Wednesday, March 21, 2007

GenCon Trade Day

As a teacher, I’m always on the lookout for games that could possibly be used in class. Unfortunately, I’m a high school science teacher, which significantly reduces the possibilities. If I were a social studies teacher, I could look to card-driven historical games which are in a mini renaissance at the moment with games like Here I Stand and Twilight Struggle having significant historical content. (In fact, the historical event cards made my wife a fan of the area control/light wargame Twilight Struggle. One of the upper level teachers in my building has a home-brewed World War II game that is played over several weeks as part of a modern history class. I believe this is the same instructor who does a class-wide simulation of the oil rush along with barons and shady dealing.

So, without wars and historical events to bring a game into my classroom, I settle for those games in my collection that either encourage logic and reasoning or have a decent level of science-related theme. Logic games are quite popular, the two most common styles come as puzzle-type games like Rocochet Robot and Fearsome Floors or deduction games like Zendo and Mystery of the Abbey. Of these, I think I enjoy the pure logic/deduction rulemaking found in Zendo the best. If I taught Biology, I might be able to justify bringing in a few of my biologically themed boardgames like Evo or Wildlife.

It seems that most games with a biological theme tend to take advantage of the species evolution style of play. Evo, Wildlife, and my favorite Primordial Soup all have players trying to grow and diversify a race of creatures by reproducing as well as granting new species abilities. However, there are a few gems that stand alone with strong biological themes without the evolution aspect. Of these, the most notable is probably Reef Encounter. I consider my copy of the game the cornerstone of my collection. I paid a pretty penny to get it imported from Essen, so I have a “nonstandard” edition, but the theme simply shouts style and uniqueness. When I tell people I have a game that involves players growing and invading each other’s coral reefs via polyps and guardian shrimp, they smile and nod benignly. That one statement is enough to explain that YES, I have a lot of weird games.

All this educational game discussion brings me to the title of my post. I recently received a press release from Gencon announcing Gen Con Trade Day. What is it, you ask? It is a special day set aside for “game industry” people. While I’m sure retailers and game companies will appreciate the additional assistance they will be given for getting their jobs done, a third segment of the day will be targeted at librarians and educators. This is quite exciting to me, and I hope that fellow educators will be able to take advantage of it. While there isn’t much information to go on, so far, I will do my best to try to attend, if only to see what direction the future holds. I expect the main challenge will be to convince teachers and other educators to actually attend the event. From what I read on the internet, there seems to be quite a number of teacher-types who enjoy boardgaming as a hobby. I’m sure many of them will show as a part of their GenCon experience, but here’s hoping we can get some additional folks onboard who would otherwise never see any part of GenCon. I, for one, promise not to scare any of them off by dressing as my favorite Meeple.


Anonymous said...

I think Zendo is by far the most scientific game out there. In fact, if you wanted to have a far less flavorful but more accurate theme for the game, you could call it "Theory." The first two koans could be initial observations, and the students (scientists) could do experiments (build koans), and, if they use their guessing stones, present a hypothesis. Of course, in real science, there is no one to tell you if you got it right, and, in fact, Eleusis does the inductive logic thing even closer to real science in that regard. But I don't think that one is nearly as fun.

qzhdad said...

Check out Origins, too. They have a teacher track and give teachers free badges. We travel there every year with a teacher (middle school social studies) and he enjoys many of the perks.