Runner-Up Prize at MassDiGI Games Competition for the second year running!

Showcasing our most recent project “Zeebi Zoo”, we took home a Runner-Up prize for for Serious Prototype at MassDiGI’s 2014 Game Challenge.  This is the second year we’ve applied and won an award for the Boston Massachusetts based competition.

Zeebi Zoo!
Posted in Conferences, Zeebi Lab

Looking for PB n’ Games?

If you’re looking for us this spring, come find us at some of these events!

Digital Media and Learning Conference
March 6-8
Boston, MA

MassDigi Game Challenge
March 7-8
Cambridge, MA

Cambridge Science Festival
April 18-27
Cambridge, MA

Posted in Conferences

Narrative as Reward

Although most educators would agree that learning can and should be fun, our education system is not set up with fun in mind. Instead, we have boring worksheets, anxiety-ridden tests, and long periods of boredom, so many teachers find reward systems useful motivation to get students to complete the distasteful schoolwork. Common incentives are stickers, candy, pizza parties – anything that gets the students excited – if only temporarily.

Game designers do something similar. In essence, games ask players to do meaningless, repetitive, difficult tasks and then punishes them when they fail. (Yes, I am talking about Flappy Bird) What keeps us playing? Part of the reward of games is the triumph of beating a level, boss, or high score. However, many games also make use of a compelling storyline to keep players engaged. Read more ›

Posted in Storytelling

The Games (and Education) of the Future

I was nine years old when I stopped enjoying school, and my father, an educator himself, was surprised.

“What changed?” He asked me. I considered the question as seriously as a nine year old can, and told him.

“Last year, in second grade,” I explained, “we did fun things, like write poems for Halloween. This year, our Halloween homework is to memorize these spelling words. It’s boring! Why don’t they ask us to do something fun with the spelling words, like write a poem using them?”

For years, my dad used that story as a quick explanation of how games can be educational without being complicated. And yet still, twenty years later, education across the United States is suffering and students are “bored” in most classes. Read more ›

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Posted in Education

The Unintended Education: An Educational Retrospective of Scorched Earth

In this ongoing column, I’ll take a look back at a past game that may not have been specifically intended to serve an educational purpose, but still managed to teach us lessons in its own way.

Today:  Scorched Earth

Scorched Earth

Scorched Earth, 1991 DOS/PC

Scorched Earth was a 1991 DOS-era shareware game that featured two or more opposing tanks that traded rounds of fire in an attempt to destroy the other first. The game featured extremely rudimentary graphics, a wide variety of weapons, utilities and gameplay options, and was one of the first examples of deformable terrain seen in a video game.  This game’s lessons stemmed from the wide number of variables that could change before or during combat, and the trial and error experimental nature of each players turn. Read more ›

Posted in Education

Which came first: the Curriculum or the Egg?

Chicken and the eggDeidre Witan and I have recently been part of some interesting chicken-or-the-egg discussions. They typically go in this cycle:

“If more games were used in classrooms, students would be more engaged and would learn more.”
“But students will never learn until the curriculum changes to better reflect what they need to know.”
“But the curriculum will never shift until we have new models for teaching.”
“But we won’t have new models unless we embrace technology and make use of it to create games, so students can be more engaged.”

…and so on. In brief, here are the two sides to the argument. You can decide which came first. Read more ›

Posted in Education

How to Teach Guitar

This past week I finally had some free time, so I decided to pull out my guitar and play a few songs. My girlfriend, who also plays, asked if she could join in. Naturally I agreed, but we hit the problem that she didn’t know the song I was playing. I started explaining the chords we would be using and started talking her through the progression and rhythms, but it wasn’t long before we both got frustrated.

Learning to play a song and teaching a song are very different things and I have much more experience with the former. Attempting to teach a song I realized there were several fundamental problems: It was hard to determine what parts of the song would challenge her the most, it was difficult to explain things without resorting to jargon, and it was not always apparent when she wanted to keep practicing something and when she wanted to move onto something new. This experience got me thinking about how some games are very effective at reducing the impact of these kind of challenges, while others fall short. Read more ›

Posted in Education

We don’t need no Stinkin’ Badges

Or, Why I’m Unenthusiastic about the Badging Fad

Badges are gaining considerable traction in the field of educational technology, and are a cornerstone of the “gamification” movement. However, I’m unenthusiastic about their potential to increase student engagement or motivation, because no matter how they are used, they serve as a proxy for real, meaningful accomplishments. I’ll discuss the three main purposes of badges, and their limitations, here: Read more ›

Posted in Education

This is your Brain on Video Games



There have been plenty of studies on the benefits of crossword puzzles and other brain teasers in the elderly – playing “games” boosts their memory, and strengthen their cognitive skills. Now, new studies are showing that video games can also improve memory.

My favorite quote from the article:

“‘While previous studies have shown differences in brain structure of video gamers, the present study can demonstrate the direct causal link between video gaming and a volumetric brain increase. This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games,’ says study leader Simone Kühn, senior scientist at the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.”

But please, don’t take my word for it: read it for yourself!

Posted in Education

Teach Through Play: Minecraft

I intend to use the Teach Through Play series to provide ideas on how teachers can educate through games. In this blog post I want to talk about teaching history through Minecraft.

Minecraft is an interesting game. Most popular games rely on action. Minecraft relies on a creative mind. The creative minds who play Minecraft have come up with many things. From simple block houses…


to historical monuments… Read more ›

Posted in Education