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GCG Readers Tackle Black History Challenge, Toy with Time in Games

GCG Readers Tackle Black History Challenge, Toy with Time in Games Exclusive

November 14, 2008 | By Jill Duffy

GameCareerGuide, which runs a weekly Game Design Challenge, has posted the three strongest reader responses to a recent challenge about using games to teach Black history in schools.

As per the submission guidelines to the Black History Month challenge, the game itself did not need to teach everything, but when coupled with traditional teaching tools in a fifth grade classroom, the sum of the learning experience had to be strengthened. As a result, the game needed to account for the environment in which it would be presented, as well as the amount of time available to the students and the teacher, and the teacher's ability to coordinate gameplay time.

Three submissions have been highlighted on GameCareerGuide for meeting all these criteria in a realistic way. Patrick Mousel, a student at Flashpoint Academy in Chicago, focused his submission on the Underground Railroad and created a non-electronic game that could be played a little bit at a time throughout the school day. His game would costs next to nothing to create and implement, a major consideration for games used in elementary schools.

Additionally, Mousel's game is intended to engage students without trying to immediately impart lessons or a list of facts on them, which keeps the game fun. Although the subject matter is heavy, the game is abstracted enough to remove the severity of it, allowing the instructor to teach the full extent of the Underground Railroad in a more appropriate and sensitive way later (treating it "as only a game" could be seen as taking the content too lightly).

Other strong submissions came from Ryan Blazso of Ohio University, whose Civil Rights Campaign Manager teaches two things: first, about the events and leaders who brought about the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and second, the processes of American government. Finally, Enrique Saúl González, a graduate student from the University of Tokyo, submitted not only a game concept, but also a quick mock-up of a screenshot (see the image).

The full text of the winning submissions, plus a few honorable mentions, is available on

The site has also posted the next challenge, which deals with "time" and "replay" in games, and looks to the 2008 Experimental Gameplay Workshop for inspiration. Professional game developers are invited to participate as well, either by sending in a submission or by giving the community of aspiring game developers advice and guidance on the public forum.

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