Jamestown Adventure Game

For this week, I tested out the Jamestown Online Adventure brought to you by History Globe. The game overall is very simple and does not take long to get through, but I think it’s an extremely useful educational tool. The premise of the game is you are the Captain of the new Jamestown colony and need to make various decisions regarding the settlement. The choices/stages of settling are:

  • Where to Land
  • Relationship with Natives
  • What sort of town structure
  • Who will be required to work
  • What do you want to search for
  • What do you want to plant

    “Village” Sadly Is Not an Option

In each stage you  have what I’ll call “lifelines”. There is the “Consult Charter” which brings you to highlighted passages from the Instructions for Virginia Colony, 1606, and there is “Ask a Colonist” which is somewhat like phone a friend. This option though, represents the mindset of the typical seventeenth-century colonist and does not give you the benefit of hindsight. Also, for some stages, you can “Ask a Native” as well. The Native point of view is pretty moderate, but there are some parts where her answers are relatively useless. For example, when you’re trying to determine whether to build a town, wood fort, or stone castle, she answers her people live in a village, which does not really point you in any direction.

What is interesting is as you play different scenarios, you discover your “options” become more limited at times. For example, if you say only indentured servants have to work, not gentlemen, your labor force become cut in half and you can only search for one out of: gold, fishing, hunting. If you make the gentlemen work, you get two options. Same applies with where you choose to land. If you land on a river, bay, or ocean, you can choose to fish. If you land inland, your options are limited to searching for gold or hunting. This took me a few rounds to discover the different ways your choices change later stages, and I wish there was something included that would say earlier and overtly what the consequences were.

When you follow the choices the original colonists did, you wind up being promoted to Governor of Virginia. What is interesting though is even the “right choice” or “best choice” can lead to bad results for your settlement. For example, when choosing where to land, both the Charter and Colonist point you towards the Bay Marsh (which is where the original colony was). This is strategic because it allows you to fish, but also is not on an island or unprotected area where Spanish warships can attack. However, in the conclusion of the game, your health rating is poor because the marshy area led to an outbreak of malaria, and the wood fort hindered good sanitation.

Promotion Time

In one round, I chose the absolute worst decisions for my colony, and in the end I had a great wealth rating, but bad health one as all of my colonists were dead. Literally.

Jamestown: Donald Trump Style

At the end of the game, you’re brought to an evaluation of your choices (as seen above) and then can go to a “Now We Know” page that gives you the breakdown of what actually happened at Jamestown. You can also print out your results to “compare outcomes with other students in your classroom!”

Now We Know

Overall, what I like best about the game is that it gives you analysis of each choice you make, not just a pass/fail (or live/die) outcome. The game really gives you insight into the positives and negatives of each choice you could have made. The biggest contribution of this game is that there was no “right path” that Jamestown could have followed. On certain things they chose poorly, others pretty well, and yet there was no perfect solution.

9 Replies to “Jamestown Adventure Game”

  1. I agree with you that one of the greatest strengths of this game is the information it provides about your/the actual colonists decisions. This combined with the surprising wealth of information provided in this little game make it an interesting learning tool with a leg up on many other learning games. I could certainly see some students using this game as a way to learn about the James Town Colonists.

    This leads me to my big criticism of the game: it was not very fun and lacked depth. If a game is trying to engage students at a high school or below level it should not provide optional large blocks of texts (the Charter), that would actually take a student longer to examine then repeatedly using trial and error to “succeed” in the game. At the same time the “reward” for winning this game is another block of text that many students would find boring. A visual representation of your results would be much more engaging. With limited choices and a short time span the potential of this game to engage students is limited. Admittedly, this game was not meant to be deep or time consuming, and is dated, but educational games have much more potential like this. You all probably remember some fun educational games from your childhood, such as Math Blasters, Super Munchers, Treasure Mountain, and Gizmo’s and Gadgets (just to name a few). Admittedly these games were generally aimed for younger age groups, and are dated themselves, they show that with some money and time, educational games can be fun and even “addictive.”

  2. Nathan, I definitely agree with your point that while the Jamestown Adventures provides greater information/sources than other games, the large blocks of text are most likely a huge turn off for most players, especially younger ones. Why read some dated seventeenth century language when “Ask a Colonist” simply tells you he wants to dig for gold?

    I compared this in my mind to other games I played when I was younger…. especially the one I believe most people could describe as epic… Oregon Trail. Though fording the river and shooting deer was a lot of fun, and you could definitely play it for hours, this game I think educationally has the upper hand.

    I’m just going to stand by my earlier post about a paper project proposal and declare that Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? to be interactive, quick-paced, and highly highly educational.

    What I also do not like about the end of the game is that in one scenario you become Governor (if you follow the historical choices) and in the other you’re fired, but there seems to be little in between in regards to how the outcome affects the actual player. In the Oregon Trail, you either made it or you died somewhere of typhoid. But for students playing the Jamestown Adventure, I think the ending might be anticlimactic.

  3. I agree with Nathan that the amount of text in this game is a detriment to maintaining a player’s attention. For high school students or younger, reading paragraphs of information is not desired when playing games. However, I’m not sure how else Jamestown could convey that information to have the same impact but in a more appealing way. Maybe if they let players choose what they wanted to learn more about rather than presenting it all together.

    I also agree with Katie about the lack of finality in the game. The player is either made governor or fired but it doesn’t extend beyond that. I think if the game told players about what happened in a the decade or few years following their decisions, it would be more helpful in conveying the consequences or benefits of the players decisions. This goes along with my complaint that the game should have more questions or change the way questions are asked. Answering the same question every time you play makes this game one-dimensional to me.

    Unlike the Oregon Trail or Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, I do not feel this game has the ability to bring players back repeatedly. It’s a game to be played a few times to see the results of different decisions but it is not an ongoing experience (by this I mean that it does not take more than a few minutes to play). This game does not challenge the player on the same level as Oregon Trail or Carmen San Diego but I do think for elementary level kids it would be an effective teaching tool.

  4. I agree with the previous comments, that there are definitely some problems with this game. However, I think that that is outweighed by its educational merits, unlike some of the other games we looked at for class. Another thing that I like about this game is that it gives the compare option at the end. This allows players to not only compare how they did to the real colonists, but is an easy way to teach about that period in history.

    One problem is that I wish there had been more of an explanation of how each decision affected your colony during the game, rather than having to wait until the end. I think that it was a missed opportunity to give students the ability to react to the consequences of their decisions in real time, rather than not finding out that a town was good for sanitation, but bad for protection until the end of the game.

  5. Though I mostly agree with the previous comments, I think there is something to be said here about the problem of naming and expectations. When you evaluate this as a “game” the large amounts of text become daunting and boring. However, if you compare this to any alternate activity in a classroom, reading passages of the textbook out loud, for example, the Jamestown Adventure Game becomes much more appealing.

    Also, an educational activity often intends to teach skill sets as well as information. The Jamestown Adventure Game should be given credit for encouraging primary source analysis and close reading skills.

    The issue is context. If Jamestown Adventure game intends to attract children during their free time, it might not succeed. However, if it is seen as an explicitly educational activity for a classroom, it is more of a success. Sometimes learning should feel like work, the difficulty is in finding the balance.

    1. Caitlin,
      I have to respond to your comment because you articulated an idea that was very similar to what I was thinking. A lot of this week’s posts and comments seem to rate games by according to how “fun” they are, which does not necessarily correlate to a game’s educational effectiveness. While I personally agree with educators who argue that students often learn more effectively if they are having fun, I also understand those who contend that having fun is not always a necessary componenet of learning. (As a brief anecdote to that point, to this day I still remember my seventh grade math teacher telling us on the first day of class that she hoped that we would have fun that year, but more than that she hoped that we would learn a lot from her. She was by no means the most engaging or enthralling teacher I ever had, but she was by far one of the most effective ones.)

      I agree that Jamestown Adventure is little more dense in terms of the reading that it entails than some of the other games we played this week, but to me this game is a much better educational tool because of that fact. For all of its faults, this game seems to make a much stronger attempt to encourage students to engage with history than some of the other games we played. It may not capture students’ attention like some of the others, but in the end I think it is a solid educational tool.

    2. Though I generally agree with the preceding comments, I think there is something to be said here about the trouble of naming and expectations. When you consider this as a “game” the large amounts of text grow to be daunting and boring. However, if you compare this to an alternate activity in a classroom, studying passages of the textbook out loud, for example, the Jamestown Adventure Game will become lots extra appealing.

      Also, an educational activity often intends to teach talent units as well as information. The Jamestown Adventure Game need to be given a deposit for encouraging principal source evaluation and shut analyzing skills.

      The problem is context. If Jamestown Adventure recreation intends to entice youth in the course of their free time, it might now not succeed. However, if it is considered as an explicitly instructional undertaking for a classroom, it is extra of a success. Sometimes studying sense like work, the concern is in discovering the balance.

  6. Jamestown Adventure was clearly developed for elementary or middle school students studying Colonial Amercia. In that context, I think that his game is a good starting point to spark an interest in American history. I especially appreciate the historical notes that give some background surrounding the founding of Jamestown: the names of the Indian tribes, the environmental and physical challenges that the colonists had to overcome ,and at the end , historical facts about Jamestown.

    I also like the idea that the game has some degree of difficulty and that it allows a player to fail, with the idea that the player can learn from his/her mistakes by playing again. I think that Gee would like the role playing found in this game, as the player has to be a leader in this game and the game challenges him/ her to make good decisions.

    While this game does not incoporate all the components that Gee contends makes up a well designed game, it is on the right track and, most importantly, it engages the player to make connections with images, text and patterns and apply them within a context of a history lesson. Thus, the player is interacting with history, not just listening to a lecture.

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