Giving Your Friends a Fun Education on Facebook with University of You

University of YouA company by the name of Left Brain Games have taken the old saying that learning is fun to a very literal extension with its creation of a new Facebook application, University of You.

If the game could be compared to any type of app, it would be best classified as a city-builder. However, with any number of role-playing, virtual space, quiz taking, and other such features, it can really only be associated with this genre loosely, at best. Regardless, the objective of the game is to construct and run a successful college university using none other than your own Facebook friends as students.

Greeted by a quirky and overly enthusiastic character named Dean (pun intended), players are run through the basics of University of You (another pun intended). The first core element of the game is the more city building-like feature that places you into an overhead construction mode. From this mode, users can purchase new schools, venues, scenery, and even landscaping.

Campus BuilderActually, the most basic of the four is the last, as it merely acts as flat, path making décor tool. However, once the landscape is purchased (roads, dirt paths, flowers, etc.), it acts as a sort of Photoshop brush that allows players to literally paint their campus landscapes in a very free-form fashion. There is no cost beyond the initial purchase, thus allowing for a great deal of creative potential. The downside, however, is that once you exit the building mode and re-enter the 3D, isometric world, it is literally pressed flat against the ground and looks a bit awkward when up against full three-dimensional structures (an issue that is equally apparent with decorations such as trees; though they are flat on a vertical plane).

Beyond aesthetics, users must also construct more functional elements such as parking lots, dorm rooms, and actual, you know, schools. With these, players are able to add more students and earn more money respectively.

Each school, such as Liberal Arts or Business, allows users to enroll their Facebook friends into either a class or a job for X amount of time. Upon completion, players can collect their buddies’ work for a chunk of change and should they have completed a class will earn a “Credit” for that friend as well. These credits act as a gating mechanism that prevents players from placing their friends into the top level courses (which earn the most money) right away.

CoursesIn regards to work, such as picking up litter, there is no gating mechanic in place, and if you want, you can put a friend on the longest and most profitable job right from the get go. Unfortunately, that friend then becomes unusable for anything else until the task has been completed, and some courses and jobs can last 2 – 4 days. Furthermore, unless said friend is taking a class, they will no experience earned towards your university’s level.

As with most Facebook games that involve any sort of decoration, this becomes the means to unlocking new classrooms and venues. This, in turn, is what is needed to access better and more profitable jobs/courses, and in the case of venues, the ability to add even more friends as students too.

Another curious addition to University of You is the incorporation of a basic quiz mini-game. For each school you add to your college, you must inaugurate it by undertaking a simple, general knowledge, five question quiz. It’s nothing extravagant, but you can publish your score to your Facebook feed as a challenge for friends to beat. In fact, another interesting publication is the ability to post your enrolled friends’ in-game transcripts, including anything they may have failed! Of course, if they do fail anything, that just means you forgot to come back to the game and collect their work in time. Oops.

QuizIt is also worth noting that this app also comes with a very amusing sense of style. Everything from the tutorial and quiz prompts to the blurbs of flavor text found when clicking on or purchasing a school make for rather amusing, satirical commentary that play on everything from the mind set of your average college student to type of degree being earned. A prominent one that stuck out was commentary on just how “useful” a Liberal Arts degree was when it came to finding a job fresh out of college.

Overall, University of You comes with little complaints. Really, the only qualm comes with the art style in that the, literally, flat décor feels extraordinarily awkward within the 3D setting. Beyond that, it’s really just a question of whether or not users will find the premise of the game appealing. Though the title does have a lot of features, will Facebook users enjoy the concept of making a school? Likely, they will enjoy the city-building mechanics, but all the course and job micromanagement might prove more cumbersome. Nevertheless, Left Brain Games is still attempting something a bit more unique in a space cluttered with clones, so here’s hoping that more new and creative ideas start taking such chances as well.

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