In this week’s Czech Life we talk to Libor Pešl of Czech games publisher and distributor Albi about the usefulness of games in education and we test one of the titles in a new line of storybook games for children ages seven and up: The Three Little Pigs.
“The name of the series is called ‘Games & Tales” and it is really very nice. It is a great idea, I have to say. We knew we wanted to pick it up for our market. Other companies felt the same but luckily we were able to reach an agreement first. The negotiations though weren’t easy. But we succeeded and recently brought out the first two games in the line: No. 1 is Tři malá prasátka and No. 2 is Baba Yaga. They are already on the market.”
“The aim really corresponds to the fairy tale where the pigs try and build homes where they can be safe from the wolf. That means, out of straw, wood, and brick. It’s the same in the game. You try and build houses which – depending how many and which types you build – are worth points at the end of the game. Your options depend on symbols that you roll: different sections, featuring either a window, door, or roof, as well as wolf. If you roll two ‘wolves’ you have an additional option of being able to ‘blow’ down a house that your opponent built. It plays on elements of the story.”
So the theme is reinforced. That is different from the kinds of games that used to be the only ones widely available like Člověče, nezlob se – the Czech answer to Ludo – there choices were limited only which pawn to move when. Here there are at least some choices to be made and they are more subtle. Because there is a Yahtzee-style ‘engine’ (you have to decide which dice to keep and which to re-roll) but you are building towards something. Is this good training for kids, learning skills such as weighing risk, opting for different solutions (such as to build cheaply and quickly out of straw, or holding out for rarer but more expensive and sturdier buildings?
“I definitely think it teaches logical thinking. Games before were too simple, they practically played themselves, with the roll of a die, which you couldn’t influence. Nothing new under the sun. Here, it is different: you have to solve problems. And communicate throughout with your fellow players. I think all of those aspects are important from an educational perspective.”
Do you cooperate with schools?
“Yes, we do and it works very well. Teachers are often happy to change things up in the classroom and children like trying something new. I think it is fair to say that we are also more and more interested in games which can be useful in terms of teaching abstract thinking. This year we became the distributor for Gigamic, which makes some very interesting titles such as Quoridor, where you can either try to move a pawn to get to other side, or throw a wall in your opponent’s path. Very simple rules but it makes you think, it’s one of my favourites. In the autumn we are also coming out with an electronic ‘smart pen’ to be used in interactive language learning books. In an ever-competitive market, educational tools are an important segment.”
We also tested the game with a clever six-year old: his impressions ‘bookend’ the interview and can be heard in the audio file.