An elegant game which will give kids (and adults) intuition for how competition shapes evolution

A lot of you know I had only had kids so that I would have future boardgame companions. I’d go as far as saying it was imperative to have an even number of family members to balance teams. Tragically, we have nobody to break voting ties (we have a history of crowdtexting friends to settle debates). The point remains — we like games in our household. A fun game I started playing with Zak this week is Evolution: The Beginning which is a junior version of a more complex game.

In Evolution: The Beginning, you’ll adapt your species to succeed in a dynamic ecosystem where food is scarce and predators roam. Traits like Flight and Horns will protect your species from Carnivores while a Long Neck will help them get food that others cannot reach. With hundreds of ways to evolve your species, every game unfolds in a beautifully unique way.

It’s a card game where you must manage populations of carnivores and herbivores as you try to eat the most food. The punch-counterpunch dynamic of the game maps faithfully to how predator-prey games in nature balance themselves. Concentrate too much on defensive traits and competing populations grow quickly. Modify a species to be an aggressive carnivore and more scavengers appear in the ecosystem. React and adapt. It imparts a beautiful sense of how evolution favors adaptation to the prevailing competitive landscape as opposed towards some march towards a higher form. An organism’s fitness is a purely relative concept. The game’s elegance mirrors nature well. And you can scoop it at Target.

Between the artwork and some memorizing, Zak (turning 6 this week) could play without being able to read fully. His interest and energy were bursting as the game started to ‘click’. I felt the same. Playing a game that is slightly out of reach is an avenue for learning that speeds downhill using his own enthusiasm as fuel. “Sit down and do workbook” is all uphill in molasses. I’m pretty excited to have passed the Candyland phase since a much richer world of learning lies within complex games.

The gaming world likes to point to the benefits of using games to practice computational thinking. Google for Education has an entire portal dedicated to the formal reasoning processes that you will be familiar with if you have coded, managed a project, or even planned a trip.

To explore Computational Thinking with Google read more…

When playing games with kids, Evolution game designer Nick Bentley has great tips...

And if you want to connect IQ, its broader cousin “successful intelligence”, and gaming then read about “gameschooling“.

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