A few weeks ago the equivilant of a Twitter Chain Letter made the rounds. First of all… a modern chain letter?! Talk about Socializer Motivator! Anyways the topic of this particular Twitter Chain was “Favorite Retro Games” and let me tell you – I have never felt older! Some,of my favorite games from a generation (or three) ago were on this list. Legends of Zelda, Pokemon, Final Fantasy 7, Mega Man, Double Dragon, Mario Cart, and many more all made the cut.

When I look to games for inspiration it is usually this generation of games that I think about. I have written about Super Mario Bros. quite often (So You Failed…) as well as Zelda (My Hearts System) and Final Fantasy (XP Grading) bit never too explicitly. I am starting a new series based on game inspired elements from retro games!

First Up:


Blades of Steel!

I grew up in Western NY near Buffalo. Hockey was never my favorite sport but when you grow up in the Snow Belt hockey and the Sabres were constantly in the background. Blades of Steel was a welcome addition to hockey culture of my youth.

Here’s the thing about this game though. The hockey play was fine. The controls were fine. The graphics for the generation were fine. And absolutely no one played the game for the hockey. People played the game for the fights!

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What an interesting element to include in the game! Including this made the game feel more authentic to the experience people were wathing on the ice. It was authentic to the content that the sport. This is the first lesson I take from Blades of Steel.

  • Authenticity

When designing the students classroom game experience be sure to keep it authentic to your personality and to the content you are teaching. Another Twitter conversation has recently centered on “theme”. When selecting a theme or narrative for the class be sure it is something the teacher (you) is passionate about. I don’t know anything about Star Trek so it would not work for me to use that theme even if it made sense for the content. This would be similar to adding fighting to a Basketball Game. It isn’t authentic to the experience. I do love SuperHeros and comic book movies though so sharing that as a theme might make more sense.

The other thing I remember about playing this game is the novelty of fighting. Let me rephrase – I was shocked the first time I was allowed to fight. This doesn’t mean teachers should create a student fight club; though I don’t think competition is always negative. The mechanic inspiration here is:

  • Novelty

This doesn’t mean to through random events in if the activity is not authentic to the class; however, new experiences and content that are authentic are quite valuable. For example, every year my students participate in the National History Day competition. I allow a great deal of choice in the topics students are allowed to research. Almost every year I have groups of students that want to research topics that they think are outside of the acceptable range. I imagine that the shock and excitement that on students’ faces when I allow them to research the Black Panthers instead of Martin Luther King Jr, the LBGTQ rights launching Stonewall Riots, or some sports related topic is the same look that I had the first time the gloves were through down in Blades of Steel!

  • Socialization

The last element I would mention is that the game was bet played at parties. The fighting was fine as a novelty the first time but like all novel activities the excitement wears off over time. Add the element of socialization though and the game fosters another powerful motivator. Over the last few weeks I’ve been playing with an individual component to my Dreadsheets Boss Fights. It is effective as a non-quiz formative assessment but it lacks that socialization motivator and  the engagement is not the same as the team based version.

So there you go… Three inspirations taken from a classic video game.