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So Many Games and So Little Time!

Games have power.  They can make fun, fantastical, the dull, doable, and the joyless, joyful. At ASU we have a number of faculty who use the power of games and simulations in their classes as a way to entice students to further engage with the course content.

A few games and simulations that have caught my eye include:

Spent screenshotSpent* — Launched in early 2011 by the Urban Ministries of Durham to illustrate assumptions that people make all the time about poverty and homelessness, the game has successfully been used in courses to challenge these assumptions. Based on government data and news stories, Spent allows the player to experience the financial and emotional toll that arises from decisions made. One student wrote in a course discussion board, “I enjoyed playing the game and learned a lot about daily challenges that many people face in the world today that I might not have considered before.”

Ayiti: The Cost of Life* — The right to an education is set out in the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights and in the Convention on the Rights of the child, yet in Haiti, this right cannot be fully exercised due to poverty.  The Cost of Life explores the various obstacles preventing Haitian students from receiving an education. The game is being used in an Urban Planning course to expose students to the trade-offs between economic, environmental, and equity costs within sustainable communities.

Sweatshop* — The player, a sweatshop middle-manager, moves through a series of thirty levels balancing the ethical, moral, and business challenges of operating an offshore manufacturing factory. Throughout the game play, the player is confronted with facts about the conditions faced by sweatshop workers and the consumer demand that has contributed to their rise.

Wetlands Restoration*** — The University of Washington Bothell’s Center for Serious Play created a Facebook game where users create and manage their own sustainable wetland attempting to balance animal and plant needs. Over the course of the game, players come to appreciate the complexity of an ecosystem.

iAnatomy with Cine** — I’m not a medical or nursing student but I quickly learned how to identify various organs, muscles, bones, and blood vessels presented on various CT scans of the face, neck, chest, abdomen, and pelvis.  The gaming elements incorporated plus the drag and drop nature of the iPad, makes this a fun and realistic way to learn anatomy. iAnatomy is the winner of the NIH’s “NLM Show Off your Apps: Innovative Uses of NLM Information.” (Disclosure, the programmer is a good friend of mine)

Election Games

Given that our presidential election is merely two months away, the following games would be a welcome discussion enhancer in any political science and critical thinking course.Image of the 2012 Election Simulator

Race for the Whitehouse 2012** — Strategy election game mixed with political humor where you can simulate the election process from the perspective of existing candidates, historical candidates, or even create your own candidate. Also, you can appear on television shows, participate in debates, and react to breaking news.

Play the Election 2012 (no longer available) — Launched by Rand McNally and Impact Games, students can learn about the election process by predicting 2012 presidential election winners for each state on an interactive election map and compare their results with others.  Additionally, the game program includes many digital mini-games that delve deeper into battleground states.

Game Changers* — This ABC News 2012 Presidential election game (click on the Fantasy tab) comes complete with game analysis by a member of the ABC Political Team.

2012 Election Simulator** — The simulator puts the election into your hands and comes with tutorials and election maps.

fibber* — Obama and Romney want your vote.  Is what they say fact or fib (lie)?

I’ll be exploring these games and many more in an upcoming ASU Online workshop scheduled for September 14, 2012.  Go to to register for Gaming in the Curriculum.

* Playable in a web browser.

** iPhone or iPad app, available in iTunes; may also be available for the Android or BlackBerry.

*** Facebook game.