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Mission US – educational AND engaging

For too long, most educational video games seemed to be of the Reader Rabbit variety – colorfully packaged animated worksheets. Writing and coding quality games with high production values and interesting stories was just too expensive.

And forget about good history games. While the Oregon Trail game was okay, history teachers have long been forced to find ways to integrate off-the-shelf games such as Medal of Honor or Civilization III.

But recent improvements in simulation creation software and internet technology has enabled developers to create some pretty sweet history tools. One I’m falling in love with is Mission US.

Created by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Mission US

is a multimedia project featuring free interactive adventure games set in different eras of U.S. history. The first game, Mission 1: “For Crown or Colony?,” puts the player in the shoes of Nat Wheeler, a 14-year-old printer’s apprentice in 1770 Boston. As Nat navigates the city and completes tasks, he encounters a spectrum of people living and working there when tensions mount before the Boston Massacre.  Ultimately, the player determines Nat’s fate by deciding where his loyalties lie.

Designed specifically for the educational market and aligned to national standards, the game has extensive teacher materials and resources. Students playing the game will walk away with a solid knowledge of the pre-Revolution period. And for the most part, the tool does a good job of engaging kids in thinking and asking questions.

My pet peeve?

For the most part, much of the action doesn’t involve any of the game’s characters. In future missions, the designers need to provide more opportunities for the player to directly interact with other characters and events.

But even given that, Mission US is a great addition to the history simulation genre. And the best part? It’s free. So play in streaming format or download and play on your hard drive.

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