Five PC & Console Games That Can Enhance Homeschool Academia

October 26, 2014 — Leave a comment

BanishedDuring my second year in college, our innovative church history professor assigned an assessment centred around the PC game, ‘Medieval: Total War’. It was a research project discussing the historicity of the game and whether not the storyline was chronologically accurate.

Since then I haven’t looked at computer gaming the same.

The downside is the inbuilt individualism in many video games that imparts unhealthy expectations, through a “virtual world” that caters to your every decision, want or desire. (I’ve played many and know some of that, of which I speak)

In an offline environment where you’re made into either a hero or a god, the outcomes of such a pseudo reality, are generally a false sense of entitlement, false empowerment and false achievement. Inside such a world the victims are aplenty.

There are also the online environments where the villainous choices of others are rewarded. Their efforts ‘’celebrated’’ on ‘’kill boards’’ that collate both performance, in-game currency and/or other means of measuring skill and ‘’success’’.

Without a fair and well-regulated Eula the online video game ethos is determined by the primary player base. The environment is essentially left governed by Golding-esk mob rule; a ‘Lord of the flies’ dysfunctional society, absent of restraint or consequences.

On the upside, as game developers fine-tune their products, they are beginning to produce serious exceptions to this general rule.

Making the right choice or knowing where to start at first might be overwhelming. It’s something even a seasoned video-gamer will wrestle with from time to time.

The marketplace is overflowing with choice. Therefore investing in the right kind of multi-media material that will enhance home education can be rough. Especially when it comes to software that comes with shiny promises, polished YouTube trailers and walk-throughs.

There is no real blueprint for success here, but there are some questions worth asking yourself:

  • What are the features and benefits?
  • What are the reviews like?
  • Is the storyline in any way supportive/unsupportive of our faith and values?
  • Does the game involve some form of team work?
  • Is the game relevant to the curriculum?
  • Would I be willing to play it, after I’ve paid for it?

Outside some random apps targeted at specific educational goals, parental participation is paramount. This makes room for engagement that empowers relationship. In addition it reinforces online safety guidelines that form a necessary part of all educational norms in an information age.

Curiously enough, albeit in a different age, John Adams writing to his wife once made a similar call:

“The education of our children is never out of my mind. Train them to virtue. Habituate them to industry, activity, and spirit. Make them consider every vice as shameful and unmanly. Fire them with ambition to be useful. Make them disdain to be destitute of any useful or ornamental knowledge or accomplishment. Fix their ambition upon great and solid objects, and their contempt upon little, frivolous, and useless ones.”
(The Letters of John & Abigail Adams, #14 28th August, 1774)

Games that I have found  helpful in this department include:

SimCity Learning outcomes include: economics, government, maths, environment, water and power management, design, architecture, law enforcement, progress, development, travel, industry and sustainability.

Age of Empires II H.D – trade, resource management, diplomacy, history of warfare, technology, medieval history, imperialism, maritime warfare, navigation, and the importance of a good defence.

Banished – agriculture, technology, environment, disaster management, diet, and different building materials. This list would also include the impact of deforestation and mining; the importance of reforestation, community, seasons, education, immigration, Churches, hospitals, and markets; basically Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Minecraft – construction, survival, creativity, exploration, importance of symmetry, agriculture, geology, chemistry, climate, time management, technology – such as the usefulness of boats, powered vs. unpowered railways and imagination.

World of Diving – underwater exploration, scuba diving, marine archaeology, history and marine biology.

Although I am critical of it. My main point here is based upon my own observations, not a moralistic demonization of the technology or a hagiographic overemphasis on the gameplay and their designers.

My sub-points attempt to outline, despite the ironic “barbarianism” that can be found online, how this technology is changing, and how it can be useful for enhancing homeschool curriculum.

All this said, there is no substitute for discernment when making an informed choice.

‘Guard your heart above all else,  for it determines the course of your life.’ (Proverbs 4:23, NLT)

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