I first met David Goutcher a couple of years ago and he told me about his career as a former Strathclyde Police CID officer who send many years as an undercover detective in Scotland. When he left the Police force he put his efforts into developing and interesting product called Spy Quest (originally Super Spy Camp).
David’s Idea was simple (the best ones always are). How can you combine the excitement of being a spy, with a simple ‘text driven’ computer game and at the same time reinforce some key learning principles of learning. This lead to the formation of Polybius Games and the game was designed to be played in hotels and on Cruise Ships.
Now, if you think you know about computer games and you have not heard of the Polybius Video Game (of urban legend) then you need to seriously go away and revise your computer game history. Or just read this Wikipedia article – Polybius (video game).
One of the things that really impressed me about David and his company (apart from his sheer enthusiasm and passion) is at a time when the bottom was falling out of the Scottish Computer Game Market (I’m sure we all remember Real Time Worlds). He created a simple game, using a different business model which is now being played by million of people all over the world and has been translated into 26 different languages. All this has happened in four years. It’s not just me that thinks that this is good either Polybius Games has also won the John Logie Baird Innovation Award in 2010 and has been recognised by NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) for educational enterprise.
When I read through his portfolio I found out his clients included Gleneagles, Center Parcs, Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort in Walt Disney World, Florida, and the Four Seasons in the United States.
Over coffee we chatted about how the game may be relevant to a more formal education setting. For me the link with Spy’s was an obvious one – there is something about spy’s, secret agents, James Bond and solving mysteries that captivates the imagination of children. But I also loved the idea that many of the codes within the game were based on ‘real-life’ code breaking from various times in our history. Thus, providing a link to history, numeracy and problem solving.
In fact the more that I thought about it – and just like most things really – I could see that with the right learning and teaching approaches the game could be effectively used in schools. I put David in contact with Dunbar Grammar School where I was Head of Geography a number of years ago and they tried a custom version of the game out with a group of ne P7 children as part of their primary to secondary transition work. The guidance team at the school were impress with how well the children took to the game, how it helped them get to know the school and also how much they enjoyed the activity.
David asked me to write a white paper - which I did. I was keen to support a Scottish Enterprise and I’m always keen to support Playful Approaches to Learning. I was also impressed with David’s future plans for his product and game. In particular I enjoyed a children’s book that he had commission titled Polybius - The Urban Legend, what impressed me even more was that it had been written by Andy Briggs.
Anyway, I was delighted to see that David’s business (of training future Super Spies!) seems to be going from strength-to-strength. So, much so it has got a vary favourable write up in this weeks Times Educational Supplement (Scotland). Apparently, even our Cabinet Secretary for Education – Michael Russell, MSP has been playing it.
Well done David! – best of luck for the future and with Spy Quest – as far as I am concerned, Scotland needs more entrepreneurs like you!
Read the full article in the TESS here.