There are many different areas to be a freelancer in the game industry, but instructional designer was not one I contemplated until I had some extended conversations with my friend Jacob while we were visiting Amsterdam and attending ICCM Europe together. To better understand the potential educational aspects of games, I have asked fellow blogger and podcaster Jacob Coon to write a guest post. Thanks Jacob!
Getting into boardgaming as a hobby has been a learning process for me, but not simply because of the multitude of terms and games out there, but also because of the games themselves. Let me explain what I mean, a little, before getting into the meat of this post. In any push your luck style game you have to weigh the odds (probability) that you will get what you want. In most Euro style games you look at each move and determine what move will net you the most points (analysis). In thematic games you need to compare the strength of your troops versus the strength of your opponents (calculation). In just about every board game that is out there, there lies within a lesson, waiting for a teacher to pluck it out. Unless the teacher is a boardgame hobbyist, though, they may never see that lesson; they may never understand the powerful tool that could impact their students because they don’t even know it exists.
As a freelancer, I am looking to help teachers, publishers, and designers come together to harness the power of boardgames to educate students of all ages. In the end, if lessons get made for teachers to use and they are engaging, then the games get in front of more eyes, and more copies will be sold. That should be the way publishers see the benefit of lessons being created for their game, and yet that is not often the case.
I recently worked with the company behind “City of Zombies.” I created lesson plans that built on each other over the years and could be used anywhere from ages 5-13. The idea of the game is using math to fend of zombies that are attacking the city. From one set of rolled dice, the students can use the numbers using any math skill that they want, whether it is addition, subtraction, or even squares. Whether you are a fan of math or not, could you have imagined going to your Math class and using the skills you have learned to beat up on some zombies? How awesome is that?
Now imagine going into your Language Arts class and writing a play based on Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective, or maybe creating an alternate history based on the game Lewis & Clark in History class and comparing it to the real story. What about playing Compounded in Science class to help you with learning the periodic table and compounds? These aren’t the typical “educational” games, yet they could be a very powerful tool if they are made known to teachers.
Honestly, the options are pretty close to endless. The benefits of using boardgames in schools are also close to endless for the publisher, the designers, the teachers, and, of course, the students. Let’s bring some fun back into school while expanding the hobby we all love!