Some favourite MEC games

13-May-2011

Creating the games for MEC was a huge challenge. We didn’t know how hard it was going to be when we decided that we must have games that were definitely real games with a proper ‘gaming challenge’ as well as real pedagogical value. However, the hard work has paid off; they’ve stood the test of time, we’re adding more and more, and they’re popular so I thought it would be good to mention a few favourites. What links them all together is that they’re fun to play so that students forget about practising English because they want to win the games.

Firstly I’ll mention Mouse Invasion (prepositions of place) and Verbaticus Temple (expressions); these are special because they’re actually the games that made us think we could do something online. They started life in a series of books called Play Games With English and seemed to have all the right ingredients for games which would jump off the page onto the screen. The moving blocks on the floor of the temple were the first interactive elements I saw – in Bulgaria – just after we started developing the games.

All our other games started life on screen. And Professor Keen’s Eggcellent Breakfast is another game inspired by what you can’t do in print. How much easier it is to show prepositions of movement if there is actually movement on a screen rather than lines and arrows on a page!

Molly the sheep was the brainchild of a New York developer. Molly in the Building on Fire was inspired by the skyscrapers outside the window of his office and Molly in Trouble soon followed. He never really explained why he wanted a sheep as the star of these games but her ‘help me’ expression will make you want to save her by finding the odd ones out.

Here are three that are favourites for varied reasons. In The Psychology of Goldfish enjoy the bizarre mix of showing understanding of some serious and useful bits of language with a swimming professor and goldfish with crazy expressions on their faces. In Skater Waiter enjoy the smooth gliding movement of the portly waiter as he sorts out ‘how much’ or ‘how many’ his customers want. And in The Ambassador’s Cocktail Party enjoy the rather elegant artwork while you help the secret agent to navigate the traps set by formal and informal English.

And finally, here are some examples of games whose names are part of the fun. Where did the inspiration for The Spy Who Overheard Me, What’s Up Croc? and Eatin’ in the Rain come from? And what punning word play is operating in Robbin’ the Rich and Aladdin Trouble?

And finally, finally – don’t forget everybody’s favourite, Street Cats – help Bad Cat, Fat Cat and Nice Cat to build sentences – and do it fast …

Fiona

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