2000 Bologna New Media Prize Bologna Kids
Press Release

Announcing the 2000 New Media Prize awards at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair

The world’s leading software points to a new trend in edutainment: teaching children to reason in order to free up their creativity. And vice versa

Three American titles, one French and one Japanese-German production. These are the five winners of the fourth 2000 Bologna New Media Prize, the international competition which the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, in collaboration with the magazine Children’s Software Revue, awards to the most ground-breaking, top-quality products in multimedia publishing.

Announced today, the prizes will be officially presented on Wednesday 29th March in Bologna, during the opening ceremony of the Children’s Book Fair, the world’s leading event in children’s publishing.

The 2000 New Media Prize has been awarded, for the USA, to Pit Droids (Best Interactive Adventure category), a CD-Rom produced by Lucas Learning, the electronic label of the director of Star Wars; to Redbeard’s Pirate Quest (Best Small Publisher Title category), a game connected to the computer; and to Intel Play Me2Cam Activity System (Best Innovation category), a software product complete with webcam that projects the player’s image onto the computer screen.

From France, the award goes to the CD-Rom Uncle Albert’s Magical Album (Best General Learning Simulation category). The Czech artist Kveta Pakovská also wins an award for her Alphabet (Best Book Adaptation category), an extraordinary journey through the world of writing co-produced by the German publisher Tivola and NHK of Japan. Pakovská wins the prize for the second year running.

Four titles, all American, receive honourable mentions: Sim Theme Park, or how to build and manage a theme park; I Spy Spooky Mansion, an adventure in a haunted house; JumpStart Phonics Learning System, a writing learning programme; and 3D Ultra Lionel Train Town, a genuine test of logic in the form of a railway setting.

The prizes and mentions were assigned by an international jury which examined over 750 products from all over the world in 1999.

The members of the jury were Gigi Tagliapietra of Italy, co-founder of "Progetto Onda" at Desenzano on Lake Garda; Au Wing Kee (China), Department Head of the Hong Kong Education Institute; Warren Buckleitner (US), director and editor-in-chief of Children’s Software Revue; Thomas Feibel (Germany), author of the Children’s Software guide; Ulla Gjoerling (Denmark); Serge Pouts Lester (France), director of the Technology for Education Monitoring Centre; Susan McLester (US), director of Technology & Learning Magazine; Ingrid Nordkvist (Sweden), researcher at GPC Learning Lab; Kyung Woo Lee (South Korea), lecturer in education at the Ewha Women’s University in Seoul.

"For a long time", commented Warren Buckleitner, coordinator of the jury, "the world of education has been dominated by a frequently haughty rationalism. Then came the equally disdainful fashion of creativity above all else. Now it seems that common sense has prevailed: it is recognised that reasoning ability helps creativity and, vice versa, a creative mind reasons more effectively. In this respect, this year’s prize-winning products set a new standard of excellence by offering our children new ways to hone both their reasoning and creative skills".

The prize-winning titles will be on show in the Software Arcade, the special showcase which the Children’s Book Fair dedicates to multimedia and which this year will play host to around thirty top publishers.



The five winners of the Bologna New Media Prize

Category: Best General Learning Simulation

Uncle Albert's Magical Album
France, 1998

CD-Rom production: VtechSoft Inc.(www.vtechsoft.com)
: Win 95, 98; Mac OS
Subject: logic, problem solving, science
Age group
: from 9 years
: $29.95, 1998

The player has to set free a small animal trapped in a magical album by navigating through the pages of the album and solving logic tests, discovering hidden passages and collecting certain objects. One innovative feature of Uncle’s Albert Magical Album is that each problem has not one but several solutions. Another innovative aspect is the possibility to interact with "intelligent" animals. In this way children learn, for example, that insects can lift objects much heavier than their body weight. One interesting sequence includes races between groups of insects (ants, snails, beetles, etc.) to establish their different speeds. Other activities get children to visit an Egyptian tomb to photograph a mummy, or visit a laboratory to study plants and animals.

What the jury said: "This superb CD-Rom uses multimedia and problem-solving methods in a superlative way. The non-linear activities take children through page after page of beautiful images and challenge them to think in a manner that is both creative and non-conventional".


Category: Best Interactive Adventure

Pit Droids
USA, 1999

CD-Rom Production: Lucas Learning (www.lucaslearning.com)
: Win 95, 98; Mac OS
Subject: logic, programming
Age group
: from 10 years
: $29.95

The programme features a series of tests (300 in all) of increasing difficulty, all set in a Star Wars-type graphical environment. The aim of the game is to help a group of robots called Pit Droids to overcome various obstacles until they reach their final destination - the Podrace Arena. The player has to programme the robots so that they take the right path through the obstacles. By navigating correctly, the player accumulates points that take him to higher levels in the game. Educational value? First, the Droids are fun creatures and both children and adults are instinctively drawn to help them. Second, the levels of the game are designed so that each obstacle is slightly more difficult than the previous one, but with an extra twist. Moreover, there is a help facility always within reach should the player get stuck. Lastly, the logic exercise in each test is designed to give the player total control and even change the solutions.

What the jury said: "This extraordinary and compelling exercise in problem solving is ideal for older children. It is perfect for encouraging children to think logically and solve spatial problems through play".

Category: Best Small Publisher Title

Redbeard's Pirate Quest
USA, 1999

Toy/Software Production: Zowie Entertainment, Inc. (www.zowie.com)
: Win 95, 98; Mac OS
Subject: fantasy, logic
Age group
: from 4 years
: $55

The toy is a pirate ship, with four sailors, which is connected to the computer through the serial port of the keyboard (which continues to function). When the software has been loaded, the ship and its crew appear on the screen in the middle of the sea. When the real objects are moved, the same thing is repeated on the screen in real time. By moving the sailors the scene comes to life and the players can sail towards remote islands, fight with the ghosts of old pirates and wrestle with sea snakes, as they hunt for the treasure needed to free Redbeard. The game has an unusually realistic feel: by moving the rudder, the ship changes course with the right degree of tension. The games are automatically saved so that the treasure amassed by the player will not be lost for later games.

What the jury said: "This combination of toy and software shows how interactive technology can support and extend a children’s game. We would have preferred more depth in the activities. Nevertheless, the skill in manoeuvring the ship so as to control the computer proves that this tool works very well".


Category: Best Book Adaptation

Germany, 1999

CD-Rom Publisher: Tivola Electronic Publishing, Inc. (www.tivola.com)
: Win 95, 98, NT; Mac OS
Subject: Writing and signs
Age group
: 4-10 years
: DM 6g., 1999, b

Animation, no end of surprises, magical music and the voices of children to guide us through a fantastic alphabet.

*Co-producer: NHK (Japan)

The jury’s comment: "Last year we were impressed by Midnight Play. This year, we had the pleasure of seeing more of Kveta Pakovska’s work in an even more compelling setting. This is a dreamlike alphabet packed with visual creativity. If you want to see the new media as an art form, take a look at this software".

Category: Best Innovation

Intel Play Me2Cam with Fun Fair
USA, 1999

CD-Rom Publisher: Mattel Media, Inc. (www.mattelmedia.com)
: Win 98
Subject: game play, virtual reality
Age group
: 4-14 years
: $ 69.99

How do you catapult yourself into a software product? With this exceptional videocamera/CD-Rom that is easy to install (on top of the monitor) and manoeuvre. Simply pose for five seconds, the time it takes for the camera to film you. Your image will appear like magic on the screen and star in any one of the five games provided. For example, in Snow Surfin' you will be on a snowboard: standing up in front of the webcam and the computer you can ski around obstacles that appear on the screen, such as rocks, trees and penguins. Other strange games include Pinball, where your head and hands appear as flippers, and Bubble Mania, where you can create bubbles by moving your hands. Is it worth the price? Well, at least it is one of the few software products out there which get children up off their seats and using their muscles.

What the jury said: "Although the activities are limited in number, this telecamera/software package is a fun innovation for kids in the way they interact with the computer. The programme allows them to control their experience with the whole body rather than through the mouse".

Honourable mentions

Sim Theme Park
USA, 1999

CD-Rom Production: Electronic Arts (www.ea.com)
: Win 95, 98
Subject: economics, creativity, organisation and management of a theme park.
Age group
: from 12 years.
: $39.95

Once the player has designed the theme park with scenic railway, go-kart tracks and other rides, he then becomes responsible for managing the park, setting admission fees, hiring staff and so forth. Building the park using the Instant Action facility is relatively simple. The park is soon packed with visitors and the money is pouring in before you know it. But not everything is running smoothly. Some strange characters throw stink bombs and other gadgets which upset the visitors. The player has to call in the health and safety people. In Full Simulation mode you can build the park from plans, creating entrance avenues, hills and other features, hire your staff one by one and then open the park when everything is ready. The player has to do his own research and if necessary borrow money.

Warning: the product requires systems running at a minimum of 400 MHz and without 3D accelerator cards.


I Spy Spooky Mansion
USA, 1999

CD-Rom Production: Scholastic New Media (www.scholastic.com)
: Win 95, 98; Mac OS
Subject: reading, language, rhyme, classification, logic, memory
Age group
: 6-10 years
Price: $29.95

This second CD-Rom in the I Spy series includes thirteen brain-teasers, set inside a dark house, created by Jean Marzallo. By solving one question after another the players have to find the way to get out: i.e. they have to find objects concealed amongst collections of old dolls and butterflies, or in intricate assortments of keys, buttons, safety-pins and similar objects. Also hidden in the rooms are a game with three concentration levels, a timed game and a do-it-yourself I spy game enabling children to create their own puzzles and to write their own brain-teasers. The combination of games and riddles gives the product special value and provides an original, fun way to experiment with language.


Jumpstart Phonics Learning System
USA, 1999

CD-Rom/Video Production: Knowledge Adventure (www.knowledgeadventure.com)
: Win 95, 98; MacOS
: reading, phonetics, writing, constructing words and phrases.
Age group
: 3-8 years.
: $70

The price is reasonable and the product is good value: there are four good edutainment programmes, two 30-minute videos and three exercise books for learning to read. The main programme offers twelve activities, controllable by mouse or voice-activated with voice recognition software. An easy-to-install microphone is included so that children can pronounce the words clearly and read the letters on the screen. Like a teacher or parents, the software can "hear" if the child has made the right selections. All of these activities begin by teaching children to recognise sounds and letters at an easy level and then progress gradually to reading words and phrases at a higher level. The other three programmes belong to the Learning Games series (JumpStart ABCs, JumpStart Phonics and JumpStart Spelling), which offer fun ways to practise these skills.


3-D Ultra Lionel Traintown
USA, 1999

CD-Rom Production: Sierra On-Line (Havas) (www.sierra.com)
: Win 95, 98, NT
Subject: logic, problem solving, creativity, space and time relations
Age group
: from 7 years
: $19.95

Created by Jeff Tunnell and the team which produced The Incredible Machine, this virtual train set includes a comprehensive range of locomotives, carriages and wagons based on the Lionel collection. The programme allows you to position tracks and towns, the floor of a room, the moon, a classroom, and a winter village. And whilst it is fun to create the setting, it is even more of a challenge to solve one of the 72 games included in the programme. The levels of difficulty vary (from easy to very hard), but all of them require attention to timing and strategy. In one of the activities, children have to manoeuvre a train on an obstacle course in order to deliver a cargo of Christmas presents on time. In another game, they have to operate eight switches to keep traffic flowing. They win if they manage to avoid collisions for 60 seconds.