I used to blame the iPad for running my kids’ childhoods and for my failure as a parent. Ok, not really, but really. When I was little, I was a bookworm – reading everything from The Babysitter’s Club to the Ramona series to Archie comics. And, I played outside! With friends! We used to ride our bikes and play wall ball and just hit the park and hang out on the swings. But for mine, it’s an entirely different story. It’s all about the iPad and the iPod and the App Store and iTunes and the Xbox360 and the Wii and, and, and. Some days my husband and I have to literally force them to read a book or go outside. And I hate it.
I think I wouldn’t mind it so much if I felt like they were using the gadgets to exercise their minds. But after perpetually peeking over their shoulders and seeing them play Minion Rush 1,000 times a day or watching Bethany Mota on YouTube (as cute as she is), I get discouraged by the fact that they are not actually learning anything. Of course there are educational games out there, but kids are not easily fooled! And so, when I received the opportunity to have my crew try out the new Quandary game that is designed to support ethical thinking skills, I leapt at the chance.
Our Experience with Quandary
The premise of Quandary is that players lead a new human colony on a distant planet. They must make difficult decisions in which there are no clear right or wrong answers but important consequences – to themselves, to others in the colony and to the planet Braxos. It’s meant to encourage the players develop skills such as critical thinking, perspective-taking and decision-making. Since my children are at the ages where making their own educated decisions is crucial (should I go inside the neighbor’s house to play without telling Mom and Dad? Is it better for me to skip track practice to study for my Math quiz? Should I wear ankle socks to school even though it’s freezing outside? All situations occurring in the last week!); this resonated with me.
I called my two youngest kids and told them I needed them to try out a new video game for my blog – they were THRILLED. L’il Buddy, who is 6, jumped in the chair, ready and willing to take on the assignment at hand. I was curious how he would do because Quandary is recommended for children 8 years and older. It’s amazing to watch how quickly kids of any age figure out a vide game, and with a little help from me about where to begin, he got started. There is a lot of reading to do in the game, which is a good thing if you ask me, but a first-grader might be frustrated by it. He had to skip through the intro scenes that setup the story and settled on the screen that required some actions. The storyline features the creation of a new society on an undeveloped planet, heightening players’ sense of free choice and responsibility. Once he found out that there is an audio prompt that reads aloud the characters’ thoughts, he was happy. I did have to explain to him the objective of the exercises, but once he got it down pat, he was off to the races.
He played two levels before declaring he was done and then his sister, Giggles, who is 8 took her turn. Now, she is clearly able to read the storyline, but she skipped through it. I told her to slow down and take a moment to understand the story but she wanted to “get to the game!” She quickly caught on to the objectives and completed 1.5 levels before declaring: “There’s too much reading.”
I asked both of them for their honest opinions:
Giggles said she wasn’t a fan because of “all the reading” and that it was a “little bit boring.” L’il Buddy, on the other hand, liked the game and wanted to play some more. Interestingly enough, Quandary may prove more popular with a slightly younger set. I could tell he enjoyed being the master of his own decisions and getting validation from The Council about the choices he made. Another benefit was that, for the first time in a long time, he and I were playing a video game together (because he actually needed me).
Between the two kids (the 10-year-old was at track practice), we give Quandary a B-!
More About the Game:
* Quandary supports two core ethical thinking skills:
- Perspective-taking: Quandary helps put players in others’ beliefs, preferences, attitudes, and condition — a core social skill.
- Critical thinking: Critical thinking and reflection is associated ethical reasoning.
* The game calls on players to co-ordinate concepts or statements in complex ways and receive input and feedback from characters in the game.
* Quandary has won numerous awards, including the 2013 Games for Change Game of the Year.
* It’s not yet available on mobile devices.
* It’s free!
Disclosure: I was compensated for my review of Quandary as part of a campaign hosted by The Mission List. All opinions are my own.