In order to understand the value of games for learning, it is important to play games - good games, bad games - just play them. As you do try to identify what makes them fun (or not). Try to identify what the game is teaching (ALL games teach something). Here are some great examples of games to get you started along with some notes on what to watch for along the way.
Plants vs Zombies (Win/Mac/iPhone/iPad) - Great example of teaching the game as you play, mastery and choice. This is also one of the most fun games you will ever play
Our Courts (web) - This game illustrates the power of learning by failure and giving the player choice.
Bakesale (web) - In addition to teaching the Newsvendor business model, Bakesale also tracks player data for real-time performance analysis and assessment.
Cell Craft (web) - Nice example of how games put the learner into a role and immerse them in context.
Angry Birds (iPhone/iPad) - A very fun game. Requires mastery of each level before moving on to the next level
Fold It (Win/Mac) - Great example of a game that solves real world problems through game play. Players identify all possible permutations of a protein molecule which is inherently difficult for a computer to do, but can be done relatively easily by a human.
Hideout (iPad) - An interesting approach at building games for young children (kindergartners) - also aligns to Common Core standards.
Minecraft (Win/Mac) - This game, perhaps more than any other, shows what it looks like to allow players to just explore. Not many rules, just some basic parameters, and a lot of creativity.
Candymonster (iPhone/iPad) - A fun and addictive game - but as you play it pay attention to how powerful a "quick win" can be. Often it's more powerful to keep the tasks very simple and easy to master, especially at the beginning of a game.
Civilization (Win/Mac) - Shows the power of choice and exploration - also some nice learning elements.
Save! the Game (iPhone) - This is a great example of a really horrible game. It's supposed to teach kids how to save money, but all it actually teaches is how to click on things (dexterity). Be careful to make sure that the game play is aligned to the learning objective
Trainyard (iPhone, iPad) - Simple concept but very addictive. Does a good job of teaching how to play while you play. Great example of mastery (you can't go to the next level until you've mastered the current level)
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