The video game development studio Zachtronics is one of the latest to become involved in providing schools and educational non-profit organizations learning opportunities through video games. The program, called Zachademics, will allow public schools and “school-like non-profit organizations” to request free licenses for all of their games for the purpose of educating young people. The games made by the studio are mostly puzzle games and often focus on coding and science. While free games for educators may sound very enticing to the teachers out there, a post detailing the program on the Zachtronics website does have some words of caution regarding the program and the games they can provide.
According to the post, the games that are being offered were not created specifically for kids, and those that have been rated by the ESRB have gotten a T-rating, mostly for “the occasional swear word and references to violence, sex, alcohol, and drugs.” The post does mention that due to the nature of their games, any instances of the less-than-savory content manifests itself in text, not in actual depictions. That being said, five games of the Zachtronics catalog were singled out for content-based disclaimers: Opus Magnum, Infinifactory, EXAPUNKS, SHENZHEN I/O, and TIS-100. Some of the games have content filters that can be applied in-game, such as in EXAPUNKS, or even a “for schools” version with Infinifactory. You can check out the full list of disclaimers on the Zachademics page.
The studio is being fairly open with offering the free licenses for educational purposes, only requiring an email with basic information such as the name of the educational institution, a web link for proof, and information on the computers that will be used, along with some other standard information. However, succinctly put by the company, “Like most things in life, there are rules.” The free licenses cannot be attained by private, for-profit, or home schools, and can only be installed on computers that are school property; student-owned laptops or computers are not included. Zachtronics also cautions that “these games are probably not the kind of thing you can sit a student in front of without some amount of introduction and scaffolding from a real human being,” but otherwise can be a fantastic learning tool.