Freelance Knight

Lessons Learned From Games – Guest Post By Jacob Coon

Lessons Learned From Games – Guest Post By Jacob Coon

Lessons Learned From Games – Guest Post By Jacob Coon

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!

Jacob is a blogger and game reviewer with Whose Turn Is It Anyway? and an instructional designer with GEM’s eDOT.

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5 thoughts on “Lessons Learned From Games – Guest Post By Jacob Coon

  1. Roy Campbell

    Lessons learned from games:
    Historical perspective on Social Justice and Business
    Resource Management and even Resource Manipulation
    Collaboration
    How to be a mean jerk
    Adaptability to changing circumstances
    Thinking outside the box (even while staying inside the box)
    Social Engineering
    Creative packing (so I can take games on trips with me)
    Physical Dexterity (well at least finger dexterity)
    Creative Spelling
    Business Management
    Anger Management

    Not to mention basic Arithmetic, Math, Physics, Geography, HIstory, Probability ……

    Ahh the world of games – so much to learn and teach – so little time.

    1. T.R. Knight Post author

      Such a great lists of the lessons that can be learned from gaming. Having gamed and traveled with you, I know you have become quite adept at many of these skills through years of gaming practice.

  2. Jacob Coon

    Roy you are absolutely correct. Learning in games goes way beyond the classroom too. I can’t tell you how much I have learned from games like Ground Floor which really show the tightrope you have to walk on when managing a business.

    Great list!

  3. BoardGameDuel

    This is my passion! I love teaching homeschoolers about math in games, I’m currently doing a session with the local co-op this spring. The students have told me the name of my class is misleading “Math in Games” because it is fun! But that is the point of the class, that students see math is in so many things, including the games we play. I also love using Timeline games to teach history as well, so many uses for games in the classroom!

    1. Jacob Coon

      I totally forgot about Timeline, good call on that one. City of Zombies is pretty great for teaching math to kids, so if you ever get a chance to check it out, I would recommend it.