A Sailor's Life for Me

Low production values hinder kids reliving War of 1812

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Subjects & Skills

Critical Thinking, Social Studies

Price: Free
Platforms: Mac, Windows

Pros: Humor is sprinkled liberally thoughought the instructions.

Cons: Graphics are dull and not very engaging.

Bottom Line: It might work as a companion resource as you cover the War of 1812, but it's unlikely to hold attention for long.

Role-playing games can help get kids in the mindset of the game's characters. Ask students to write from the point of view of the sailors in the game. What did they think about the conditions in which they lived? Was it worth it? What other jobs might they have done at the time?

Given the narrow focus of A Sailor's Life for Me, it seems like it would be best used as a one-shot activity in conjunction with the study of the military in history or the War of 1812.

A Sailor's Life for Me is an online component to the museum exhibit for the Boston-based USS Constitution, or Old Ironsides. Kids get to experience what it was like to be a new sailor on board the famous ship. From choosing what clothing to wear (on a budget) to performing the myriad menial tasks of a typical sailor, players gain experience and points in order to get a better job on board.

Kids will get a solid sense of what it was like to be on an historic battleship as they scrub the deck, load the gunpowder into the cannons, and carry a bowl of sloppy food through the hallways to the mess hall. But the low-quality graphics and slow-paced activities might make this a difficult sell for students accustomed to livelier experiences.

Text, audio, and screenshots at the outset show kids how to begin and master each level. Once in the game, though, there aren't many choices. You just follow the game's linear navigation. Gameplay itself is minimal and really just serves as a means of getting players to the next series of facts and tidbits about the USS Constitution and other pieces of American history. A tally of experience points and money earned is located at the top of the screen. Even if kids aren't drawn in, they'll learn about the importance of hard work. The more you play, the better the job you can get on the ship.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

Low-quality graphics create a significant hurdle to reeling kids in, and games are limited in what they ask kids to do.


Plopping players into the role of menial laborer is a clever way of helping them connect to the experience.


Explanations for activities are clear, written out, and explained in audio, complete with seafaring soundtracks. It's not easy to find help if a player gets confused, though.

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