Video Games In The Classroom: A look at Super Smart Games

Before coming to the Center for History and New Media I worked on the planing committee for the Games Learning and Society Conference, an annual conference on the role of video games in teaching and learning. For my project I am thinking about bringing my interests in games and education together with my background in history to create a web portal for teachers looking for games to integrate into their classroom. By walking through the educational games site Super Smart Games I can unpack some of the features that I think would more effectively position a site toward integrating games in the classroom.

Super Smart games offers reviews of educational games for Teachers, Students and Parents. Site visitors browse through various categories to find reviews of games dealing with different subjects, and do simple searches that search through the entire collection of game reviews. Visitors can then comment on the reviews but it looks like they cannot post their own reviews. (Thanks to Elle Sanders from Super Smart Games for correcting me, visitors can write reviews, see Elle’s comments below) Sadly the site does not offer any ways for visitors to do advanced searches through the games. For example teachers cannot search via state standards, the time it requires to play a game, the age level of students, or specify only free web games, games free to download, or commercial games. The site also does not interface with existing Teacher social networks like Teacher’s Ade.

My fundamental problem with the site is that it is really more of a game review site than a games site. If it were a game site it would connect visitors to games. While reviews are useful they are ultimately of secondary importance. If you are looking for reviews of games from an educational perspective, then this is a good spot, but I think this is a relatively shallow apreciation for what the web can do. For the sake of comparison consider the non-education games site Kongegrate. This site aims at gamers and game developers. One of the stated goals is that at any moment a visitor should be no more than a few clicks away from actually playing a game. Kongregate (warning this is a fantastically addictive site) offers a much more robust way to interact with games. Some of these features would transfer to a site dedicated to teachers, some of them wouldn’t, but all of the design choices clearly mirror the needs of the gamers and developers.

instead of reading about games at Kongegrate you get to play them and interact with a community built around those games. It would be interesting to consider if it would be possible to do something for teachers. Extract the things most meaningful to them and offer those features alongside the games. In my next post I will explore a use case for the kind of site I am imagining.

4 Responses to Video Games In The Classroom: A look at Super Smart Games

  1. Chuck Crum says:

    Sounds like you really found a spot that can really serve a purpose, attract a lot of action. I wonder how difficult it will be with copyright and all to obtain all of the information you need to set it up right.

  2. Trevor says:

    Thats a interesting question Chuck. I think there are ways that would not require really dealing with copyright issues. If the site stuck to free games it wouldn’t need to host them. Instead it would just link out to where the games are hosted. Having your collection of games mentioned on the site would prove valuable as it would ultimately bring more traffic to the site hosting the games.

  3. Elle Sanders says:

    Hi Trevor,

    I am the Editor of Super Smart Games and I wanted to thank you for your review of our new website. We officially launched the site on September 1st, so it is fantastic to read impressions of our work so far.

    I would like to mention that, at this point, the site is primarily designed for parents and students, but teachers are certainly welcomed. We will be adding a section that will be more specifically for educators, but as of yet, it is still in development.

    I do have to beg to differ with you on your assessment that our site doesn’t offer visitors the opportunity to post game reviews of their own, or that we don’t provide links to the actual games that we profile. Indeed, those are two of the features upon which the foundation of our site is built.

    For example, the game that is in your screen shot above is “Discover Babylon”. It is the first game in the list of History Games. These lists are for general at-a-glance purposes. Users can quickly scan these game “snapshots” to see what platform a game plays on (Windows, Mac, Linux, Xbox etc.), read a brief game summary, and determine if the game is free, playable online, or has a free trial. If our users like what they see, they can open up the game’s in-depth profile page.

    This is easily done by clicking either the game’s title, the game’s picture, or the “Read more…” link. The profile page for Discover Babylon is here: http://www.supersmartgames.com/Big_Kids/History/Discover_Babylon/. The game profiles include much greater detail on each game, including feature lists, game trailers, links to external reviews, links to walk-throughs or Teacher’s Guides etc. Each game is different, of course, but we try to provide as much information on every game as possible to help our users make informed decisions about the games in which they have an interest.

    And as you rightly point out, it is shortsighted to discuss or review games on the Internet without connecting visitors to the games themselves. This is why every game on our site has a direct link to the site where they can play, download, get a free trial, or purchase the game of their choice. In cases where we have a direct relationship with the developer or publisher, our visitors can interact with a game trial’s download dialog-box without leaving our site at all.

    Your criticism of our current search capabilities is probably quite justified, and I am grateful to you for pointing it out. It gives us good reason to have a second look at a feature that, while serviceable, could easily benefit from more robust and discerning output. Our games are already cross-referenced by subject matter and by age group, but more options are always helpful.

    Thanks again for the review and for the opportunity to respond.

    Best Regards,

    Elle Sanders
    Editor-in-chief
    SuperSmartGames.com

  4. towens6 says:

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my blog post Elle!

    I have edited my post to reflect the fact that visitors can review the games. I didn’t realize that you had only launched at the beginning of the month.

    I am glad to hear you are thinking about offering more advanced search options. Particularly since the site serves such a wide array of audiences. (Parents, Teachers, and Students.) As your inventory of games grows this will undoubtedly become more useful.

    Keep up the good work!
    -Trevor

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