Some recent studies suggest that video games, even violent ones, can increase a child’s learning, health, and social skills, and many educators are now looking for ways to integrate them into school curriculums.
With that in mind, we reached out to some game designers who are also educators, or who work in educational software, and asked them to name some of the most instructive examples of games that teach effectively–whether they’re intended to be educational or not.
As the gaming industry matures and becomes an increasingly important form of cultural communication akin to painting or film, work created by both genders becomes ever more important. The Game Center, under the chairship of Frank Lantz, views their mission as primarily cultural and not strictly technical.
It’s a simple experience, but that makes it all the more effective in communicating the dangers we all face as illness-causing bacteria evolve to get around our methods of killing it. The game was created in partnership between game developer Preloaded and The Longitude Prize, which is currently pushing scientists to create better tests for bacterial infections so that only the right antibiotics are used to combat illness in a targeted manner. That way, the overuse of antibiotics will slow along with the evolution of bacteria that react to it.
Anastasia Salter sketches a concise 5-step overview that will ground you in the basics, while Jane McGonigal outlines a basic 10-step process to designing an ARG in a slideshow format. Christy Dena, an experienced pervasive game designer, highlights some examples of flowcharts and mind maps used in the preliminary design process. You might also want to read Rui Corado’s blog post, where he details the back end of an ARG where you play a forensic investigator.
Instead of using a braille writer to create bumps on paper that spell out words, kids with a set of Braille Bricks can spell them out on a baseplate, which also means they can easily make corrections if they’ve made a spelling mistake. And the Braille Bricks can be stacked and assembled to build other objects, so they double as a genuine toy.
With the recent release of the free version of the Unreal Engine and the announcement of the free Source 2 Engine, you now have even more options for making your own games. But picking out the best engine for you and your skillset is a little tough. Let’s take a look at some of the best free software for a variety of skillsets.
While Minecraft is known as a game, it is more akin to a digital sandbox, inside which players can construct anything they want, much of it out of block-shaped materials. The creative, rather than destructive, possibilities of Minecraft have caught the eyes of educators, who see it as a supplemental learning tool for everything from anatomy and earth science to math and literature.
In the Santa Ana Unified School District in Orange County, Calif., for example, elementary school students in social science classes have met up inside the game and recreated the features of local historical sites they have studied, such as the Mission of San Juan Capistrano. Students in science classes there have used it to demonstrate their understanding of building circuits.
The U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation are investing millions of dollars into gaming experiments. Deep-pocketed philanthropies like the Gates and MacArthur foundations have committed to spending upward of $100 million to promote educational gaming. In 2011, publishing giant Pearson LLC joined forces with Gates to push for more education-related games, and President Obama, at the urging of several experts, invited a video-game scholar to be a senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The rich resources of these virtual worlds, coupled with the educational version of the game, allow teachers to immerse young people in a comfortable but exciting learning environment. Minecraft has the ability to bring just about any conceivable structure to the classroom, bedroom or sofa of every player.
Creating complex structuresOne of the types of structure I’m particularly passionate is that of proteins. These tiny molecular machines fascinate me. They control just about every biological process in your cells and knit your body together. From replicating your DNA and forming the bases of your skin, hair and connective tissue, to digesting food, fighting infections and transporting oxygen around your blood, proteins do it all.
And Then We Held Hands, by Yannick Massa and David Chircop, is a tabletop game about silently negotiating the emotions of a partnership. While a free print-and-play version of the 2014 jam game has long been available, the developers have successfully Kickstarted a brand-new, professionally-illustrated edition with a new mode and some enhancements. The art is by the talented Marie Cardouat, of Dixit fame, and backers have the option to support a musician who has donated musical accompaniment for players. It’s so exciting that Kickstarter funds will enable this deservedly well-loved, unusual board game to thrive in a market that tends to demand less sentimental or more explicitly-themed works.