Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Top Issue-Oriented Computer Simulations

Check out these serious games to see what the buzz is all about.

March 25, 2009

Interested in trying out serious games? Here's more information about those mentioned in the article "Computer Games Explore Social Issues," as well as others that are generating gamer buzz.

This game, from Educational Simulations, randomly assigns players the identities of people from different parts of the world, and players must guide their characters' decisions -- from birth to death -- about work, health, education, and love based on the opportunities and disadvantages encountered in that society. (See the site for game-licensing fees and free downloadable lesson plans.)

Earn good karma and learn the financial logistics (applying for grants, juggling credit) of running a nonprofit organization such as an animal shelter or a senior center while striking a balance between quality of service and the number of people you can help. (Play free, and find free downloadable curricula, online.)

In this complex and detailed political simulation from Positech Games, you head an imaginary country. Can you bolster the economy, keep the peace, protect the environment, and still win the next election? (See the site for licensing information.)

Learn from this game by Breakthrough about living conditions in U.S. immigration detention centers and watch video interviews with former detainees and family members as you play a journalist investigating the 2007 real-world death of detainee Boubacar Bah. (Play free, and find free downloadable discussion materials and take-action guides, online.)

Younger players can learn about world hunger and the challenges of relief work from this United Nations World Food Programme game as they guide food-aid missions to the imaginary island of Sheylan. (Download free.)

Try your hand at brokering a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict as either the Israeli prime minister or the Palestinian president while juggling the demands and limitations of national leadership in this product from ImpactGames. (See the site for game-licensing fees.)

Designed for use in a classroom setting, this game from Red Redemption for teenagers and adults challenges players to choose which new technologies and energy policies to invest in to clear up the skies. Make the right choices, and watch nasty clouds of pollution float away. (Play free, and find free lesson plans for teachers, online.)

You run Europe. Choose the policies that will rein in carbon emissions without breaking the bank, ticking off the rest of the world, or earning you the boot from voters. The game, from Red Redemption, is designed for working adults, but it's also accessible to college students and older teens. (Play free online.)

In this game from Breakthrough, you play an immigrant teen trying to earn U.S. citizenship and steer clear of the law -- but avoiding trouble is harder than it seems. (Play free, and download the free curriculum, online.)

Kara Platoni is a freelance science writer in Oakland, California.

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