Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy invites kids to attend a special futuristic school where all decisions are made using reason and evidence-backed claims. In order to succeed, players construct Argubots, special robots that assert arguments based on different types of evidence. Kids then direct these Argubots in duels, launching "attacks" at the other robot's arguments as if they were Oxford-style debaters. The winning argument decides how the school answers a tough question, such as whether robots have feelings or how the community should invest limited resources.
Ready, Set, Argue!
Throughout Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy, kids learn by doing. Kids choose a girl or boy character to represent them at the Academy. Players tap to explore a room and find evidence, use a map to move between rooms, consult a computer for help, and check their mission checklist for next steps.
The game begins with kids meeting Adrian, who's ready to argue. When talking with characters, kids can choose between different responses, similar to role-playing games. Any response will lead to an Argubot duel with Adrian, though, with kids asked to challenge Adrian's arguments as inconsistent or irrelevant. Jumping in like this serves to inspire the player to head over to the lab to get an Argubot.
Kids can choose which type of arguments they want to be able to make, then practice collecting evidence around the lab that matches that type of argument: observation, comparison, authority, or consequences.
Further training missions take kids to meet new people, explore more rooms, solve problems using logic, and collect more evidence. As kids advance, they learn new ways to challenge opponents' arguments by asking critical questions, and they gather evidence to tackle important questions. Kids can also play mini-games to gain more practice and level-up. Multiple players can have profiles, and there is a separate classroom version of the game for teachers to use.
Claim: Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy is Awesome.
Evidence: IF Kids Play Mars Gen One, THEN They Will Learn to Support Claims with Evidence
If the robotics club and the debate team were to sit together at the same lunch table, this is the fantastic game they would create. Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy is a brilliant example of how games can help kids develop core skills that apply across academic subjects. The critical thinking skills of argumentation and logic that are developed here are important for writing, speaking, problem-solving, and decision-making. This innovative and interactive game teaches kids to support their claims with evidence backed by facts and to question the claims of others. Although there are a few bugs which can momentarily interrupt game flow at times, the underlying concept of teaching kids how to argue in a logical manner is well done.
Moreover, the game is engaging and fun, with diverse, quirky characters and a blend of silly and serious decisions to make. The short missions that involve helping other characters keep kids socially invested in the school community and their relationships with other characters, which helps kids experience a more human side of robots and science. This social connection is of critical importance for keeping all kids -- but especially girls -- engaged in STEM-based problem solving. Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy also offers positive role models, including a female leader on Mars.
Another positive aspect is that kids make a lot of choices on their own, giving them ownership over the game. This encourages tweens to apply the reasoning and problem-solving skills they're learning in the game to situations outside of the Argubot battles.
For the most part, the learning is well-paced, with players building on skills as they demonstrate mastery of earlier ones. However, some kids might need a little guidance from parents or teachers. The flip side to having kids learn through experience and trial and error, of course, is that it's not always explicitly clear why an attack on an opponent's argument backfired, or how to pair a claim with evidence to create a strong core argument. Generally this trial-and-error approach leads to deeper learning and engagement as kids notice patterns and draw conclusions, similar to the experience of analyzing a poem versus reading prose. As with poetry, kids without much exposure to this type of thinking might need some encouragement at first to stick with it.
Things for Parents to Manage
Parents should keep in mind that there's a link from the main page straight to the app store.
Parents should also note that Mars Gen One is very large -- 1.2 GB -- but we promise it's worth it!
Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy is best for all tweens, teens, and even adults. This is a good game for adults and kids to explore together so that they can playfully utilize Argubot-style arguments to make reasoned decisions. This game also provides a lot of fodder for discussion -- about what makes someone an authority, the different strengths and weaknesses of different types of arguments, and more! Engagement from parents will likely increase how much kids can learn within the game and how well they will apply those lessons to the real world.
This Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy app review was written by Liz K. McKinney.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.