American History / Adventure Games

Mission US

Started in 2008 from the simple premise of making American history more engaging and accessible for middle school students and their teachers, Mission US has emerged to become the most used history game since Oregon Trail, with millions of student plays and over 50,000 registered teachers.

Mission US is a series of free online adventure-style games that cast players in the role of young people alive during extraordinary moments in American history. We have developed five games in the series so far, in collaboration with our partners at the American Social History Project at CUNY and WNET/Thirteen Public Media.

Screenshots
Quick Take

EFS Role / 

Game Design

Content Development

Software Engineering

Partners /

WNET New York Public Media

American Social History Project

 

Evaluation Partner /

Education Development Center (Center for Children & Technology)

Years / 

2006-Present

Funding / 

Corporation of Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Humanites, U.S. Department of Education (Institute of Education Sciences), National Park Service

The games have been played more than 1.5 million times since launch.

Content
  • For Crown or Colony? puts players in the shoes of a printer’s apprentice in 1770 Boston. Students learn about the coming of the American Revolution, and different perspectives of Patriots and Loyalists.
     

  • Flight to Freedom has players take on the role of a young enslaved girl on a Kentucky plantation in 1848. Navigating her difficult escape to Ohio, students learn about slavery, resistance, and abolition before the Civil War.
     

  • A Cheyenne Odyssey has players become a Northern Cheyenne boy whose life is changed by western expansion and the encroachment of the railroad, white settlers, and U.S. military expeditions in the 1860s and 70s.
     

  • City of Immigrants casts players in the role of a Jewish teen who immigrates to New York City in 1907, during the growth of the labor and progressive movements.
     

  • Up from the Dust, also available as an iPad App, has players take on the roles of twins who develop different strategies for survival, after their family farm is devastated by the Great Depression and Dust Bowl.

Video (produced by WNET New York Public Media)
An introduction to Mission US and its use in the classroom.
Awards
  • 2019-20 Teachers' Choice Award, "For the Classroom" category. 

  • 2019 International Serious Play Awards: Gold Medal Winner, K-12 Education
    (for For Crown or Colony?

  • 2018 A Parents' Choice Awards: Winner, Gold Award (for Up from the Dust, mobile app)

  • 2017 International Serious Play Awards: Silver Medal Winner, 7-12 Education
    (for Up from the Dust

  • 2017 Daytime Emmy Awards: Nominee, Outstanding Interactive
    (for Up from the Dust)

  • 2016 Daytime Emmy Awards: Nominee, Outstanding Interactive Media – Original Program or Series (for City of Immigrants)

  • 2015 International Serious Play Awards: Gold Medal Winner, Education
    (for City of Immigrants

  • 2014 Games for Change: Winner, Most Significant Impact (for A Cheyenne Odyssey)

  • 2014 A Parents' Choice Awards: Winner, Gold Award

  • 2013 Japan Prize: Winner, Youth Category

  • 2013 Webby Awards: Official Honoree, General Website – Youth

  • 2013 Common Sense Media ON for Learning Award: Winner

  • 2012 NETA Awards: Winner, Classroom Content, Instructional Media category (received score 60 of 60 from judges)

  • 2012 International Serious Play Awards: Gold Medal Winner, Education

  • 2011 NETA Awards: Winner, Instructional Content/Learning Object, Instructional Media category (received score 60 of 60 from judges)

Reviews

“Realistic,” “brilliant,” “ingenious,” “fascinating,” “a powerful game that all kids should experience.”

The branching storylines, each tied to your possible decisions, are brilliant in their diversity and ingenious in how they weave together to create the fascinating story path of this game. The story line is careful to reflect the history of the time and show it from multiple perspectives. From hearing spirituals being sung in the beginning of the game to Lucy's haunting voice at the end recalling her journey, this is a powerful game that all kids should experience.

Mission US: A Cheyenne Odyssey brings to life many of the challenges and choices that faced the Cheyenne people in the late 1800s... This is a way for kids to understand the perspective of Native Americans as they fought to retain their way of life. Also, the game presents a clear point of view that isn't always captured in the classroom... It's a great starting point for dialogue and a chance for kids to do a lot of critical thinking.

Yes, Mission US: Flight to Freedom is a video game. And not just any video game. A great video game.

 

Flight to Freedom helps students learn how enslaved people’s choices – from small, everyday acts of resistance to action that sought an end to slavery – affected not just the lives of individuals but the nation as well. Students also practice a wide variety of historical thinking skills while playing the game – historical context, cause and effect, primary source analysis, literacy skills, and foundational vocabulary – while learning more about the system of slavery and the movement that worked to abolish that system.

What's Next

Spring 2020, Mission 3: A Cheyenne Odyssey remake: We are in full production to bring one of our favorites to Unity, ensuring a long life and fully remastered 3D models and graphics.

Fall 2019, Mission 6: Prisoner in My Homeland launch: Detailed game and instructional design is under way for our sixth mission that focuses on the experience of incarcerated Japanese Americans during WWII. This mission (and all subsequent new and remade ones) will use the Unity engine. Support is provided from the National Park Service.

Winter 2019, TimeSnap Mission 1: With continuing support from the U.S. Department of Education we are upgrading our original prototype to deepen player choice, update the UI, and enhance interaction with historical evidence. We are also building a Teacher Dashboard to let educators track student progress in realtime and collect data on key student choices that can be used to lead whole class discussion. 

Fall 2018, For Crown or Colony? remake: Spiderman isn’t the only franchise that gets rebooted! With support from the National Endowment of the Humanities, we’re bringing our first mission into technical modernity with our new Unity engine. The game will be deployed as streaming online (WebGL) or as a tablet app. Major upgrades to content to better support key learning objectives, visual assets, interface, and a badge system.

Fall 2017, MU: TimeSnap prototype: With support from the U.S. Department of Education, we are prototyping a high school Mission US experience (working title: TimeSnap) that uses mobile VR to create deep and engaging document-based activities.
 

Mission 3: A Cheyenne Odyssey

Little Fox explores his values and skills.