If the kids in your neighborhood arenâ€™t back in school yet, they will be soon.Â So in honor of the â€œback to schoolâ€ theme we see right and left at this time of year, Iâ€™m going to take this opportunity to talk about â€œeducationalâ€ games.Â (yawn, I knowâ€¦but hear me out.)
Many of you know that I wholeheartedly believe EVERY game is educational.Â All games teach â€œsoft skillsâ€ like playing well with others, taking turns, dealing with defeat, planning ahead, etc.Â But then there is a whole segment of games that are what I call â€œin-your-face educationalâ€ and these are the ones Iâ€™d like to discuss in this article.
“I’ve created this educational game that teachers are going to love…”
okay… but are the kids?
I get asked a couple times a month if Iâ€™d be interested in reviewing an â€œin-your-face educationalâ€ game and I almost always pass on the opportunity.Â Why? Because I play games to have fun and a lot of these games make me feel that Iâ€™m back sitting in a classroom watching the time tick away until I can do something I enjoy.Â Now Iâ€™m not saying that all â€œin your faceâ€ educational game stink â€“ but often if â€œitâ€™s educationalâ€ is the major selling point I see that as a big red flag.Â I think the best educational games out there are ones where the game is fun and the educational part is a well-hidden bonus.Â I mean, isnâ€™t that the point of an educational game â€“ to learn something while having a good time?
Some manufacturers do this very well and here are a few examples of appealing educational games that Iâ€™ve reviewed on the site because I really enjoyed them:
Chocolate Fix by ThinkFun â€“ logic puzzle
by ThinkFun â€“ logic puzzle
A-BEE-C Matching Game by Endless Games â€“ learn to spell/letter recognition (out of print)
Another game Iâ€™d like to mention is the one that made me want to write this article, and itâ€™s called Scabs â€˜N Guts: A â€œMeducationalâ€ Game.Â To the astute adults Scabs â€˜N Guts seems to be a health class in a box but with a name like that, how can it not be fun?!Â Now, Iâ€™ll admit that this gameâ€™s got a pretty big educational element to it since itâ€™s a trivia game about healthy choices, hygiene and a bunch of gross body facts, and at times some of the questions feel like they fell off a health quiz, but the next 4 questions will be fun and gross so all is forgiven.Â Overall, the gameâ€™s been done in such an appealing way that I donâ€™t really mind the educational trivia.Â The name is great and the box is also a homerun with its super-appealing artwork and adorable organ characters that are featured as the gameâ€™s movers!Â So really, what kid is going to say no to playing a game thatâ€™s A. called Scabs â€˜N Guts and B. has a box looks like that?!Â None I tell you, even the adults were intrigued!Â Imagination Entertainment originally manufactured the game and now Spin Master has it and I hear theyâ€™re changing the box to something more â€œmad scientist-likeâ€ but I hope is just as appealing.
The funny thing is I KNEW that Scabs â€˜N Guts was a pretty â€œin-your-faceâ€ educational game but I still really wanted to pull it off the shelf and play it.Â Which brings me share a valuable lesson with all of you inventors, self-manufacturers and small manufacturers out there.Â Despite the fact that Iâ€™m less than a fan of â€œin-your-faceâ€ educational games I can be suckered into playing if a game successfully accomplishes the following:
1. Make it look fun. Itâ€™s a GAME for Peteâ€™s sake!Â And if ThinkFun made logic puzzles into a box of chocolates, anything is possible.
2. It should also BE fun and this should be the selling point of the game.Â Â Again..itâ€™s a game, not a math workbook or a spelling quiz.
3. Give it a great and fun sounding name. Â Avoid words that sound like classesâ€¦seriously!Â But also pick something that makes sense.
4. Make the package super appealing. Â This is important for every game, but even more so if youâ€™re going to try to dupe consumers into buying a game where they might learn something.Â I donâ€™t walk into the game aisle looking for something thatâ€™s going to educate me, I walk into it looking for something FUN to buy and play.
5. Keep the content fun and light and not too â€œin your face.â€ Â One thing Scabs â€˜N Guts did well was teaching healthy choices through fun questions â€“ like one where it asked about the number of germs on your body and let me tell you, I wanted to go wash my hands right then and there!Â Obviously, asking about the number of germs was better than asking â€œWhat times during the day should you wash your hands?â€ which makes me want to fall asleepâ€¦.just like in health class.
Remember, kids already sit in school for hours so they donâ€™t want to sit through more problem sets, quizzes or lectures when they come home.Â And parents and adults have already â€œdone their timeâ€ in the school system and now when they have free time I think theyâ€™d rather be doing something fun thatâ€™s going to make them laugh versus tackling something that reminds them of their high school or junior high years and how long ago that really was.