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“Pandemic Right Here! Got That Pandemic!”

We looked at the clock: it was minutes before midnight. We were exhausted, the chips and guac had been exhausted hours before, and the dog had lost interest from the moment the events transpired. The only real reason we had to continue was because the fate of all humanity rested on our weary shoulders. Such is the sense of burden that is felt as we played through four different games of Pandemic.

A board game that relies on collaboration amongst players instead of competition, Pandemic finds players racing around the globe treating infections and feverishly trying to discover the cure before another epidemic wrecks havoc on the globe. In effect, the players are working together to beat the game; either we all win or – as was most oft the case for us – we all lose.

A game that can be played by anyone, we found ourselves deliberating every action and discussing (or arguing) strategy. We were metacognitive in our decision making process. We highlighted what failed in past games (deciding to ignore the wildfire-like spread of disease in Asia, for instance was a particularly terrible strategy) and relied on our various locations, cards, and other game attributes to eventually beat the game.

Exhausting and exhilarating, Pandemic is the kind of game that warrants careful analysis – the game’s design helps rupture any sense of confidence; at any moment all hell can break loose when another epidemic strikes. As a learning tool, Pandemic is particularly intriguing. By the end of our final game – we saved the world at 12:53 a.m. – we informally reflected on how our game playing adapted to the nature of the game, our communication skills, and the way the game’s design was a useful instructional tool.

As I continue to think about game play within the classroom, I think Pandemic and a general resurgence in board game playing is helping me distill the basics out of what is meaningful in a gaming and learning environment.

I’m in the middle of watching this great Google Talk by Pandemic’s creator, Matt Leacock.

Additionally, I’m looking to create a regularly meeting board gaming group to look at the role of social interaction and strategizing when playing. (I guess I should also mention I’m reading this and planning to work through the exercises, if anyone else in Los Angeles is interested in collaborating.)

At Manual Arts, Mr. Carlson and I have created the Strategic Gaming Club – meeting during lunch and after school a group of students regularly plays games ranging from Mancala to Chess to Hungry Hungry Hippos. And if we’re able to sneak in a few sessions of Settlers of Catan and Pandemic, I’m sure the world would thank us.

“Got that Pandemic!”

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