Category Archives: Games

History of Games

A game is like a mirror that allows you to look at yourself. – Robert Kiyosaki 

Some interesting facts about games:

The oldest complete set of gaming equipment ever found was Royal Game of Ur dating back to 3000BC apparently played in Mesopotamia. There is also evidence of game-playing in Egypt during the same period.

Another game Wei-Qi from China dates back to 2000BC. Interestingly the earliest game of Backgammon  can be traced back to the year of 1AD and from then on it started developing in different cultures.

The earliest European mention of card games was in Spain in 1371. Snakes and Ladders (also popular today in ELT) first was published in England in the 1890s.

The earliest ancestor of Monopoly called the Landlord’s Game was patented in 1904. In 1931 the game of Lexico was invented which in 1947 became Scrabble. (Source)

And the following timeline presents the development of video and online games.

Presented by Online Education (Click on the image to make it bigger.)
Video Game Timeline


Play and Learn Capitals of the World

The Site Itself

 One of my students posted a game in our Facebook group and asked everyone to play the game to achieve a score of 40,000. The game was Capitals of the World and the link to the game is in the caption under the picture on the right.
  A competition started and many of the students started playing the game and posting their scores. The ones who got high scores kept on encouraging the ones with lower scores, and the ones with low scores would praise the high-achievers and ask for their advice to score highly as well.

 Although this is a geographic game and by playing it learners remember the names of capital cities as well as the names of countries of the world. So this game could be usefully used in ESL/EFL too, as this is something that students learn at Elementary level. However, judging by my higher level students, I can confidently say that this game has proven to be useful for them too, because they communicated a lot in English while comparing their scores and helping each other to gain more scores.

  This is a fun game that goes through four stages (on the screenshots on the right): warm-up, marathon, hill climb and sprint. While learners are trying to get to the end of the game and then play it again because they want to achieve a higher score, they are also learning names of countries and their capital cities. Finally and most importantly, they are learning while having fun!

Gamification of Education

Gamification is the application of game design to a non-gaming situation. Gamification of various aspects of life has been happening for quite a while now. My interest is the gamification of education not only because I am an educator but also because I have seen it work.

I know that there are a lot of people who oppose the idea and say that people already spend too much time playing games so we shouldn’t encourage them to do it even more. But as Jane McGonigal says in her book Reality is Broken if we play 3 hours a day we will succeed in saving the world. If we think of it, then some of us spend that much time playing games anyway and our children can spend even more than that playing video or online games.

I don’t think I am good enough to save the world but I can at least try to make the lessons more engaging and interesting for my students because now I know that not only children but also adults can learn a lot through games. So why not use this to our advantage and ask our learners to play games which will teach them what we want them to learn?

I have already blogged about some games that I used with my students and also about the workshop in Gamification which I conducted here in Armenia. So today I would like to share a playlist that I created on MentorMob to share it with anyone interested in Gamification and with those ones who don’t like the idea very much. In this playlist I collected articles, slide shows and talks which address the idea of gamification in different fields not only in education. I hope that after watching the videos, many teachers will realize that children can and will want to learn if their lessons are more engaging and exciting for them.

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Academy Island

Academy Island is a nice educational game developed by Cambridge ESOL.

The main character is an alien who is on an island and has to go through quite a few challenges in order to graduate from the academy. The island consists of a few towns: noun town, pronoun town, etc and each town has 2-3 shops and/or buildings which the alien has to enter in order to complete his challenge and gain a high enough score to be allowed to get into the academy building. In each shop and building the alein is asked to complete 4 sentences or answer 4 questions: these are all multiple choice. Questions cover grammar, vocabulary, phrasal verbs and idioms. Correct answers bring from 100 to 150 points. The level of difficulty is shown in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

The 4-question set is timed. The alien has 30 seconds to answer the questions in each building. If he runs out of time before he manages to answer all the questions, the session is terminated and the alien finds himself outside that building. However, he can go back into the building, but the questions will be different.

There are also some scrolls with 2 questions in each. Correct answers to these give 250 points. In the building of the academy the alien is asked to complete the final challenge, which is to complete a famous quote. If the correct answer is given, the alien can graduate from the academy. If not, then he has to re-enter the building of the academy in order to get a new question.

A fun game that I am sure all English Language learners will enjoy. They can submit their scores and compete with their peers.

Workshop at British Council Armenia

Although I had been worried about this workshop, everything went well and the feedback was positive.

For the workshop I chose the topic of Gamification which is an area I am really interested in at the moment. As a friend and colleague suggested, I created a blog for the teachers to which I posted the links to the games that we worked with during the session with some comments.

I thought that making teachers come to the idea that computer games can be beneficially used in teaching themselves was a good idea. I started off by asking them to discuss the games they play with their learners in the classroom and how they benefit from them. Next I asked them to think of the differences between games children play now and played in the past. This brought the conversation to computer games which was what I needed. Only one of the participants said that there is no interaction in the games now and this was also good because I could give the example of my son who plays computer games with people from around the world and to achieve a goal they need to cooperate and discuss their moves via Skype. This convinced the participant.

I only introduced one game (Enercities) to them and we discussed the lesson plan for it together. Then I put the teachers into 3 groups and assigned different games to each group and they were asked to discuss and come up with a lesson plan for their games. Next each group presented their lesson plan, while the other two groups followed the game screenshots and shared their ideas.

Overall, I was really happy with the outcome because the teachers had 4 game lesson plans ready to use and were full of ideas how else they could use the games and how to adapt these games to various levels.

Gamification – Professional Development

This week’s tasks made me think a lot.

The general idea of the reading tasks (Play the Game, The School, Play the Game Because You Can,  Has the Gamification of Reality Already Begun?, Connectivism, Professional Development, The Educators’ PLN) and the video that we watched was that gaming will help to change the world and also that it gives teachers a possibility to develop professionally.

It is understandable that gamification has already started (having had a look at all the games throughout weeks 1-3, that much became clear) but what remained unclear for me was the concern that if we increase the play-time to save the world some time in the future, as Jane McGonigal says in her TED presentation, we might just never return to real life. So what is going to happen to the real world in the future? I might be wrong, but at the moment I just don’t see people wanting to apply the skills that they gain through games to real-situations. I will have to explore this notion further, as it interested me a lot.

In his blog posts Paul Braddock talks about The School Game that he is developing at the moment. The game is designed mainly for school teachers and is supposed to help them in their professional development. The idea is fantastic, in my opinion. I felt a bit sad that a similar game is not being developed for Teachers of Adult Learners. However, Paul said that some of the rooms in The School will be useful for us too! 🙂

Gamification – Week 1

The week was very fruitful. I am thoroughly enjoying this course.

First of all I loved Larry Ferlazzo’s Blog where he has a collection of Interactive Fiction Game links. Having had a look at them I chose two: Move or Die and Ambition (10 episodes) because these games offer negotiation skills practice. I had already known Move and Die and had used it in one of my online courses, but I had never thought of using it in the classroom. I read Joe Pereira’s Blog as well where he discusses uses of IF games in the classroom but still was unsure.

I didn’t think it would be possible for me to have students play the game during the lesson as both games can take a very long time so I posted the links on our Group’s Facebook wall and asked my students to give the games a go and maybe exchange some tips with each other later about what moves to make to complete the games.
I have to say I was amazed to see how involved the students became. They kept on posting tips and complaining about the game being difficult and impossible to complete. Then one of them managed to get to the end and told them all how to negotiate to survive and all of the students became really delighted and asked for more games.

I can say that these games were not only useful in terms of language but also in terms of their negotiation skills as some of them are studying Business English for their jobs.