Luckily, I am not the only one who thinks this way; the fine people at the Appically, a Barcelona-based app company, developed Happy Geese with that same thought. Their idea: Take some family-friendly board games such as Snakes & Ladders (known as Chutes and Ladders in the U.S.) and The Game of the Goose (apparently very popular in Europe) and make them customizable digital games.
The idea is quite simple. It’s about customizable boards, pieces and dice. Take a long and visually complicated board and turn it into something simple and clear – and shorter, if necessary. Add in the cool interface of a touchscreen device and voila – you have an “accessible” board game for just about anyone.
Here’s a quick overview of how to set it up:
First, you get to choose The Game of the Goose or Snakes and Ladders. Because I am more familiar with Snakes and Ladders, we went with that. Then, you configure the game play. The board options are on the left, the player tokens are below, and the options are on the right. We chose our player tokens first by taking pictures.
The options on the right side of the screen were great! I especially loved the option to choose which kind of die/ dice to use. Since Quentin is really into letters and words right now, I chose to lure him in with the AEIOUY die. I also chose not to have any “snakes” in our board – in case someone got upset about sliding backwards in the game too far. I did, however, allow for ladders.When you are all set with your configuration, you simply press the green arrow on the right and your board appears! An arrow spins to indicate who goes first. Taking turns is such an important part of learning that can be hard for some kids with autism. For this game, each person will get there fair turn if you wait for the die to flash on their part of the screen. (You roll the die by simply tapping.)
Each player gets to move his or her token during his/her turn, via a drag motion. There is an option (on the configuration screen) for the board to “hint” at the appropriate space by blinking; we opted to skip that to make it a little more challenging.
All in all, we loved this game. It was fun and easy for everyone to use. My only issue was figuring out which configuration would work best for my two children, who are at different levels. Of course, this is something every parent will need to experiment with; it’s no fault of the app designers. I simply love that there is social interaction with iPad play for this game; it’s a rare treat to find an app that lets both my kids play at the same time.
But this game can teach children more than simply social game play. About five years ago, I attended a lecture at grad school by Dr. Robert Siegler, a visiting professor. The main thesis of the talk was about how important board games are for developing early understandings of mathematics; in particular, board games such as Chutes and Ladders help children understand concepts such as counting, numeral identification, numerical magnitude, and the number line in general. (A good summary of these ideas can be found here.)
That lecture has stayed with me throughout the years. I often have thought about how Quentin won’t sit and have the patience for board games like Chutes and Ladders the way his twin sister, Fiona, does. But with Happy Geese, we are given a new opportunity for this! For Quentin, this app represents more than just socialization through play, but an opportunity to dive into math concepts a little deeper. (That is, if I choose a board and dice for him that are based on numbers and counting.) I am hopeful that customizable board game apps, like Happy Geese, will eventually help increase not just socialization, but his math understanding.
Happy Geese is not just for special needs kids, but it was designed with them in mind. However, I would also recommend this app to anyone with younger children who might be typically-developing, but can’t stand a long, complicated board game. It’s a great introduction to turn-taking for anyone.
Happy Geese is available to download from the Apple iTunes store or Amazon for $2.99 by clicking the links below.