Review by Seann Dikkers, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2013


Slick but dialogue heavy ethics game teaches students to make tough decisions

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies

  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Teachers say (5 Reviews)

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Pros: Students make thought provoking decisions that have no right or wrong answers.

Cons: Point-and-click game mechanics aren't very engaging.

Bottom Line: A versatile game that can teach ethics, argumentation, and civics is light on interactivity but will come alive through discussion.

As a branching narrative, students can replay the same scenario, but choose differently to achieve different outcomes. For teachers, this can be a conversation starter. You might want to have students play alone or in pairs, running through the game twice. After each session, facilitate group discussion. Why'd you choose the solution you did? Does the game accurately reflect real choices that leaders make? What elements might the game leave out? To what degree are people biased? When are opinions useful? Facts? Can a decision be good even if a majority of people disagree? This discussion can be extended through project-based work. For instance, students could analyze local government or political media to see how arguments are made and solutions are proposed, how they employ facts and opinions, and how they divide people.

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Quandary is an online ethics game that teaches students how to gather and evaluate information to make better decisions. As a space colony captain, students solve three difficult challenges by consulting colonists and choosing a solution that is likely to be most beneficial. Students first view a comic introducing the problem facing the colony. Once in the game, they listen to or read colonists' positions on the issue and categorize the positions as facts, opinions, or solutions based on what they know about the person and the issue. For instance, Bryn, the hunter, says that, "Yashors are very good at getting out of traps." Given that a hunter would know this, the student identifies this as a fact. Eventually the student must isolate two possible solutions, get feedback on them, make a decision, and view the result. 

Rather than foregrounding instruction, Quandary cleverly gets students making decisions and confronting realistic challenges. So while players don’t get a highly interactive gaming experience, they do get guided but not pedantic help understanding ethics. Students will learn fairly quickly that a successful solution means getting buy-in from colonists -- all of whom do not agree and all of whom have valid positions -- while minimizing, but never eliminating, the negative effects of a decision. It’s best if students take time to think through choices, but they aren’t prevented from cruising through the game. Consequently, students will benefit from discussion which shouldn’t be too hard to spark since the game encourages ambiguity. To make facilitation easier, the Quandary website includes a walkthrough, list of standards, lesson plans, a worksheet, and videos of classroom implementation.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The artwork and space colony setting offer personality, but do not adequately make up for the stale mechanics and small number of possible outcomes.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Kids learn by stepping into a situation and trying out decisions. Limited choices still allow for a good introduction to decision making and the difference between fact and opinion.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The connected website includes a useful teacher's section with an overview video providing teacher and student perspectives on the game. Supporting documentation provides clear lesson plans.

Common Sense Reviewer
Seann Dikkers Researcher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Susie H. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Best for grades 6-8, or strong readers in 5th grade
The students really enjoyed it, and a few asked to do it again as a free choice activity. As a way to reinforce critical thinking and reading skills, I think it's an effective add-in. There's no way to track student use, and really not anything that could be used in assessments.
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