New Entries

New Entries: Marco Polo Ocean

It can sometimes be hard to find suitable titles for your youngest family members. Marco Polo Ocean, our third game for the month of November, is specifically designed for curious tots, and offers a fun, safe digital place to explore the seas either alone or with the help of a parent/elder sibling.

Check out our report for this game by clicking the icon below:

marcopoloocean

 

Hub Stuff, Office Favourites

GameHub’s Top 5 Educational Apps For Kids

When learning is fun it doesn’t feel like learning, which is precisely why video-games and apps can be such great tools to help children. They think they’re just playing, while you know that they’re actually brushing up on their numeracy skills or improving their use of language. It’s a win for everyone! But with so many apps and games available it’s hard to know which ones are worth using. As part of our #GameSmart campaign, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite educational games for pre-schoolers and beyond.

Wee Puzzles

  • Who’s it for: Children 5 and under
  • What does it do? As the name suggests, it’s a puzzle game.
  • What’s so good about it? This game is perfect for teaching little ones shape recognition and it also develops hand-to-eye coordination. There are 50 puzzles to play with, all with child-friendly themes, such as dinosaurs, farm animals and trains. Perhaps best of all, it’s also totally intuitive. Players simply drag and drop the puzzle pieces to complete the picture, and are rewarded with a cute animation when they finish each board. It’s a great app to have loaded to your phone to keep small children amused while you’re out and about.
  • Cost: $2.99, with no in-app purchases.
  • Find out more with our parental report:http://www.gamehubhq.com/slug/wee-puzzles/basic
  • PS: We are running a great competition for you to win this game for your family! Just retweet to win via Twitter!

Quick Math Jr

  • Who’s it for? Ages 3 to 7
  • What does it do? Quick Math Jr is great for any little ones who could do with improving their maths skills.
  • What’s so good about it? Essentially a collection of counting and number games, the app injects some fun into arithmetic with colourful monsters who follow along with the action as the game is played. These crazy characters can also be customised by the player, and new facial features can be unlocked by progressing through the game. Best of all, there is a protected section of the app which allows parents to actually track their children’s progress. It’s cute, quirky, math-y fun!
  • Cost: Free download, offers in app purchases.
  • Find out more, read our report here: http://www.gamehubhq.com/slug/quick-math-jr/basic

Toca Nature

  • Who’s it for: Ages 4 and up
  • What does it do? It encourages creativity and free-form play by allowing children to create their own forest.
  • What’s so good about it? There are no limitations with this game. Players roam around their very own forest where they can build and change the landscape, feed the animals or simply observe what’s unfolding. There are no specific tasks to complete, leaving young players to enjoy the game as they direct play themselves which encourages free-form expressive play. There is a section for parents, which gives suggestions for questions you can ask your children as they play, adding to the learning experience.
  • Cost: £2.49, no in app purchases.
  • Find out more, read our report here:  http://www.gamehubhq.com/slug/toca-nature/basic

Alphabear

  • Who’s it for? Ages 8 and up
  • What does it do? Teaches literacy skills, rewards players with adorable bears to collect.
  • What’s so good about it? Think of Alphabear as a jazzed up version of scrabble, with the added bonus of fun little bears! The aim of the game is to construct the longest words possible from the letters on the board. When a letter tile is removed, it is replaced by a bear. As more letter tiles are removed, the bears get bigger and are worth more points. When a player scores enough points they receive a bear to keep, which makes Alphabear a great choice for children who respond well to rewards. They’re improving their vocabulary, and will want to keep on playing to collect more bears.
  • Cost: Free, but does offer in-app purchases.
  • To find out more read our parental report: http://www.gamehubhq.com/slug/alphabear/basic

Puzzle Bonsai

  • Who’s it for? Ages 10 and up
  • What does it do? An edutainment puzzle game that tests numerical and linguistic skills.
  • What’s so good about it? This game will really give kids a mental workout. Players are set the challenge of balancing equations of numbers, letters and shapes which must be solved to progress – as you might expect each round becomes increasingly difficult.  And if that sounds tricky it is, the game actually helps the player practice concepts in logic and numerical and linguistic reasoning at the level similar to an 11+ exam. That said, many players find that it’s a soothing game to play thanks to the graphics and chilled music.
  • Cost: It’s £0.79p to download.
  • Read our parental report to find out more: http://vwww.gamehubhq.com/slug/puzzle-bonsai/basic

 

Games Culture

Fun & Educational Online Quiz Game From Haggard Hawks

Time for another quiz! We love quizzes. This devilishly difficult quiz from Haggard Hawks left us scratching our heads, but we learned a fair bit in the process. Hopefully you will do better than I did, which was so abominably that I’m too ashamed to post my score. Why not call the kids over to the screen and make it a family affair? The anagram question on days of the week would surely benefit from a combined team effort. And by the end of it, you will all be able to spell embarasement, embarassment , embarresment… um…

Click here for the quiz!

(For very young players, watch out for a rude word (sh*t) in question eight.)

Games Culture

Fun & Educational Online Quiz Game From Mental Floss

This free and fun quiz from Mental Floss kept us all entertained over the weekend. How many can you get right in the time limit? I…did not do astoundingly well. A run of American Sports questions proved hard to beat, but I was back onto a winner with planets, cheese and Spice Girls. Can you beat my score of 22? It probably won’t be that hard!

Try it out:

Games Culture

Why Your Children Hate The Educational Games You Buy Them – And What To Do About It

There really is no getting around it. Video-game design is an extremely challenging job. Like woodworking and sculpture, video-game design is an artisan craft, build up over years of practice, diligence and a few failed experiments! It is not the same as programming, though they share some characteristics. A programmer is not automatically a game-designer, let alone a good one. An extremely talented game designer who cannot program might make board or card games. An extremely talented programmer who cannot design games may become the creator of the office or accountancy software that helps you run your business. Both are crafts worthy of respect, but they are not the same. A game-designer who can also program is a multi-skilled individual.

Educational games are, unfortunately, often the realm of the bad game designer. I could, and people have, write an entire book about the principles of game design, but here a few key points will suffice. A game needs to teach the player a task, and give them knowledge and also be fun. “But shooting the faces off aliens is not a task, nor does it require special knowledge!” I hear you wail. But now, think about it, is that entirely correct?

If it were easy, anyone could do it, but it’s not. You need to know where to put your fingers on the controller/keyboard. You need to master aiming in a straight line. You need to know which ammunition to use, how much you have, how much is in your reserve. Does this weapon fire singly, or in bursts? How much kickback is there, how much recoil? You need to keep moving whilst you aim, otherwise you will be eaten for breakfast. Do you know how to move? Can you move and aim at the same time? Are you looking where you are going?! Oh no, look out! Squelch.

And we didn’t even get into the alien. What kind of alien is it? It it immune to this weapon? Does it have a weak spot? Which bit of it is actually it’s face?! Will it fight back? How? Does it have special abilities, like teleporting around you? Can it attack from a distance, or should you only start worrying when it gets up close? How fast does it move?! Oh, that’s actually quite fast. Squelch.

When a person is playing a game, they look so serious because their brain is being fully engaged with making thousands of these tiny judgements a minute. They are calculating, assessing, testing, questioning and evaluating everything on the screen in front of them. They are strategising, solving puzzles, reacting to threats. Their is a lot of interior work going on to produce that zombified expression!

A person playing an involving, mentally stimulating game will get their brain into a state of flow, where they are making decisions partly on instinct, partly on reasoning, moving from mental task to task in a state of pure focus and concentration. Human brains love this. It makes a brain happy. Like doing a crossword or figuring out a cross-stitch pattern, the brain loves problems. You give the brain an interesting puzzle and a store of knowledge to draw on, and you will have a focussed, engaged human who is sometimes surprisingly difficult to distract.

The problem with many educational games is that they do not provide interesting problems. The learning and the fun are in opposition – solve three maths puzzles, play a round of Snake. This is a truly terrible way to design a game, as it gives the player an incentive to rush through and ignore the educational aspects, in order to get back to the fun content. Unsurprisingly, with pure fun available elsewhere, few children will choose to play these kinds of games willingly. As a caveat,  “pure” educational games are a good fit for very young children, as they offer simple, streamlined experiences – when you are young everything is interesting and novel because it’s the first time you’ve seen it! A baby fascinated by a lamppost is both cute and unconcerning, a teenager utterly enthralled by a street-lamp is likely a cause for alarm!

Good educational games weave their learning objectives into the gameplay from the beginning, rather than stapling them on as an afterthought. A good educational game takes the basic principle of game design, that the player must acquire and utilise special knowledge towards novel and engaging tasks. And this is what is meant by fun. A good educational game teaches you come thing useful almost by accident, by giving the player a skill that helps them complete the game, as well as being useful in the outside world.

GameHub HQ holds many examples of these kind of games. For example, word games such as Alphabear and SpellTower encourage the player to expand their vocabulary and demand good spelling in order to score points. A player of Democracy 3 without an ability to interpret complex graphs and charts will surely fail. Players of Puzzle Bonsai  must learn to “think like a computer” using the logical operators that make up the basis of programming and mathematics, but due to the tranquil game setting, most players will not even realise this is what they are learning to do.

When looking for an educational game, look for a game first, and a teaching tool second. Engaged players will learn new skills and information without realising it, it’s a basic part of the process of playing a video-game. What you can seek to guide, as a parent, is what skills and information the player will naturally pick up. Immunovirology, or epistemic philosophy? General knowledge, or fluency in Mandarin Chinese, or the basics of quantum physics? All are valid and all are there in games. It’s just a case of picking that that suits your family the best.