Common Sense Review
Updated June 2014

Who Wants to Live a Million Years?

Fast, focused natural selection game encourages experimentation
Common Sense Rating 3
  • Charles Darwin himself gives instruction on how to play.
  • Learn a bit about how natural selection works before diving into gameplay.
  • Students must create a population diverse enough to survive predators and other catastrophic events.
  • Learn some background about Charles Darwin's life.
Cute graphics and Charles Darwin himself set the scene for a hands-on introduction to natural selection.
A lack of explanation of results misses an opportunity for deeper learning.
Bottom Line
Gives students a thoroughly interesting and interactive introduction to natural selection, paving the way for deeper study.
Jenny Bristol
Common Sense Reviewer
Homeschooling parent/instructor
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

The playful tone welcomes students, and the short gameplay with frequent -- but fun! -- failure encourages continued experimentation.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

While not a thorough lesson on natural selection, it is an engaging hands-on introduction. Students will quickly grasp the basics, but might crave more interactivity and flexibility.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

The game includes initial instructions and hints to help choose mutations and variations, but there's little explanation of game results.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Teachers can use this game as an introduction to the concept of natural selection and to Charles Darwin's life and career. Its engaging interface will keep students' interest while they practice pertinent concepts, which can lead to deeper lessons on evolution, genetics, and other biology topics. Teachers will want to follow up with a clarification of what students experience to let the core concepts of natural selection sink in.

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What's It Like?

Who Wants to Live a Million Years? is a hands-on introduction to the concept of natural selection that allows students to make choices to guide the process. Cute not-seen-in-the-real-world creatures with specific features -- such as long or short legs, long or short necks, fur or no fur, and stripes or no stripes -- make up the potential gene pool. Guided by naturalist Charles Darwin, students choose three creatures with which to begin the natural selection process, in the hope their population will have enough variation to withstand climate change and predators for a million years, establishing a viable lineage over time. During the game, environmental and other disasters occur that guide the evolution of the population and decrease their number. At two points in the game, students can, if they wish, introduce a mutation into the population that will help guide their creatures' evolution during crisis. The game also includes information on Darwin's life, a quiz, and a glossary of useful terms.

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Is It Good For Learning?

A million years pass very quickly in this game, which lasts only a few minutes. Time stops just a few times for students to make decisions about introducing mutations into the gene pool. While the results of those decisions are shown onscreen, little to no explanation or feedback is given on how to improve results for the next time. The hints screen offers a small amount of help, giving pros and cons for each body feature, but there's little context for the information or explanation as to why certain parts of the population did not survive. Still, students will likely want to play the game several times to experiment with different variation combinations and see if their population will survive to the million year mark. 

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See how teachers are using Who Wants to Live a Million Years?

Lesson Plans