Titles to Try in Educational Games

Playtesting of Orbiters version 2 is underway. While the next round of changes takes shape, here are a few things I’ve been checking out in educational games:

Kisima Ingitchuna, Never Alone (Upper One Games)
I bought this on sale through Steam last year, and just got around to giving it a try. It has several elements that I particularly like: a female protagonist, terrific narration in the Alaska Native Iñupiaq language, and a pleasant graphic style that includes some wonderful Iñupiac traditional imagery. Sadly for me, I just don’t enjoy puzzle platformers much, so I couldn’t really get into Never Alone despite how much it has going for it. As an educational game, Never Alone took a bit of an Oregon Trail approach to its inclusion of informative content: as you play, you’ll “unlock” video snippets that give you insight into the cultural relevance of various game aspects, such as your cute fox companion. But you don’t have to watch them to continue play, and that’s well done. Upper One Games worked with Iñupiac storytellers to create this game, and that makes it a unique — and valuable — cultural artifact that’s definitely worth exploring.

Kolejka, Queue (Trefl)
Kolejka is a board game about waiting in line for necessities in communist Poland. Trefl’s website, unfortunately, doesn’t ship the game outside of Poland, but I’m holding out hope that their English language version will get some traction and become available internationally, because I really, really want to play this game. As you may know, Poland hates communism and does not want the memory of how terrible communism in Poland was to fade away; this game is a little “never forget” in a fun package. Some of the game elements are freely available as pdf files here, including the manual, which is quite an interesting read. (Scroll down to the bottom of the linked page if you want to download the file — the page text is in Polish, but you will see the English-language manual labeled GB Queue.) The downloadable files do not give you a complete, playable game.

Pirates Enjoy Math (GJJ Games)
Boy, is hard to find games about math that don’t look like a bunch of problem sets dressed up in a theme. This game caught my eye because of its simple mechanic: players have a hand of cards with both numbers and operations signs, and with cards from their hand, they try to construct a mathematical expression equal to the number on a loot card face-up on the table. This is an actual game, and it’s also actually about math. The rules look a bit confusing, but the basic premise is so elegant that I definitely want to give this game a try. And it’s print-and-play, so there’s no need to wait.

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