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Learning Argument and Persuasion With Quandary

by Jeff Kuhn |

Hello and welcome to another edition of the TESOL Games and Learning Blog. This month’s blog post explores far future and the space colony of Braxos in the game Quandary, first featured in my November 2019 blog post. Quandary’s straightforward design, section-based structure, and potential for expansion into classroom activities make it a solid choice for educators new to using games in classroom practice.

The overall premise of Quandary tasks the player with leading a band of settlers as they build a colony on the planet Braxos. As captain of the colony, the player must settle disputes and decide the direction of the colony through the input of other colonists. The game offers players four conflicts to choose from:

  • Lost Sheep: Players work to balance the needs of livestock versus Braxos’ wild animals.
  • Water War: Players debate private versus public property.
  • Fashion Faction: Players have a school uniform debate.
  • Mixed Messages: Issues about what should people be permitted to do online.

Each are familiar debate topics set within a futuristic setting.

Each dispute is presented to the player in the form of a comic that establishes the root of the conflict. Then, players are tasked to get their facts right. In this round of the game, players click on each of the colonists who present either a fact, solution, or opinion, and the colonists’ ideas are presented as text or can be enlarged to show a brief animation while an audio clip plays.

Once players have sorted the positions of all the colonists, they then select the two most optimal solutions. These solutions are then put to the colony, where everyone can contribute their stance on the topic—a stance that can be swayed using facts. These facts are a limited resource that players must use strategically.

The final round of Quandary then asks the player to render a decision and sort through which of the colonists will agree with the decision and which are likely to disagree. This is an interesting twist to the game that reminds players that the goal isn’t to see your side win, but to reach a community consensus.

Quandary adds a unique spin to classroom debate activities used by practically every language educator. Students can play sections of the game and then break into groups to debate the issue in the game. As they progress through the game, students can share how their opinions and ideas have shifted and their position has evolved as more information is revealed.

Another great option is to incorporate Quandary into a classroom RAFT activity. RAFT activities have the students assume a Role, address an Audience, in a particular Format, about a particular Topic. With Quandary, students could assume the roles of specific colonists and be asked to role-play that colonist’s position during a classroom debate.

Have you used Quandary in the classroom? If so, share your ideas in the comments below.

Until next time, play more games!

About the author

Jeff Kuhn

Jeff Kuhn is the director of esports at Ohio University. He frequently delivers talks and keynote addresses on games and learning, game design, and the need for games literacy in educators. He is one of the founding moderators of the Electronic Village Online’s Minecraft MOOC, a community of practice for teachers learning to use Minecraft in the classroom. He has served on the TESOL CALL-IS steering committee, as the Gaming Special Interest Group chair for CALICO, and in the U.S. Department of State’s English Language Specialist program. His research interests include game-based learning, second language writing, and computer-assisted language learning.

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