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It’s not always to teach our kids right from wrong as we hope we’re providing them with the capacity for good decision making in the future. Throughout life, kids will confront various issues at various ages and stages that task their moral fiber and while we hope we’ve imparted important lessons, there are ways we can reinforce good decision-making. Quandary is a free online game by Learning Games Network that is designed to teach ethics to tweens and teens. According to the Learning Games Network founders, Peter Stidwell and Scot Osterweil, Quandary helps kids “recognize ethical issues and to handle the complicated ethical situations they encounter in their day-to-day lives.”
The premise of the game is for players ages 8 and up to shape the future of a new society as they lead a new human colony on a distant planet called Braxos. The story involves creating a new society on an undeveloped planet that provides tweens and teens the opportunity to start from scratch. Players can make free choices but decisions can be difficult and there are no clear right or wrong answers- just consequences. They have to evaluate how consequences affect them personally, others in the colony, and the planet of Braxos.
Quandary provides a narrative-based learning experience through a graphic novel type reading experience that consists of three distinct stories (Lost Sheep, Water Wars, and Fashion Faction) that start each game with a clear problem.
After hearing the story, players are taken to a page that shows various colonists. Clicking on each member allows kids to learn about each member of the colony. Tweens and teens may learn of a member’s distinct skill set or their opinion on a solution to the problem. It’s up to the player to sort out the colonists of Braxos into various columns- Fact, Solution, or Opinion- before moving on.
Learning Through Quandary
Kids who love fantasy and adventure will gravitate to this game that is well suited to developing ethical thinking skills. They’re required to rely on reasoning skills to evaluate ethical dilemmas and reflect on possible consequences of their choices as they identify and understand the difference between solutions, facts, and opinions. It’s a thoughtful game that requires time to sit and think which is a refreshing change from overstimulating games with no clear learning objectives.
Our Experience Playing Quandary
While Quandary is designed for kids ages 8 and up, I’d have to say that like all games, you have to know your child to determine if this game is right for them. 8 year old Captain Computer was feeling a bit lost when he started the game.
We got to the page with the Braxos and he just didn’t know what to do because there weren’t clear directions on the page telling him what he should do with the colonists. He clicked on the colonists and read the pop-up box but it was through trial and error that he figured out he was supposed to sort them into Fact, Solution, and Opinion boxes. Without clear directions, the game got off to a rocky start and didn’t hold Captain Computer’s interest.
When almost 11 year old Emily sat down to play Quandary, she saw it as a welcome challenge and spent time evaluating each player, their skills, and opinions as she made her choices.
The Common Sense Media review of Quandary rates the game for ages 12 and up. It’s worth reading their review to help determine what age Quandary may be right for the kids in your family.
Quandary can help reinforce critical thinking skills, perspective taking, and decision making skills that involve consideration of various viewpoints through a game that is linked to ELA and Common Core objectives. In a time when we’re trying to teach life-long skills, Quandary can be an important teaching tool that will capture the interests of kids who enjoy learning in interactive ways, especially through gaming.
I appreciate helps kids with ethical decision-making without telling them what to think. I love how the open-ended nature requires real thinking skills for game play. As a free online game, Quandary is a modern version of the Choose-Your-Own Adventure books I loved reading as a kid that provides a new generation with the ability to practice an important skill set necessary for life.