How Can I Use a Racing Game for Education

Well, it’s possible you may have missed the Foundation launching its second Kickstarter campaign for a game called Supercharged.  If you’ve missed it and don’t want to follow the link to take a peak, it’s a car-racing game set during what is known as the “Golden Age of Cars’, the 1920s and 1930s.

As a non-profit organization, everything we do MUST have some relationship to education.  That includes what we use profits for and as much as possible, how to use the product to teach where possible–in addition to wanting to make sure a game is fun to play.  How do we do that with Supercharged?

There are multiple ways.  Rather than be organized, I’ll list some in spitball-type fashion.

  1. For younger players, the basic math of counting spaces.
  2. It isn’t just counting spaces, but visualizing that space–and with that, anticipating the movement of various other cars and working through permutations for future action.  When we get older, our ‘programming’ becomes innate.  We forget what it took to learn to walk, to anticipate whether the car in front of us will turn at the next intersection,  These are skills and the more we get good practice with them–the better we get at them.  Besides, there’s great fun in anticipating future actions, being right, and charging to the front of the field because you analyzed things correctly.
  3. Supercharged doesn’t use dice.  It uses fast-action cards.  Anytime (dice or otherwise) you are looking for odds, you can do the calculations to help your chances.  Want a challenge–have a student go through the cards and calculate the probability of various events happening.  The student could calculate the expected movement for the non-player privateer cars not to mention the maximum/minimum possible for those vehicles.
  4. Looking at the art–you may have your curiosity piqued and decide to go looking for more like it–make your own drawings or for serious hobby-gamers, find miniature figurines and then paint them in authentic historical colors.  This sort of thing helps with fine-motor control in addition to learning about the art.
  5. You can do an internet search for ‘1920s car racing’ which will lead you to some fascinating articles about automobile developments and advances–including weird concepts like seatbelts!  You may find useless trivia like the number of bricks that made up the Indianapolis Speedway.  Depending on where you are looking, you may find more articles/blog posts and go down a 1-3 hour rabbit hole of information on cars and grand prix racing evolution.
  6. Two of the teams in the game are not what you would expect and for younger people, they may never have heard of Siam (it became Burma and is now Myanmar).  What the heck is a small southeast Asian country doing represented in this game?  Is it so it isn’t all European oriented?  Nope–Siam’s there for a reason, Prince Bira–check out the link…the blog isn’t going anywhere!  Cool story.  So that means there’s a reason Egypt is represented, too?  Yup.  It’s there because of its racing history and the Royal Automobile Club of Egypt.  Check it out.  It’s fascinating reading and not just about cars, but culture along with it.  Suddenly we’ve been able to sneak in quite a bit of stuff just from a point of curiosity about the game.
  7. The game has modular pieces for its track.  How do you fit a track together?  When you switch from the standard layout to another, what impact does that have on how the race goes?  Does it become a slow, grinding sort of race or freewheeling?  Perhaps it inspires players to create their own course pieces.
  8. A critical one and a dirty secret of games: Everyone has things they think are done wrong within a game or something they’d do better (think of all the house rules for something like Monopoly).  That WILL happen playing Supercharged.  It becomes a vehicle for critical thinking with students, asking questions like “What makes the game fun?” “What don’t you like?” “What could you add to make the game better?”–and always with the question “Why?” to force students/young people to think about their answers.

That last bit is key and not just for Supercharged.  Critical thinking is vital and in a world where we are bombarded with memes and short bits of information that may/may not be true from all over, we have to teach how to consider these things, to discern truth from lie or factual reporting from opinion/commentary.  Games provide that.  Many give a glimpse into history, but all require some level of critical thinking to win.

If you are in education–think how you can add creative elements like this to your classroom.  Above, you can see the history, you can see the math.  What about English?  Well, why not explain the game and make writing a rulebook for the game an assignment?   You can put a maximum size limit on it–now you’re going to keep them from being wordy, they’ll practice writing clear, concise instructions, and they’ll even have to work on things like page layout and formatting–skills which can be valuable down the road of life.

Thanks for reading.  If you know educators, please share the Foundation blog with them.  It’s a free resource (always will be).