Category Archives: Editorial


This War of Mine: The Little Ones Review


This War of Mine keeps players in a constant state of worry, forcing them to make decisions that not only affected the progression of the narrative, but also impacted the outlooks of the other characters. Set in an unnamed Eastern European country in the midst of a civil war, you play as a group of civilians who are trying to survive by any means necessary. This requires the player to craft resources and build up defenses by day and scavenge materials, steal medicine, or even kill other survivors at night. The game is difficult; you are constantly short on resources, underfed, and mending injuries, with one wrong move costing you the life of one of your survivors. The difficulty is purposeful, since the message of the game would be lost otherwise. This War of Mine shows the player the struggles that people must endure when the world around them is irrevocably changed by forces outside of their control as well as the issue of survival at the cost of humanity. As the game progresses, various encounters present themselves that force the player to make those difficult decisions, which will affect the outcome of the game in addition to the disposition of your survivors.


In the new expansion for PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One called The Little Ones, players experience another layer of complication – surviving when a teenager and a child show up at the entrance of the settlement. The older one asks you to watch over his brother while he goes with a group to scavenge for medical supplies. Should you accept, the brother runs off and never comes back, leaving you with a young boy that cannot defend himself and needs just as much care (if not more) than an able-bodied adult. As if the original game was not morally ambivalent enough, you now have the life of an innocent child to consider when making your decisions. Do you take the time to play with the child when he wants to, or do you ignore him so that you can board up the holes in your settlement? Do you leave the child alone and undefended at night so you can get more supplies, or do you keep someone with him at all times? These kind of decisions make this expansion so much harder, but at the same time so much more engaging.


With this new gameplay dynamic comes a number of new features for the player to dissect. While the child you watch over does not contribute to the functionality of the group at first, you can have the adults teach the child how to perform various tasks around the settlement. This is important to establish early, since the further you progress in the game, the more you will need every able body to help keep the settlement in working order. Just as important as giving the child tasks to do is the ability to help pass the time either by making the adults play with the child or craft toys. Very much like language learning, the child starts off with very little to contribute, but the more he interacts with the people around him, the more experienced he will become.


Another dose of realism hits home when you notice the individual personality traits of every character under your control. As much as you may not like it, Bruno is addicted to cigarettes and if you do not make an effort to get them for him, he will suffer because of it. In addition, if you kill another person while you are scavenging for supplies, your character will be drastically affected by his actions. This comes into play with the new expansion in The Little Ones, where you control a father named Christo and his daughter Iskra, which starts out rather light with Iskra running around with seemingly limitless energy as Christo scrounges up some firewood to cook a meal. Depending on how much attention you give the daughter and how you interact with others, you will affect the way their relationship plays out in the game. Unlike other video games, Christo is not a hardened action hero or a space marine or a seasoned war veteran, he is a regular person, ripped from his regular life and forced to survive in a city torn apart by war. In turn, the player can imagine that they are in his situation, and in effect relate to the context and become more invested in the story.


So why use this serious, dark, violent game in the classroom? Simply put, it allows the learner to get exposure to a context that they may not have any knowledge of and engage their mind in high levels of cognition. According to Sykes & Reinhardt, game designers “use narratives, which include characters, stories, and images, to contextualize game rules and structures,” which allow for “goal orienting, afford interaction, and animate feedback mechanisms” (82). Essentially, players will be more likely to play the game if they can invest their time and energy in a compelling narrative. A great feature of This War of Mine is the player journal, which keeps track of important events in the game as well as personal developments within each character’s inner dialogue. This in-game mechanism could easily be modified for a number of different extension activities to explore character motivations and create fictional narratives to explain how the character ended up in his current situation. Next month’s post on Games2Teach will dive into that in more detail.


This War of Mine: The Little Ones is an incredibly impactful game that immerses players in heart wrenching experiences and assessing how they would fare as an innocent bystander in the midst of a city at war. The controls can take you out of the experience from time to time, since it is definitely frustrating when you try to sneak by a raider only to have your character sprint right in front of him and alert the entire camp.  If you are willing to set the clunky control scheme aside, this game has a compelling message to share and will make you appreciate the little things in your life that you take for granted.

-Ben Pearson



Sykes, J. M. & Reinhardt, J. (2013). Language at play: Digital games in second and foreign language teaching and learning. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.


Contextualized Vocabulary Interpretation and Games

When looking at how to use games in the classroom, considering the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements is always beneficial, as well as thinking about how they might be executed in a classroom using a game as a source text. For example, one of the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statement main indicators is “I can recognize words, phrases, and characters when I associate them with things I already know” (Interpretive Reading, Novice Mid). This learning target can be easily achieved through use of a game with highly contextualized vocabulary, such as Parable of the Polygons, a web-browser game that explores issues such as cultural and racial segregation. With one such game, learners are empowered to interpret target vocabulary based on the context.


Below is an example activity that inspires vocabulary interpretation using Parable of the Polygons. Even though the text used in the game is at a higher proficiency level than the learners who would use a Novice Mid indicator, they will be impressed with seeing how much they can accomplish by using the contextual clues within the site as well as the words that they already know.

Parable of the Polygons Activity

Related Can-Do Statement

I can recognize words, phrases, and characters when I associate them with things I already know.

Pre-Activity Self-Reflection

How well do you think that you can engage in the Can-Do Statement for this activity?

 This is a goal  Can do with help  Can do  Can do well


You will read and play Parable of the Polygons (, a half-blog, half-game regarding likeness and sameness. As you play, use context to define the words below. If you need to, feel free to work with a partner.

Tip: It is better to move the polygons manually in each screen than to simply allow for the computer automation (when it exists) to arrange the shapes. Playing the game this way will allow for more time to reflect on small changes and how they impact the overall composition of society.

 Word  Definition  Example from the text

– Stephanie Knight


Digital vs Analog: The Value of Divergent Game Types

In the relatively new field of game studies, digital games have attracted the most attention of researchers and scholars. While technology continued to improve, so did the acceptance of digital games as a viable medium for interactive storytelling and artistic expression. In today’s world, most people walk around with mobile devices that play games that look about as good as they did on game consoles a few years ago. As such, digital games have become much more pervasive in society and it is much easier to see them as legitimate fields of study. The problem is that while digital games garner so much attention in game studies as a field of scholarship, very little work has been done on analog games in comparison.

Since games come in numerous formats and vary in purpose and style of play, they are used in classes several different ways. In order to be used effectively, the needs of the students are a primary concern, since the goals and objectives of the class determine whether the use of games is a feasible, practical option (Conover, 1974). In addition, if a game is considered useful in a classroom setting, the teacher should pay special attention to how students engage with in-game tasks as well as their cognitive attempts to take advantage of the immersive benefits of the game (Murray, 1999). Over the years, numerous teachers and researchers studied how games can improve various factors of language acquisition. Most of the studies focus on digital games, but the rationale can apply to analog games as well.


One relevant study by Bridge and Radford (2014) examined the digital version of the board game Diplomacy as a pedagogical tool for language learning. Due to the game’s online capabilities, one of the strengths that the article mentions is the ability to play the game outside of class. By having students play the game on their own time, the teacher saves precious time which would be taken up if he/she used the physical version in class. While the face-to-face interaction which comes with using the analog game is applicable and valuable for teaching strategic language use, the usefulness of the digital version cannot be denied.

An issue that comes with playing board games with other people is the personalities of some players may be stronger than others, influencing the decisions of more passive players. In face-to-face interactions, refusing or disagreeing with another player could be challenging due to the close proximity. When looking at the article by Bridge and Radford, we can assume that more passive players “might feel more at ease using electronic communication than verbal negotiations—and therefore might be more likely to engage because of the computer interface” (p. 431). The digital version also made it easier for the instructor to assess the students on their Willingness to Communicate (WtC), since they could write comments for everyone to see online.

In addition to the practical advantages the digital version entails, the students being studied responded quite favorably to playing Diplomacy. Most found the game useful in terms of critical thinking as well as learning about international relations theory/practice in addition to being fun to play (p. 433). By using this game centered on interpersonal communication and negotiation, the teacher can take advantage of an authentic material for pragmatic purposes and fostering WtC.

While the field of digital games as it relates to language instruction has received a great deal of attention in scholarly articles recently, analog games have not gotten as much attention, even though the volume and diversity of these games have improved just as well. In addition, analog games can provide an environment that is just as safe and contained as digital games to practice English language use, developing the potential to instill motivation and WtC within English language learners.

Just as with any kind of authentic material adapted for classroom usage, the teacher has to choose what is appropriate for the class as a whole. Some of the inferences that researchers have made concern how board games take considerably more time to set up than digital games and contain several small pieces, where one accidental bump could ruin an entire activity. However, several new games have been developed which are composed of nothing more than a handful of cards and a pile of chips.


With proper preparation and scaffolding, the teacher can use games to teach various language features, regardless if they are digital or analog. Understanding the advantages and limitations of each game type is important when choosing which game to use.

If you would like to learn more about analog games, Analog Game Studies is a great place to
start. In addition to the numerous links and articles on using analog games to teach, you can also download a PDF download of their book Analog Game Studies off of their website for free.

If you would like to learn more about the different ways you can use digital games in the classroom, stay tuned for more updates from Games2Teach or go to our ‘Explore’ section to see other resources out there.

-Ben Pearson


Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality: Uses in the World Language

The delineation between augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is not always clear. Simply put, the difference lies in the degree to which the individual user is immersed in the virtual environment. For instance, Google Cardboard, a pair of cardboard glasses that convert smartphone images shared on VR apps into immersive environments, is a VR tool. The Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS) recently did a workshop with teachers in July to test virtual reality out for themselves using Google Cardboard:


Virtual reality in the language kerning classroom #flteach #ltsi2016 #languageeducation

A photo posted by CASLS (@casls_nflrc) on


In addition, a game like Pokémon Go! in which learners are able to capture pictures of the digital Pokémon that they find inhabiting the real world, is an AR tool. Instead of completely replacing reality with a virtual realm as in VR, learners are able to interact in the real world in a new way given the digital enhancements of the tool. For example, in Pokémon Go! users are able to take pictures of themselves in-game with the Pokémon that appears at your location:



There are definite applications of VR tools and AR tools in the world language classroom. Since VR technology is not yet ubiquitous nor at the level that users are empowered to use their creative capacities within the VR realm without restraint, the intentional, sustained implementation of VR in the world language classroom may be difficult for practitioners. However, a variety of free platforms exist in which AR can enhance the world language experience. The following list offers some suggestions:

  • Learners can use Google Maps to create a geotagged map of authentic restaurants that serve food from the target-language culture within their communities.
  • Learners can build a game using ARIS, an easy-to-use programing platform, in which users have to visit certain areas in the community in order to progress in the game.
  • Learners can create a walking tour in which they describe the historical significance of various locations in the community in the target language. Each location can feature a QR code for users to scan to access a video that the learners created to share that information.
  • Learners can us Aurasma, Hewlitt-Packard’s AR tool, to select target images that provide historical or etymological information about targeted vocabulary.
  • Learners can complete targeted tasks while playing AR mobile games such as Pokémon Go! or Ingress

For more information regarding the distinction between AR and VR technologies, check out Also, check out some of our ready-made Ingress activities at!

– Stephanie Knight