Teaching First Encounters

As you all know, our game First Encounters will give players the opportunity to experience what life was like during those first encounters in North America, circa 1000 CE and 1500 CE. By playing the game, the player will have to figure out how to co-exist with a contrasting culture, and at the same time struggle to keep their settlement alive while experiencing the natural hardships and catastrophes present back in those days (I’ll talk about the game’s ‘catalysts’ in a future post).

Okay, as previously explained (re: Jan. 12 and Jan. 13 posts), playing the game is central to the learning process in First Encounters. However, because of the limitations of a game’s ability to present a comprehensive analysis of those encounters (I’ll be more specific about these limitations later), we’re adding an extremely important element to fill this gap: Teacher’s Guides. Now, of course we don’t expect players to finish playing First Encounters and then go read a bunch lessons about what they just experienced (though we encourage it). But for teachers, these lesson plans represent an extremely important resource for expanding students’ knowledge about those time periods. Telling students to play First Encounters in their free time, then having them return to class for a lesson about topics they just came across in the game is invaluable to learning more about the first encounters between Europeans and North America’s First Peoples. These lessons open up the classroom floor to a structured discussion about those time periods, giving students the opportunity to ask questions and provide their own analysis of those initial encounters.

As a teacher (I was a teacher for a several years before coming to BlackCherry), I love the idea of having a great lesson plan to follow when giving a class.  As a gamer, I usually don’t get into a game with the explicit objective of learning something, though as we all know this does end up happening indirectly. But being able to further explore in a classroom setting topics that came up in a game I had gotten into earlier is an exciting prospect.  In future posts I’ll get more into depth about exactly how these lesson plans fit into the whole concept of the game – though the central idea behind the Teacher’s Guides is to provide further context to the player’s experiences in the game.


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