Show and Tell: Mr. Jefferson’s Mystery Maze

In the kids section of the Colonial Williamsburg website, there are a variety of games centered around colonial history.  Mr. Jefferson’s Mystery Maze is a quiz game that takes players through the garden at the governor’s palace in Williamsburg.  While the maze is easy to navigate for players of all ages, there are many flaws that detract from its historical value.

The game works by the player collecting clues scattered in the garden and answering questions posed by animal gatekeepers.  I do not mind that it was animals asking the questions but there was no explanation of why they were there.  The questions are rarely relevant to animals so their presence is a disconnect.  A child would probably not take as much notice or question the role of the animals but I would have liked to know their connection to the game.

Another flaw was the lack of points awarded for correct questions or explanation of the answers.  Players do not know where they stand in the game as they advance to higher levels because there is nothing to measure a players success.  The only measurement of success or failure is deducting from the three tries to get answers correct.  Once the three tries are gone the game is over.  As for the answers, no further explanation was offered to contextualize the subject.  For questions like “who polishes and files pieces removed from a mold?” the answer is “a founder” but no historical background is given.  Without a sentence or two of explanation or elaboration the game fails to teach history in an effective manner.

The biggest flaw of the game is that there is no explanation of what the end goal is.  I played for more than twenty minutes and I was given no indication that I was close to finishing the game.  There was no logic to the levels either.  As I advanced through them, the garden did not appear to change and the questions were not harder.

Overall, I do not feel this game is valuable for teaching a historical narrative.  The questions are random and do not offer any historical context for the answers.  Aside from learning definitions of jobs and people, the game does not succeed in making connections to history.  The lack of a clear purpose to the game makes it frustrating to play.

2 Replies to “Show and Tell: Mr. Jefferson’s Mystery Maze”

  1. I agree that one of the huge flaws of this game is no context. I don’t see how the game can be considered educational if kids don’t understand why a certain answer is what it is. The lack of context for the game itself was also a drawback. The animals guarding the maze made absolutely no sense in my mind. (Unless some text or exhibit at Williamsburg mention these certain animals? But again, no context, so you can’t tell.)

    The fact that the game has no end goal is also very confusing. With no points, no final reward, no goal, what incentive do kids have to keep playing? Are they only expected to play until they get tired of it?

    As a big fan of Williamsburg, I was really disappointed with the game. They could have done so much with it, but overall, it was really just lacking.

  2. It is hard to picture who the proper audience would be for this game. The simple graphics and basic ease of the game makes me think it is for younger audiences but I found myself asking: “would any young person wish to play a game like this?” I could not fathom how they possibly could.

    The history in this game is completely pointless, as I was asked “which president said the words ’tis well?” The answer was George Washington but I cannot imagine how this is useful nor why anyone would want to know this tidbit in the first place.

    It is even harder for me to imagine this game as a teaching tool. Many students would inevitably find themselves quite bored and the teacher would not surprise or impress upon the students any new, valuable information. This game focuses on basic facts, many of which have very little to do with history. Overall, this game needs a lot of improvement

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