Before writing this blog, let me get one thing straight – I play games primarily because they are fun to play. I enjoy the aspect of learning the rules to a game, and how to exploit those rules to perform in the best way. I also like seeing all those playing having a good time.
Aside from learning rules and tactics though, there are several games that as you play actually help with learning skills and concepts that are useful in the real world (if you ever want to venture out there..). A lot of these type of games may fall under the umbrella of ‘educational’ games and toys, the kind that are very obviously made for an educational purpose, and in that sense immediately lose any aspect of real fun that the designers may have desired them to have.
The games I want to highlight today are examples that I have played where the game aspect is given as high priority, if not higher, as the educational element. This means that anything learnt after playing is purely as a by product of having fun, which in my opinion is the absolute best way to learn! I have split them into easily recognisable school subjects for reference. I have only picked a few examples here, and there are obviously countless more. Let me know your favourites in the comments!
Maths is probably one of the most commonly used skills in games, as most have a scoring system. This is good way to practice addition, but there are a couple that go a bit further. The fantastic Kingdomino, which I wrote about previously, is a great example as it uses some multiplication. Another game that I came across recently is the lesser known Symbotica.
This is a card game where each card is a coloured shape. The idea is to place the cards so that they match the shape or colour of an existing card, a bit like another one I wrote about in this blog, Latice. The scoring for Symbotica is the number of sides of each shape multiplied together, so a blue pentagon could go next to a blue square and score 5 x 4 = 20. This is great for recognising shapes and times tables, and my primary age kids love playing it!
A lot of learning a language (even your own, when you are younger) is practice and learning how to express what you want to say in different ways. A good way of getting this practice is inventing stories, and Rory’s Story Cubes are a perfect way to provide inspiration!
This is a simple game with endless possibilities. The main game comes with 9 dice, each covered with various different pictures. To play, you roll the dice (as many as you want) and use the pictures that come out in any order to inspire a story. There is no score and no winning or losing, it is just about telling entertaining stories. While this works really well in your native language, it can also be used as a learning tool for intermediate language learners. There are several expansion sets of three dice available, and also quite a few copies of the same concept on the market. I particularly like these for long train journeys!
There is a whole subset of tabletop games known as wargames which focus on recreating various different historical battles and times of unrest. You can find ones about almost any historical period, from World War II to ancient Rome, feudal Japan to the cold war. These games tend to be fairly complicated, and are more about strategy however, and while they do give an idea of certain historical events, they are very focused on one aspect.
A more simple series of games that helps with learning historical facts is Timeline. Each game is a set of cards covering several historical events. The event is on one side of the card and the year the event happened is on the other. The idea of the game is to try to guess where on the timeline the event that you have happened, compared to other events already on the table. I played a British history version, but there are different versions for many different country’s histories, also for scientific discoveries, inventions and even Star Wars!
Laying out events like this in a time line really helps to visualise and understand the progress of history. After a few plays you really start to learn the historical story. There are over 100 cards, so it would take quite a few plays before you started to learn every single one off by heart.
Unfortunately I have realised that this post is getting fairly long now, as I could go on for a while about this topic. I’d rather not bore people too much however, so this will be continued next week, with Drama, Geography and Computing! Update: Part 2 is now available by clicking here!