This struck me as a really innovative idea. I admit that I haven't played any of the games in the article (except the Oregon Trail back in the first grade), but from the comments, it sounds like Civilization got quite a few people interested in history and world civilizations. Does anyone remember playing Number Munchers
? That was a far more entertaining way to learn multiplication, factoring, and inequalities than a bunch of worksheets. That's the game I remember the most, but that wasn't the only game we played during class. There were others that became a part of our curriculum for weeks, about which and from which I don't remember a damn thing. Even Oregon Trail didn't seem all that instructional to me. I didn't have any better sense of the hardships of western explorers after having played it. All I really took away from the Oregon Trail was: it's easy (and fun!) to shoot wild animals, but it's hard to get all those animals into your wagon. And they spoil so quickly!
Selecting the appropriate game for each subject and age group seems to me like the most difficult part of this curriculum. For example, how much Mesopotamian culture are these kids really going to soak up while they develop their graphic novelization of "Gilgamesh?" I'll bet that the future engineers will become masters of the multimedia application they're supposed to use, and when you ask them to tell you about Gilgamesh, they'll say, "Check out how realistically I rendered his fall from the tower! And look at this bitchin' eagle I made that broke his fall!," (I've never read Gilgamesh; here is the brief description
from which I constructed my example) followed by a lengthy explanation of how they got the whole thing to work despite numerous setbacks and frustrations with the multimedia program, and how, when they
multimedia program, it will have fewer bugs, more features, and just generally be way better.
Sorry, just trying to score some Funny points.
One of the earlier comments talked about a role-playing game in which the children had to work their way through a post-apocalyptic scenario: pick a leader, decide whether to open the bomb shelter door. That seems like an excellent game. Hopefully such innovative "real-life" games won't be permanently shelved in favor of electronic or board games during any move towards a more game-centric style of teaching.
Back to selecting age-appropriate, subject-specific games. I don't know much about such games, but per my experience with Number Munchers, it seems like such games could be a real boon (it also seems weird, as an adult, to be talking about Number Munchers as an excellent, age-appropriate mathematics game, instead of talking about how cool the game is and how far into the game I can get relative to my peers, as I did when I was in grade school). For example, Alice
seems like an excellent teaching tool by which to introduce more kids to programming. And maybe Civiilization, or a game like it, can help drive home history material. At least initially, though, selecting the right game seems like the most difficult part of this approach (harder still: how do you determine whether it WAS the right game? How do you gauge effectiveness?). I do, however, applaud the attempt to try something novel, and despite having read and having had my initial enthusiasm tempered by the critics of this approach who have posted already, I admit that I am optimistic about the outcome.