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

Kriegsspiel: the Glory and the Pain of Teamwork

Kriegsspiel is a war game with a pedigree. Developed by the Prussian military in the 19th century to train officers, it offers a gameplay experience unlike anything I’ve had so far.

William and I played kriegsspiel at LA’s Strategicon over the long weekend. The game lasted about eight hours — and they flew by.

kriegsspiel game civil war
Battle lines being drawn as the Confederates prepare to take Tappahannock

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What Games do Teachers Play?

It’s getting easier to find statistics about how many students are playing games and even what game genres and specific titles they play. But data about what teachers are playing? Not so easy to find.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center has organized teacher surveys to gather data about which teachers use games, and how (Games & Learning reports on game use in class). But they’ve also asked some questions about teachers’ personal recreational gameplay, and that’s what I’m interested in today. After all, it’s hard to imagine asking someone with no interest in books to inspire kids to have rich reading experiences; if we’re going to expect teachers to use games in their classrooms — and increasingly, we do — shouldn’t we invest in the gaming lives of teachers?

Data Theory Play Llamas in RPG costumes Continue reading