The public has become much more aware of cooperative games in recent years. These days, when people ask what I do for a living and I say that I started the small company CooperativeGames.com (click http://cooperativegames.com/) they usually say “Cool” instead of “What’s a cooperative game?” Part of the surge in popularity of cooperative games is due to the gamification of education.
Games are big in education now. Of 20 small business grants provided by the NSF for educational product development last year, 12 of them were awarded to companies making games. Not surprisingly, cooperative games are among the new games being developed under grants for education. Also, there are lots more excellent cooperative games being developed by small, large, and indie publishers than ever before. Why? Well, it’s pretty obvious that cooperation is key in today’s world of increased global communication, a sky-rocketing human population, stressed-out schools, and common environmental and social issues begging for solutions. Insofar as cooperative games nurture a cooperative spirit and teach collaborative skills, cooperative games are an idea whose time has come. Teachers are a population that gets this.
Teachers are, however, inundated with messaging that favors competition rather than cooperation. Schools, with a plethora of competitive activities ranging from sports to spelling bees to grading on a bell curve, are competitively structured as we know. I’m a former science teacher and I attended the National Science Teacher’s Association in Boston last week. Competitiveness in science classes is one of the factors that motivated me to start CooperativeGames.com in fact. It’s interesting how many large corporations sponsor student competitions…and how blatant the message is from the “powers that be” that competition is the preferred way to bestow recognition and rewards on students. Win this, win that. The message is all over the media and it was much in evidence at the conference. Yet, teachers have mixed feelings about the competitive paradigm. I find that cooperation is what everyone really wants despite the harangue that tells us schools should be based on competition.
The cooperative games being developed by university researchers under grant funding is just one of the signs that educators are rethinking competition and looking for ways to engage that are more equitable, more productive, and more fun! As a result of the NSTA conference last week, I am now looking for great, grant-funded cooperative games to review and post on CooperativeGames.com for you teachers out there. Stay tuned! And please get in touch if you know of university-developed cooperative games that should be made available to the public. We’ll see if we can make it happen. Contact Suzanne at CooperativeGames.com http://cooperativegames.com/