Jill Vialet

Recently, I got an email from a software engineer, Ron, who heard an interview with me on our local NPR affiliate and was inspired to share a game he had created. Ron’s game, Logistics, is intended to inspire kids to play with the ideas of planning involved in the sorting and movement of objects–essentially a playful version of the management challenges inherent in fulfillment.

I’ve been playing with Ron’s game and have been working on a re-named a tweaked version I’m calling Set. By nature, I'm admittedly obsessed with new games, but this got me thinking… What makes a great game? And how do we use our collective power to share new games?

Last year the Playworks staff went through a fervor of Ninja fever. One coach brought this game of sharp movement and hand-tagging to a local training; the others enjoyed it and shared at national training of program staff. They played Ninja on Recess Roll-Out trips, at other local trainings and even on the night of our 2010 Get in the Game dinner. The fever had spread. Ninja was, in the collective opinion of our staff, a great game (surgeon general’s warning: it’s not necessarily a great game for younger kids; one of our staff recently suffered a serious case of Ninja lip that required stitches).

The best games are inclusive, accessible, clear, simple, and modifiable. The philosopher Bernard Suits wrote: “Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.”  I am struck by the implications of that statement, especially as it relates to building an educational system that really works for kids.

In my continued obsession with new games, I'd like to ask you to do what Ron did: share your game idea, discuss it, test it and make it great. We recently discovered a site called Ludocity where you can share it.

You can also share your new game with us. Playworks is sponsoring a New Games Contest, and we'd like to bring your game to our summer Games Lab. Not only will we try to answer the question “What makes a great game,” but we'll identify the top new games and share them with you. Stay tuned.

Update: New Games Contest has closed, but we're still accepting game submissions to update the database

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