Leland Teschler's Editorial: Does Engineering Make for Great Online Gaming?

March 2, 2010
Does engineering make for great online gaming?

If your household has been teenager-free for the past 15 years, you might be oblivious to the card game called Magic: The Gathering. Created by a math professor and released in the early 1990s, it today has an estimated 6 million players. Though Magic has a Dungeons & Dragons look to it, the game is intellectually challenging. Magic players hone their skills in strategy, logic, arithmetic, and in keeping a level head during the heat of competition.

There is even a pro Magic tour, though the idea of teenagers traveling the country playing cards for money might seem a little bizarre. All in all, the allure of both monetary gain and analytical challenge has attracted a lot of sharp young minds to Magic.

And that brings us to a new online game aimed at engineers with its own opportunities for monetary gain and cerebral gymnastics. The World’s Smartest Design Engineer (WSDE) game is now live online at www.smartestdesignengineer.com. It is hosted by my avatar, a likeness of which adorns this column, and comes from many months of hard work by the editors in the Penton Media Design Engineering Group, of which Machine Design is a part.

I guarantee it asks some challenging engineering questions — I wrote some of them myself. And WSDE will be a chance for engineers to get paid for being knowledgeable: The big winner, named next year, gets not just bragging rights but also will receive at least $5,000 in prize money. Players will have a full 12 months to accumulate points by correctly answering engineering questions — a lot of engineering questions — in a variety of categories.

But accumulating points may be more difficult than it sounds at first. Each wrong answer subtracts from your total. And the questions get harder as you progress to the upper levels of the game. (After you see a few of the questions I came up with for Level 5 in some of the categories, I doubt I’ll be on your holiday card list.) You’ll likely have to do well in most of the game’s eight categories to have a shot at the game’s big prize. Oh, and you may be able to Google an answer for some of the simpler questions, but not the hard ones: Each question is on a timer.

Of course, we’ve configured the game to keep things interesting. The player who has the highest point total in a month earns a monthly prize. We will be adding new questions to the contest periodically, some of them drawn from the technical articles in Machine Design. So careful readers of the magazine will have an edge.

Even better, there will be hints sprinkled throughout the print edition for the studious Machine Design reader. In fact, I will generously provide one right now: Corbomite is not a magnetic material.

In a perfect world, WSDE might bring more visibility to engineering. You’ll know it has succeeded if ESPN begins giving WSDE the same kind of coverage as it has extended to championship matches of Magic: The Gathering.

Leland Teschler, Editor

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