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Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2014

The End

Exploration of life and death can get students asking big questions

Subjects & skills

  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: The comic book style and decent platforming should make philosophy palatable.

Cons: Some of the learning feels extra rather than essential.

Bottom Line: While it won't satisfy teachers looking for a deep dive into philosophy, The End offers a nicely polished introduction to some big questions and great philosophers.

It's a useful starting point for further study in science, philosophy, literature, and other disciplines influenced by the philosophical points of view, and great thinkers covered by The End. Certainly playing the game would be a good jumping off point for position papers on philosophical points of view, biographical essays, or research projects about philosophers and philosophical movements. Students could also be challenged to come up with their own philosophical treatise that explains their point of view on something big, profound, and maybe a little cliché like the meaning of life.

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Editor's Note: The End is no longer available.

The End is a post-apocalyptic platformer where players have died and must explore the titular, otherworldly setting. It's got tons of style with a comic book look and customizable avatars, complete with many cheeky brooding teenager options. While the game itself is firmly in the platformer genre, there are some interesting twists to how players get around. For instance, players can make shadows solid allowing them to be a bit more agile as they solve puzzles and collect keys which open doors -- which function both as in-game goals and as metaphors for philosophical exploration. At each door students read a philosophical quote, and then answer a moral question. Levels close out by switching from platforming to a number-based strategy game, where players use abilities they've unlocked to out maneuver the competition and earn prizes. There's a large amount of data available for students to peruse -- including a map of their philosophical views, and they can share their results with other players globally and on Facebook. There's also links to further reading that open up a world of possibilities for extended learning.

Students are introduced to key philosophical questions, philosophers, and quotes as they play, and thematically the game gets students thinking about heavy stuff like the meaning of life and death. However, most of the educational content feels secondary, and will require students to look for and focus on it. The overall learning potential is high, but teachers or parents will need to guide students toward the good learning content that's there as well as facilitate reflection and debate after they're done to surface some of the latent thematic engagement with life and mortality. 

Overall Rating

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

A very attractive art style with tons of character and personalized avatars offers a compelling dive into the topic of death.

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

Encourages reflection on mortality, and there's some philosophy to be learned but it could be better integrated into play.

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

There's a little bit of help and guidance, but players are mostly left on their own. Philosophical questions players answer are mapped, helping them reflect on their views.

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