Category Archives: Humanities Games


Encyclopedia of Mechanics

Let me begin by saying thank you to all the presenters, participants, and attendees of the inaugural CUNY Games Festival! We’re pretty darn pleased with how it turned out and hope to see you at the next one.

I received a few questions from educators during the conference about game mechanics–specifically, how to learn more about them. It’s true that having a wide breadth of knowledge about mechanics can only serve to improve your ability to make games, and although it might be best to learn about mechanics by playing more games, I have definitely found Board Game Geek’s Encyclopedia of mechanics to be helpful. And so I share it with you!

“Comma”-nd and Conquer — Battleship Grammar Mod

I will upload the resources/assets I used for this lesson in the near future, but I just wanted to report the INCREDIBLE response I receive from my students for this exercise. Here is what I did: first, I gave students a short grammar lesson on commas, maybe a half-hour. Then I distributed a 7×7 grid on a sheet of paper and had students draw–secretly!–a three-square-long ship on it. I then paired them up and gave them sentences to punctuate. If they got a question right, they got a torpedo to launch at their partners, a la battleship. Anyone with a ship still afloat by the end of the exercise got a prize (this was a mistake, by the way; I should have said “Anyone who sinks a battleship gets a prize”).

This is the sort of “gamified” exercise that makes Ian Bogost rage against the machine, but the fact is that it is one of the best grammar lessons I’ve ever conducted. Students were eager to learn from their mistakes, eager to send their classmates to a watery grave, and audibly improving with comma usage as the lesson went on. I say “audibly” because they cheered and fist-pumped and cabbage-patched in their desks when they were right, and groaned when they missed a question. It was everything we want our classes to be. And it came about because of a simple, quick-and-dirty game mod.

Interested in adding games to your classroom teaching?

In case all the ideas on this website aren’t enough, I just found a great blog that gives you a steady stream of cool classroom ideas, mostly for elementary school, but I already see a couple I can modify to use in my community college classroom. The author is Mike Perry, and he taught high school math, but many of the games will work with any subject.

For example, here’s a game called “This or that” that would work well as an ice breaker in any class at the start of the year: