It’s back-to-school time! Around the world, millions of kids, adults, and lifelong learners are heading back to the classroom to expand their horizons and stretch their minds with new ideas. I’m no stranger to the excitement and anxiety of the back-to-school season. In fact, I just started graduate school last week, and all the nostalgia of being back in a learning environment and engaging in conversation with my teachers and fellow students has inspired me. However, I couldn’t help but notice that all my professors were missing one thing in their classrooms... Video games!
Yeah, I said it. Video games may be one of the most popular entertainment mediums of our time, but they also have legitimate academic value. Gaming has been used for military training exercises, tracking health and fitness data, and general education. In fact, game-based learning is being explored as a means to solve social and civic issues.
As a lover of learning, I would be remiss if I didn't enroll you in my back-to-school mobile games course. My step-by-step syllabus is designed to get your game on track, make you more intelligent, and entertain you. You won’t need to head to the classroom; just grab your phone and get started.
Alright, let's start with a bit of English 101. Did you know that I was an English teacher? For years I taught adult learners fun and creative ways to master a language that wasn't native to them. I can’t think of many methods of testing and expanding your English skills that are more fun than Wordscapes. Developed by PeopleFun, Wordscapes brings the crossword puzzle to life with beautiful backgrounds and relaxing music. It works like an ordinary crossword puzzle if you're unfamiliar with the game, except it's a bit more tactile. You're given a group of letters you must swipe in a pattern to create a word. 53551
Like in a traditional crossword puzzle, these words overlap one another, running both vertically and horizontally. As you progress through levels, the letter combinations become more challenging. I really struggled at higher levels, but that's the beauty of Wordscapes. It expands your vocabulary, and that struggle is a sign of a growing mind! I usually use Wordscapes while in transit or before a class. It's the perfect thing to get me into the zone and frame of mind to do some hardcore learnin’.
Ever wanted to go to space camp, or wished you were aboard the Enterprise boldly going where no one has gone before? Well, we’ve got the next best thing. For Science 101, you should give Spaceflight Simulator a go. This game incorporates real-world physics to teach rocket science. You choose your parts and launch your rocket into the nether regions of space. What's remarkable is that it teaches you all about the rocket parts, and you can essentially customize them however you’d like.74183
On my first go, I barely made it off the launch pad, but after a few adjustments, I passed the ‘“Kármán line.” That means that I left Earth’s atmosphere and was on my way to traverse space. Spaceflight Simulator offers a to-scale model of the universe, which meant that I could aim to visit Earth’s moon, Mercury, Mars, and more. Admittedly, this game takes focus. You'll want to pick and choose your parts wisely so that you can make it into the depths of space, but the payoff is definitely worth the effort.
Perhaps space isn’t your thing, though. If you’re looking for something a little more down-to-earth, so to speak, you’ll dig what we have lined up for Science 102: a journey away from classical physics and into the bizarre realm of quantum physics.
I reviewed kitty Q a few weeks ago, and it’s awesome! Kitty Q is a puzzle adventure that feels like a scientific escape room. It's based on the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment, in which a hypothetical cat in an unopened box is considered simultaneously both alive and dead. This is because the cat’s fate is linked to a random event that may or may not occur until the box is opened. 224440
Confused? Don’t worry; playing Kitty Q will familiarize you with the basics of this complicated field of study. If you're more into puzzle-based games, I would definitely choose this one for your science course.
With two science courses down, it’s time to move on to everybody’s favorite subject: Math 101!
Okay, I lied... I’ve always hated math. In fact, it was the one subject that made me dread going to school. I would meekly sit in the back, hoping to disappear into my desk so the teacher could never pick me to answer any questions. Maybe if they used NumberDrop, I wouldn't have been so apprehensive all those years ago. 240376
Think of NumberDrop like Wordscapes but for math. It teaches basic arithmetic, requiring players to drop the numbers correctly to solve the puzzle. Like Wordscapes, the puzzles become increasingly more complex. It took less time than I’d like to admit for me to hit the point where I felt like I was at the tail end of an exhausting, full-brain workout. Luckily, I was able to request hints for the puzzle solutions—and let me tell you, I got very well acquainted with that hint button. Math may not be my personal favorite, but if you're going to pass my course, you must give it a shot!
These days, a working knowledge of computers is essential. Not only do these magic machines help you research, organize information, and stay productive, but they can also prove to be a critical element in how far ahead you can get in your career. That’s why the next class on my syllabus is Computer Science 101.
When it comes to computer programming and coding, there’s no better game to teach us this skill set than Human Resource Machine. Developed by Tomorrow Corporation, this puzzle game tasks players with programming an office worker to do tasks in order to get promoted. Through this process, Human Resource Machine effectively teaches the basics of computer programming and logic in a fun way.14343
Granted, I was not very successful in my attempts at playing Human Resource Machine. My poor office worker kept getting yelled at by management, and a little more instruction could have gone a long way. I enjoyed how the act of coding was gamified, but I needed help figuring out what to do after a while. The tiny hints provided by management proved too vague to be of much use to me. When I was learning new commands for my office worker, I would have liked to see a clear example before being thrown into the deep end of the digital pool. Nevertheless, Human Resource Machine is exactly the kind of game I wish I had had access to in middle school. Maybe if I had, the concept of programming wouldn’t give me such a headache now!
Okay, now it's time to move on to my actual favorite subject: History 101! What better game to teach us a lesson on humanity than Civilization Revolution 2. If you’re unfamiliar with the Civilization series, where have you been? This juggernaut has been around since the early nineties and is still luring in fans old and young alike. Civilization Revolution 2 is a strategy game where players must build their own empires throughout the ages. You reenact historical events and battles, expand your empire, negotiate with other players, and take over the world.9162
Civilization Revolution 2’s best feature is how it allows players to jump into a wide variety of different scenarios. I’m a big fan of Ancient Aliens, a show that discusses how aliens may have influenced modern-day society—yes, it’s pretty out there; yes, it’s all true; yes, it will be on the test. As a fan of that goofy show and its goofy theories, I loved playing the “Chariots of the Gods” scenario, where I got started in ancient times but had access to freaking lasers right from the get-go. You don’t think that sounds like real history? Keep that attitude up, and we’ll see you in detention! Video games have taken a lot of blame for the lack of social etiquette among the youth nowadays. Gaming goes this line of argument, causes teenagers and young adults to sit indoors and not socialize with other people. Clearly, whoever believes that has never played Call of Duty and seen just how social people can get. Nevertheless, I think it's important to address these concerns, which is why I’ve put a spot on our syllabus for a more corporate-inspired class. Call this one Team-Building 101, and the game we’ll be utilizing is Spaceteam.
Spaceteam mostly boils down to sitting in a room and shouting at your buddies while trying to solve an endless string of problems. Created by indie developer Henry Smith, this party game forces two to eight players to coordinate and follow a set of instructions before time runs out. The more people you have, the more chaotic (and fun) the game gets.
Unfortunately, everyone must be in the same room and share a Wi-Fi connection to play a game of Spaceteam together. If you have eight people playing, you’ll want a stronger connection for the best experience. Whether you’re trying to learn to work together or breaking the ice at a social function, Spaceteam can help out.
Finally, what syllabus would be complete without electives? For your elective course this semester, let’s jump into Home Economics 101 with Cooking Fever. We all love to eat, so why not improve our cooking skills? In addition to making the food, Cooking Fever requires a high degree of restaurant management, as you must serve customers their orders in a timely fashion.17214
One element I appreciated in Cooking Fever is its long list of different dishes and ingredients. I generally only cook when I have time. During the pandemic, I had lots of free time to explore new ingredients and experiment with various cooking techniques. With Cooking Fever, you get a wide selection of ingredients and recipes as you progress in the game. Although I wouldn't say it replaces a cookbook, it can definitely help nail down the basics of how to cook simple dishes like burgers. The foodies out there are going to want to sample this.
That’s my syllabus for the Fall 2022 semester! Are you ready to take my course? Video games are so varied, and the fact that we’re seeing them incorporated into the classroom and education makes me excited for the future.
💬 I couldn't put every game with educational value on my syllabus; there are so many great ones. Let me know your favorite educational games or what the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned from a game. Post a comment below, and I’ll try to reply to you!