BY CHRISTOPHER PANNA

I once had a student in my world history class who was about as lazy as they come. He rarely did homework and spent most of his class time scheming up ways to avoid assignments. So how did this student know more history than 90 percent of his classmates? He played Age of Empires religiously.

The power of video games to engage and teach is undeniable. But historical video games aren’t exactly mainstream, so cases like that student have long been exceptions. Mission US is among the first of a new type of game created specifically for schools and bringing access to all students.

Entirely free and web-based, Mission US puts you in the shoes of a teenage boy in Boston just before the American Revolution. You have to complete a variety of tasks around the city while meeting people and making choices that affect the outcome of the game. Ultimately, after witnessing the Boston Massacre, the hero has to decide if he’ll support the patriot cause or not. It’s this deep storyline that sets Mission US apart from other educational games. The adventure is divided into six episodes and takes about 90 minutes to complete. Students can save and resume their game, allowing them to play certain parts and then do corresponding activities provided in the teacher’s guide. Your teacher account will allow you to track each student’s progress to make sure everyone’s keeping up. And whether you have students play together or separately, in school or at home, the guide provides tips for each situation.

This is why it’s exciting to be a teacher in 2010 — Mission US is a dream come true for teachers who want to integrate a full-length video game into their class. Keep your eyes on this project, as a second “mission” is in development that will deal with the anti-slavery movement before the Civil War.

Mission US

Mission US video trailer

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