Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Games for learning

I have been working on a story for my Patreon site (for anyone interested, it is the seasonal magical story at the $5 Patron level and will be posted tomorrow!) which features a group of Witchy Children who decided to use a game to help them practice their herb studies.  I have always been a big fan of using games to learn things.  When I was little, my parents used games to reinforce things like math (Monopoly is great for math) as well as educational video games.  And when my son was little, I found games that used math to help him practice as well.

But game learning isn't limited to traditional skills!  There are all kinds of games that can be used to practice any skill you can think of.  With apps, you can often find games that will help you learn or practice knowledge based skills.  I have seen board games that teach everything from herb usage to general trivia to the ten commandments.

The world really opens up though when you start thinking about creating your own games.  Then, you can tailor your game to whatever subject you like, and the people who are going to be playing.  You can always use a traditional game as a template and then adapt it to suit your needs.

A basic game that would be great as a template is trivial pursuit.  You can draw up a game board, with all the different colored squares, use any tokens for the main game pieces, and just have colored cards to represent the categories you have successfully answered a question in.  You can have as many categories as you want, and require as many pieces from each category. 

For example, you might decide you want to have these categories:  'stones and gems', 'herbology', 'deities', 'magical tools', 'astrology' and 'famous Pagans'.  You can come up with trivia questions for each category, and if you are playing with other people, you can each come up with questions for all of the categories...not only does this help share the work, but it creates a greater variety of questions! 

Another game that makes for a great template is scategories.  The basic idea is that you have lists of ten or so categories.  Each round of play, you randomly pick a letter, and all your answers must begin with that letter (everyone shares the same letter).  You have a limited amount of time to come up with answers for each category.  You get a point for every answer that you have that no one else put down (so if two people list 'apple' as a 'thing in nature with a star' then neither would get a point).  Coming up with categories is a lot of fun, you can try things like:  'things used in ritual', 'things you never want to hear said in ritual', 'things used in a protection spell', 'things in your magical cupboard', 'holidays', 'things associated with Aphrodite', or 'magical components that are red'.  Really the sky is the limit!  And it is really fun to see what other people come up with!

You could come up with your own version of Taboo, where you have a card with a target word on it, let's say the target word is Samhain.  Then there will follow a list of words or phrases that are 'taboo' can't say them:  Sabbat, Halloween, Day of the Dead, Jack-o-lantern, Pumpkin, October, All Hallows, Trick-or-treat, Costume.  The idea is to then describe the target word without saying any of the taboo words, and to get one of the other players to guess the target word.

Breaking free from the game board, I love 'what if' games.  You can play them in so many ways!  A fun one for a group is to come up with a list of random items.  It could be stuff you might have in your car, in your pockets, at a fast food restaurant or out in the woods.  Then the challenge is to use those items...and only those craft a spell towards a particular goal.  So, for example, if you had some chewing gum, a paper clip, a rubber band, three dimes and a penny, a receipt from the gas station and a piece of clear quarts in your pocket and you needed to cast a spell to make it to work on time, what would you do?

Another approach to this kind of game is to pick one focus and name at least one correspondence from as many different categories as you can.  So if you picked the focus of love, can you name a stone, flower, herb, deity, holiday, color, scent, metal, animal that is associated with it?  You can do this for any focus, though it works especially well for Deities and concepts (like healing, protection or peace)

You could also try the alphabet game, where you pick one letter of the alphabet and try to come up with one word for each letter that matches your category.  You can do the alphabet of deities, of stones, of herbs....and finding X's for all of them might trip you up!

An interesting take on oracle/tarot is to either use one deck or have everyone bring their own.  The goal is to tell a story based on what the cards show.  One player will start, by flipping over one card, and then saying one sentence about the card.  The next person will then flip over their card and add a second sentence.  Continue around, with each person flipping a card and adding to the story.

A competitive version would be that the first person flips a card and describes a situation.  Then the second person flips their card and has to use their card to counteract the original one in some way.  So if the first person had the fool card and said, "A young man leaves the house to start a great adventure," and the second person drew Strength, they might say, "But he came upon a great lion that roared at him menacingly."  Continue on until one person can't come up with a counter to the previous card.

What I love most about learning games is that they turn study into sacred play.  Especially in a group situation, you are encouraged to think outside the box, under a time limit or remember things that you may not have fully memorized.  But simply by playing, you will become more familiar with the topics of your game.  You will start to remember things more (especially if something really memorable happened while you were playing) and you will have a good time doing it!

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