Saturday, 4 August 2012

Comment: Gamebooks Can Be a Vital Learning Tool

Right now in London, Ian Livingstone will be setting out his table and stacks of Blood of the Zombies, ready to greet a parade of fresh-faced young kids and grizzled Fighting Fantasy veterans who shiver at the word 'Ganjees'. Now gamebooks are hot again, thanks to tablets and iPhones, the original series is back in the spotlight and a new wave of gamers are tasting the delights of chucking magic powder at Zanbar Bone.

A friend of mine and member of my gaming group is a teacher who once mentioned to be that he used Fighting Fantasy in the classroom. This is a brilliant idea and I propose every teacher adds it to their class at some point, and here's why. Fighting Fantasy relies on reading comprehension, mathematics and problem-solving - everything that a child should learn, but in an exciting way. Say you're wanting to teach about probability, FF has you covered. The kids have a LUCK score of 7 and they have to roll 7 or under to avoid being turned to stone by a basilisk, so they must work out the probability of rolling that number or lower. Simple addition and subtraction is used in combat, so instead of giving them a tired old "how many beans does Janine have?" pit them against a cockatrice. Have one of the kids read out the passage depending on the outcome.

Steve Jackson, the series' co-founder, actually invented a great downloadable teaching aid that works a lot like this. It gets pupils writing lengthy descriptions of their favourite monsters and even tests their artistic abilities with creature drawings.

Few things fire up a child's imagination like fantasy and the best form of learning is when you don't even realise you're learning - it's all integrated into something incredibly fun. Maybe we will even teach a whole new generation how to destroy Zanbar Bone.