Education – Sometimes it’s a Stealth War
By Graeme Thomson
If you hadn’t noticed (and, to be fair, there’s no reason why you should have) I’ve been silent for the past 3 issues of Games for Educators. In case you were wondering, this wasn’t because I’d developed a case of cyberspace laryngitis. Nor had I run off to become a virtual Trappist monk. The reason is…I’ve been busy. Busy running all over the country exhibiting at homeschooler conferences in at least 5 states and more cities. Busy preparing for the first print run of our new bible game, GO mental SACRAmental and our new card game Beadecked.. Busy talking with educators, parents, homeschoolers, church groups and being…well…busy.
And what all this busy-ness has taught me is this: I get a lot of books read when I’m staying at conference hotels. It’s also taught me something else. It’s taught me that both homeschooling parents and kids don’t just want to have education: they also want to have fun. This fact was brought judderingly to my attention in (I think) Harrisburg PA when, just as I was about to start explaining to one family the uber-educational value of one of our games, I was asked by the kid, “Do you have any game that are just fun?”
Which is where the hotel room book-reading thing comes in. You see, one of the books I was reading at the time was a first-hand account by a Royal Navy fighter pilot of his experiences during the 1982 Falklands War (bear with me – this’ll all make sense in a minute). One of the things the author said was that, as the conflict progressed, it became increasingly difficult for the British fighters to engage the Argentine aircraft. The reason for this was that the Argentine aircraft were equipped with long-range radar that could pick up and identify the British Navy Sea Harriers and, having already become painfully aware of the Sea Harriers’ superiority in combat, the Argentine aircraft would simply turn back to base.
And that was when something went “click” in my head. Kids, like Argentine aircraft, are equipped with long-range radar. Their radar, though, can pick up and identify the dreaded word “educational” at about 50 miles. Result? If it’s threatening their fun time, they mentally turn back to base. Clearly, what is required is something that doesn’t so immediately appear as a blip on the radar screen: a game that, while being educational and socially valuable, is equipped with advanced stealth technology. And that game is…
No, before you ask, I didn’t invent it and my company doesn’t publish it. It’s a British/Canadian game that’s recently won the globally recognized German Spiel Des Jahres prize for “Best Party Game 2009” as well as “Best Party Game” from Games Magazine, “Game of the Year” in France, “Best Party Game” by Creative Child Magazine, “TV2 Hjelper Deg” in Norway & “Best New Game” in Sweden. But, despite what all the awards suggest, GiftTRAP isn’t just a party game – it has a genuine social and educational value: making people more attentive to the needs of others and able to explore different preferences. What’s more, it’s hilarious. The game play revolves around gift-giving, but the focus is on social exchanges - not the gifts. Players secretly choose & give everyone a unique gift from one of the 640 diverse gift ideas included in the game – each one of which is guaranteed to start conversation. Next players each rate the gifts on offer as they feel best to worst. Next gifts are unwrapped & scored. GiftTRAP is not about winning per se, but it is about you and about building your relationship with others. It’s a game that appeals to all ages, and actually stands against the rising tide of materialism by adding the feedback loop gift givers so badly need. Oh, and it’s sold over 50,000 copies. Not bad
One other thing: when it comes to long-range education warning systems, it won’t show up on the radar screen. It looks and feels like…well…just fun.
For more information on GiftTRAP: http://www.gifttrap.com/