Review by Caryn Lix, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2014

Textadventures.co.uk

Play or design text adventures, but creation can get technical

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6-12
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Pros: Potential to be used to cover many subjects, and designing games makes for an enjoyable, creative exercise in critical thinking.

Cons: Making games can get technical and complicated.

Bottom Line: Text adventures can be a blast to play and make, but the Quest game-making tool, while offering some decent support, can be tough to use effectively without coding experience.

There are three main ways to use it: 1) students play pre-made games (teachers can create a class on the site that only accesses games curated by the teacher); 2) teacher designs a game with specific learning outcomes in mind for students; 3) students design games. If technology and time are an issue, teachers can play games in front of the class and have students help make choices. Alternatively, students could play games in pairs. Older or more advanced students can design games for younger students or peers. Designing games can incorporate a wide variety of project-based assessment. For example, a student building a game that teaches a social studies concept will be learning and researching the concept, writing creatively, solving problems with code, and using logic and creative thinking -- all at the same time.

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Text adventure games are like "choose your own adventure" stories navigated by clicking on highlighted text or, more commonly, entering text commands. Players read parts of a story and must use simple commands (look, search, talk, etc.) to progress. For example, a game might begin by saying: "You are standing in an empty room with white walls. There is a dragon sleeping on the floor in front of you. A set of stairs descends behind you, and there is a locked gate to the north." The player would then type commands to walk down the stairs, or inspect the dragon closer to see if there's anything strange. Each action -- if the game understands it -- is then met with a new block of text letting the player know what has transpired. Most text adventure games focus on puzzles and mazes where players must explore an area, collect items, and complete puzzles to progress. Textadventures.co.uk is a browsable database of these games but also features a tool -- Quest -- that allows students (and teachers!) the opportunity to design their own text adventure games.

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At their core, text adventure games build reading comprehension and problem-solving skills, but there's also subject-specific learning content available for students to play since the community -- including many teachers -- have designed games with learning outcomes in mind. For example, some games get players to answer math questions to proceed. Some students will love the challenge of text adventures, but some students might find them a bit boring or frustratingly counterintuitive due to their unique grammar. For example, typing "unlock gate with key" might not yield results, but typing "use key on gate" might. Teachers might want to direct these students to the games that involve clicking on links rather than typing in commands. All students, however, are likely to be enthusiastic about designing their own games, which fuses creative writing and coding. However, the Quest tool can be challenging to use, and although there are tutorials to help beginners, they're a work-in-progress with a few mistakes and glitches.

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Overall Rating

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

A fun, interactive twist on games and learning, but games vary widely in quality, and the sometimes unintuitive commands and building tool might turn off some kids.

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

Making games gets kids using -- in concert -- reading, writing, and thinking skills.

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 are teacher admin features as well as tutorials, forums, and a wiki to help players design games, but making effective use of them requires focus and, ideally, some prior coding experience.


Common Sense Reviewer
Caryn Lix Classroom teacher

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