Publisher: Might and Delight
Year Made: 2013
Platforms: PC, OS X
Content Areas: Science, English, Art
Suggested Age Level: Elementary School, Middle School, High School
Play Length: 1 hour
Number of Players: Single Player
Difficulty Rating: Easy
When Might and Delight decided to make Shelter, they set out to make an emotional experience for players. The means to their goal? A family of badgers. Shelter puts players in the role of a mother badger leading her five children through a forest to find safety in a new shelter. Along the way, the player is responsible for ensuring the safety of all of the cubs. Cubs have to be fed, found in the dark when they run off, and protected against threats like surging rivers, raging fires, and deadly predators.
Several areas are confusing in terms of what to do or where to go, so players have to pay close attention to their surroundings. I typically kept track of where I had been by looking at what food the babies had eaten already or looking for other markers in the landscape. If players keep those things in mind, it isn’t as tough to navigate the scenery. It is a devastating loss when a cub dies while players try to understand the goals of the scene, but it also puts high stakes in learning the game. Glitchy controls in the night scene made it difficult to navigate and made it a step up in difficulty from the first scene to the next. The camera angles can also be a bit dizzying as players get used to seeing the game from a badger’s point of view.
In a biology or environmental science class, Shelter can be used as an interactive, connective text in learning about ecosystems, food chains, habitats, and more. Students could even extend their learning through Nurture, a mini-game within the game that requires players to feed their cubs every day (real-time) to stop them from starving. The emotional journey will hook students and promote curiosity and emotional connections with the subject, encouraging interest. Students could extend their learning by designing a game based on a different species. In Shelter alone, we see badgers, frogs, mice, foxes, and birds. In Shelter 2, players become a mother lynx charged with protecting her cubs. Students could research other ecosystems, explore point of view in English, and design levels in art. Shelter has the potential to be the center of a cross-curricular project that let students be researchers, designers, creators, and collaborators.
Despite a few confusing moments, Shelter succeeds in creating a beautiful, gut-wrenching game that can pull players into both a parent’s journey to care for their young and the beauty and danger of an ecosystem at work. Shelter is a game that educators should get excited about for the example it sets for game-based learning’s potential.
Educational Rating: 6/8
(Classroom Tech Friendly, Motivation, Concrete Learning, Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension)
Overall Rating: 6/8
(Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control)