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What is Quandary?

Quandary, a free, nonprofit game for players aged 8 and up, presents engaging situations about how to build a new society on the planet Braxos.

In Quandary, players must make difficult decisions in which there is no one right answer in the game, just as in real life, but important consequences – to themselves, to others in the community and to the planet Braxos. In their interactions with other settlers in the group, players must consider facts, opinions and solutions, just like in real life.

Though the game’s setting is a futuristic planet, the genuinely tough situations that players encounter are translatable to the ones they are likely to face day-to-day. The skills players develop while playing Quandary – such as critical thinking, perspective-taking, empathy and decision-making – will help them recognize ethical issues and deal with challenging situations in their own lives.

Quandary provides a framework for how to approach ethical decision-making without telling players what to think.

Who is Quandary for?

Quandary is available to all, but specifically aimed at kids aged 8 and up to play at home, on their own, with friends or with family. The game is also valuable in the classroom, and has been mapped to the Common Core State Standards in reading, listening and speaking. Curriculum material. Teachers can successfully implement Quandary in their classrooms using our handy teacher guide, classroom implementation video, and lesson plans. Curriculum materials are linked to subject specialties like English Language Arts, Science, Geography, History and Social Studies. Lessons align with Social and Emotional Learning tenets and 21st Century Skills. Using the dashboard, teachers can manage users, check their progress, and oversee individual students’ gameplay.

Who’s behind Quandary?

Quandary was developed by a team of experts across the fields of child development, social and emotional learning, and game design. Scholars from Harvard and Tufts University devised a prototype that was tested for viability. Designers at the MIT Education Arcade and the Learning Games Network (LGN), a non-profit spin-off of the MIT Education Arcade, then refined the game. LGN worked work with FableVision, an award-winning storytelling, digital media production and learning company, to bring the game to life.

You can learn more about us here. A full credit list is also available.

What will players learn?

Quandary aims to strengthen the moral compass of players, by developing the skills that help them recognize ethical issues and deal with ethical situations in their own lives. These skills include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Perspective-taking
  • Empathy
  • Decision-making

Quandary can also be used in the classroom to support a range of essential literacy skills and life skills including:

  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Information literacy
  • Global awareness
  • Collaboration
  • Creative thinking

For more detail, view the full Standards Mapping for Quandary.

This website also contains teacher support materials to help facilitate discussion around the game.

What is the gameplay?

Quandary has been designed as a digital card-based game. People on the planet Braxos are depicted as character cards that the player can interact with. Players, as Captain, must gain the characters’ opinions, ideas and responses to the serious dilemmas the community faces.

The player is guided through a process that develops their ethical decision-making skills. They must understand the dilemma by separating facts from opinions, investigate possible solutions and potential outcomes, and understand different viewpoints before making a final recommendation.

For more information, read the Quandary Game Guide.

What dilemmas does the player face?

Quandary contains four episodes, each addressing a distinct dilemma.

In Episode 1: “Lost Sheep,” a predator native to Braxos is attacking the sheep that the community uses for food and clothes, but players learn that the predator also has medicinal value that could help the people fight off disease.

In Episode 2: “Water Wars,” the community’s public water well appears to be polluted, and the only other well belongs to a person who is charging for access.

In Episode 3: “Fashion Faction,” the community’s tailor has started making special alterations for his friends to the standard uniform, which some people say is dividing the community.

In Episode 4: “Mixed Messages,” someone has been posting mean messages about engineers on the society's message board. Bazzil is upset but the group can't agree whether it is cyberbullying or a joke.

What is the Character Creator tool?

The Character Creator tool is an exciting way to get even more involved in the ethical challenges facing the people on Planet Braxos.

Creating new characters is an exclusive feature available only on the Quandary apps - available for Android and iOS phones via Google Play and the App Store. But anyone can view - and play - character creations on the Quandary website.

Here’s how it works...

On the Quandary tablet app (for users aged 13 and up):

  • Choose from five ethical challenges.
  • Create a unique set of characters, each with their own statement about the challenge. You’ll need to include a fact, solution and other opinion.
  • Track how other players have interacted with your characters.

On the Quandary website:

  • Play through any of the ethical challenges by visiting the Character Creator section.
  • Each challenge features a different set of characters created by the community each time you play.

What are the technical requirements?

Quandary will work on any web browser on desktops or tablets. Your child can play the game on this website, on BrainPOP’s GameUp site, or on our app for Android and iOS phones via Google Play and the App Store. Whichever way you choose to play, it’s always FREE, created by a nonprofit.

How much time does Quandary take to play?

There are four episodes (scenarios) in Quandary. Each takes about 10-30 minutes to complete, depending on the speed of the player and their depth of interaction.

Do I need to register to play Quandary?

Quandary's registration system allows players to save their progress after each episode and return by logging-in at a different time. Registered users can also contribute to the discussion forums.

It’s not necessary to register to read the forums or to play the game, but note that game progress will not be saved.

Is Quandary free?

Yes! Quandary is a free, nonprofit game, and its supporting materials are all free.

What awards has Quandary won?

We're proud that Quandary has been recognized by the following prestigious awarding bodies:

  • Most Meaningful Play 2012 - Most Meaningful Game
  • Parents' Choice Awards 2013 - Gold Winner (Website)
  • Games for Change Festival 2013 - Game of the Year
  • Common Sense Education 2018 - Top Pick for Learning
  • Japan Prize 2014 - Finalist (Creative Frontier Category)
  • Serious Play Awards 2013 - Silver Winner (Education)

How can I use Quandary to spark ethics discussions at home?

Quandary is a great springboard for discussion, and the learning will be greatly enhanced if your child has a chance to further reflect on and discuss her or his game decisions after playing.

We also encourage adults to play Quandary with the children in their lives. Why not ask the child to act as the expert, 'driving' the game and explaining how it works to you? You could even play the game as a whole family activity. All of these ideas help to facilitate discussion.

Here are some example questions to help with your discussions:

  • What was your role in the game? What did you have to do?
  • What is the difference between a fact, opinion and solution?
  • What options did you have for solving the community’s problems?
  • What made you choose the solution you chose?
  • Did you find it hard to choose a solution? If so, why?
  • The game encouraged you to find other people's points of view, but did you listen to them when making your decision?
  • Why do you think it's important to understand other points of views?
  • Did you try another solution? If so, what and why? If not, what else might have worked?
  • How well did your society do overall? What do you think the success of the society depends on?
  • What was good about the outcome of your solution? What could have been better?
  • Can you come up with another answer to the dilemma?
  • What if there was another society on Planet Braxos with a different Captain? How would this impact your decisions?
  • Have you ever faced a similar problem in your own life – a problem where there’s no clear answer and you didn’t know what to do? Is there anything that you learnt from the game that would help you make decisions when you face similar problems in your own life?

You could extend this even further by finding a topical ethical dilemma in the real world, perhaps something from the news, to discuss. You might also like to check out The Family Dinner Project, a site that helps you start conversations about ethical thinking and other important issues around your dinner table.