragement and more importantly, hints about solving the challenges that block your path. You've already wandered too far into the labyrinth to turn back. The only way through is to go forward, no matter the risk.

The game is available to play on Maryland Public Television (MPT)'s Thinkport website. Teams of students collaborate on solving the puzzles that make up the game's core activity. These puzzles address pre-algebra, with an emphasis on ratio, proportion, number sense, variables, data, and geometry. The story, delivered in graphic novel format supports literacy goals, as will the challenge of communicating with teammates about problem solving strategies.
The Education Arcade designed Lure of the Labyrinth. The challenge in any such design is finding what is game-like in an activity that we normally view as academic. Even when a puzzle emerges, there is still significant effort in adapting it to the technical parameters of the project and to the game story and setting. Just as challenging is the need to envision a game that will feel authentic to students while meeting teachers' educational objectives. MPT has produced several podcasts that expand on the design philosophy of the Lure of the Labyrinth team, as it relates to some of our previous work. These can be found at: www.thinkport.org/technology/gotgame/doandview/podcast.tp .