On Girl Games: Gender Inclusivity (or not) in 9 Video Games

If you haven’t seen the YouTube series Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’ by sister-brother duo Ashly and Anthony Burch, I recommend taking a look (NB, it tends to employ language and jokes that are not appropriate for children or the workplace). This episode on “girl games” got me thinking: what makes a game suitable for female players? What games belong on that list? Continue reading

History Games: Why I Love Mount & Blade

Data Theory Play llama in historical viking costume holding sword

The Mount & Blade franchise is the work of an indie studio in Turkey, TaleWorlds Entertainment. It is a terrific game as well as a terrific history lesson, one the best examples I know of an educational game that is just superbly fun as well as imparting information and stirring curiosity for its subject matter.

Mount & Blade boasts a handful of unique play experiences. One of them is its excellent riding and mounted combat. The sandbox gameplay is also well done, with many different approaches to play; the game will congratulate players for a variety of achievements, rather than encouraging one particular path to “winning,” but satisfaction comes from watching your own plans come to fruition. Continue reading

Educational Games & STEM Toys: (Anti-)Gift Guide

STEM toys and educational games are big business these days, which means that every toy and game company wants a piece of the market – and many games and toys with questionable educational value will be trying to get under your Christmas tree (or other gift-harboring analogy) this holiday season.

Here are my thoughts on avoiding the over-engineered fluff and getting straight to the stuff that will actually encourage your kids to think, imagine, and innovate.

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Gaming Moral Complexity

Friday’s terrorist attack on Paris will likely, as others have before it, result in a rash of violent crimes against Muslims, as well as ratchet up tensions in Europe surrounding the many refugees seeking asylum from Syria. Many Europeans will be, quite justifiably, frightened and angry, and trying to find a way to express and cope with this fear and anger.

As a species, we like moral certainty; we are comforted by a worldview that can easily separate good from evil (and good decisions from bad), and it is in our nature to gravitate to those points of view whenever possible. It can be especially difficult under circumstances like these determine where our worldviews protect us, and where they put us — or others — in harm’s way. Continue reading

Why Context Matters in Games for Learning

sad llama with tee shirt that says I wasn't good at math

Information requires context in order to be meaningful.

From this idea follow a couple of points worth discussing: (1) that games can provide something crucial to the learning experience and (2), that the choice of context in learning games matters enormously.

The other day, I saw one of those shareable quotes on Facebook – a particularly whiny one – to this effect: Another day and I still haven’t used that algebra they made me learn in high school. Apparently you can also pay money to have this sentiment printed on a tee shirt for you. I remember hearing a lot of the same sort of whining in school, with students wondering why they needed to learn algebra (among other things), and it seems like some people, long after graduating, are still nurturing a lingering resentment for what seemed like a waste of time when they were 16.

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