Jun 15, 2008

Learning Through Games

Almost anything can be learned using some kind of game or challenge and sometimes that is the best way to go.

I still remember -and I am always recommending it to any parent whose kids don't do well in math-, how my love for math grew more by reading "The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Adventures"than by anything else. It got me into math by reading (one of my favorites activities) and by challenging me, with its mix between the 1001 Arabian Nights style and the very concrete math problems that are presented there (warning: the English version is not as good as the Spanish and Portuguese one, apparently some chapters were left out).

Now the game I will talk about here is not just for kids. Is part of Engage'08 and basically it allows you to manage the nation budget with pretty good information and then, based on your goals and what you have achieve you get your results and you can even compare them with how others did.

This is how it works: first you have to choose three goals. In my case I chose "efficient government"; "energy independence" and "competitive advantage". Then you can go to each piece of the budget (military, education, etc) and choose the cards you want to play. The cards include things like "cut down 50% of..." or "Increase 50 % of" and sometimes even "Terminate this or that program". Thanks to that, someone like me, "new to the US" was able to learn about some programs in place and work with them towards the results I want.

Once you have played all the cards you want, your results will be calculated and you can see how you have done compared to people with similar goals. As you can see below, my results in my very first try wasn't so bad... I got the deficit extremely reduced, kicking the year for the "Budget Bust" until at least 2070 and I was able to complete two of my goals (and just a little bit of the third).

Funny enough, as you can see, I am a "Downsizer" what I guess puts me slightly in the Republican column but let's get the record straight I am not one. If I could vote I would be an independent. Downsize a government like this is not a matter of right or left but a matter of common sense. You can spend less in some things to spend more in others (like I did) and still get good results.

I think that ANYBODY that votes should play this game to at least understand how complex the budget can be and on how many things you should look for straight answers from the candidates when it comes to policies.

Now, my critique. To make this game more "real" they should include at least a couple of elements that the SimCity game has being those a "popularity" measurement as well as a "catastrophe" element. Those elements means riots when an unpopular measure is taken as well as a random catastrophe that tests how good or bad you are prepared for the unexpected.

In their defense, though, I understand that this game was conceived to be played in minutes while a SimCity type can take days or weeks!

I included the game here (see below) for anyone that wants to play it and leave me their comments. Depending on your browser you may see it or not (is an iframe). If you can't you have right there the link to Engage'08 to play it in the original site.

Again, if you are planning to vote, you should play it at least once!

Link to the game

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