Top Ten Tips to Finding a Good Game

By kylemawer  

Digital Play is going to take a summer holiday break and before we go we’d like to give you a few pointers as to what to look for to help you find a good game to use with your language learners. We’ve also included a few example games which link to a lesson plan targeting a specific language area (such as phrasal verbs, relative clauses) or a language skill (reading, writing etc). We have to point out it’s very difficult to find a game which would meet all the criteria here but the aim is to find one that ticks the most boxes.

1 Seemingly simple.

If a game involves too much complex puzzle solving or calls for highly demanding reaction speeds then the scope for language is limited.  It’s the games that are quite simple where a click here and then a click there keeps a simple story line moving.  Take for example Droppy.  The game is divided into various stages in which half a dozen clicks is enough to see you finish a stage.

2 Ludo & Language

Some games are great when they come already packed with language.  Games that have language as an integral part of the play are few and far between but there are some good ones out there.  Vortex Point is an online adventure game where you have to read the speech bubbles produced by the in-game characters in order to solve the mystery at the heart of the game.  Great reading practice.

3 Pause in Play

Another thing to watch out for is that the game pauses in play to allow the player time for thought but also for both the teacher to encourage language production and for learners to produce it.  The two previously mentioned games are noteworthy examples of this as is a game such as Growcube.  This rather outlandish game changes dramatically in a short space of time but by taking full advantage of the pauses in the game a considerable amount of language production can be done.

4 Steady Storyline

Many modern games place a much greater emphasis on the storyline and a game with an enjoyable story as well as engaging play which is great for us teachers as this provides a great opportunity to exploit.  Take for example Dark Visions.  This gory Gothic horror game is full of twists and turns as you unravel the mystery at Doctor Frank Mahler’s mansion.

5 Age Appropriacy

Unfortunately the last game is only appropriate for a mature audience.  You have to be careful that the content of a game isn’t inappropriate and that the use of bad language, stereotypes and portrayal of violence are kept to a minimum.  You should also be aware that such imagery is not limited to the game but can appear on the website in the form of images, links and text.  Adverts and pictures on the borders can sometimes be missed when the focus is the game, links could lead to another page where content is inappropriate and text written by games in comments can contain language you wouldn’t want your learners exposed to. Check thoroughly!

6 Gratifying Graphics

Not only does our previous choice have some a steady storyline but it also boasts some superb art animation which will gratify your learners need for great graphics.  Take for example Samorost 2.  This award winning game tells the tale of dognapping by aliens and you have to help the game’s hero travel to the alien’s world and get him back.

7 Authentic Audio

It’s nice when a game contains audio elements especially in the form of narration.  A nice example of this is State of Debate.  Set in a dystopian future you watch and listen to short video sequences to which you then have to decide how to react.  Your decisions then decide the course of the game.  An added bonus is that the video sequences come with the option of subtitles.

8 Well Worded Walkthrough

A walkthrough is the written instructions on how to complete a game.  They are generally written by a gamer and so aren’t graded with an English language learner in mind.  Having said that there is a website which has been compiled by yours truly that archives hundreds of games and their walkthroughs that were written with an eye on language learning. Walkthrough Website.

9 Language Laden

When you are checking out a game you should be always be asking yourself “Where’s the language?”.  If you don’t get a “There it is!”, quite quickly then it’s better just to pull the plug and try a different game.  Language can be in what you have to do in the game (walkthrough), what language appears in the game (audio & written text) or in the storyline.  If you can’t hear or read these in the game or narrate to yourself the process or the parable then this game isn’t really for the classroom.

10 Fabulous Fun

A language task shouldn’t kill a games element of fun but rather restructure it.  A drilling activity with a game like Orbox can produce repetitive language in spoken and written form with young learners while still retaining a sense of pace, fun and healthy competition.  Remember to structure the language activity around the game and not the other way round.

Have a Superb Summer!

See you in September :)

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