The interesting thing about these kind of competitions is that you get to see what a really raw game looks like. There usually isn't enough time to have the game completely polished by the deadline. Often times the developer was never able to implement some core idea, or they quickly realized that the game they were building wasn't quite what they thought it was going to be. It is always useful for a designer to get a bit of insight into the design processes used by other designers. I'm going to talk a little about each game here, and you should try out the ones that sound interesting to you, but I really encourage you to read the forum posts associated with each game. There, each designer is trying to explain and justify their game and concept. The other entrants to the competition, and members of the Independent Gaming Source community also provide feedback and ask questions.
Here's a quick rundown of the entrants. (By the way, none of the kid-safe games won the competition)
Action Sight Reading
I love evolutions simulators! Especially ones that give you lots of options to decide what kinds of behavior will be selected for. Playing with games like this can give you a real insight into how evolution actually works to adapt to a situation without anything being pre-designed. I wrote my own evolution simulator in college called Biots.
This is sort of a mini-game inspired by how flower and water is mixed to make dough. I'm not sure it's all that educational.
This is a "persuasive game" that puts you in a situation where you don't know who the enemy is until they fire at you, and they usually only fire at you when you can't see them. The game also doesn't include and exit strategy, meaning you'll have to press Ctrl-Alt-Del to kill the game.
A math game where you absorb number-based enemies into your plus sign and fire the negative version of that number out at other enemies, trying to reduce them to zero or lower. This game educates the same way flash cards educate, meaning it might help you memorize some arithmetic, but won't teach you any deeper mathematical concepts. The fun part of the game is its side-scrolling-shooter interface. Sounds better than flash cards to me!
A game about making as many non-intersecting lines as possible. It might be good "brain-training", but it's not specifically educating anyone about anything.
Real Time Evolution
Another evolution simulator! This one has less options to play with. It's the kind of thing that's more educational for the developer than anyone playing it. Still, it could have more options added later.
The one game in the competition that seems to have been somewhat commercially successful. This game converts works of public-domain text into two-dimensional landscapes that you can explore. Your character is a little I, who must try to touch every word in the text by running and jumping to navigate. Red words are "powerful". They will send out floating letters to touch you, wiping out all of the progress you've made on the current screen. If you touch them they deactivate. I really like this game. I don't know if the gameplay is very educational, but it definitely provides some stimulation and incentive to explore some classic poems, short-stories, and other kinds of texts.
Tower of Babel
This is an exploratory 2-D platform game that provides you with mathematical and logical puzzles to solve. Press the "S" key to read the stone tablets. Once it picked up I had fun, but there really weren't anywhere near enough math puzzles. Needing to use the shotgun to kill enemies didn't really add anything to the game. It is also in dire need of a spell-check. Still, this is a great concept. Explore a 2-D castle by running an jumping, earn new abilities that unlock new areas metroidvania style, and solve mathematical puzzles to earn those abilities or unlock doors. I'd love to play a fully-realized game like that. Especially if it encouraged you to do your own research to find the answer to puzzles, and also made sure the problems were sufficiently randomized so that no one can just right a walkthrough with an answer-key.
by adam a
Unforunately, I was not able to download this game. Accoring to the description, it is a 3D game about teaching baby zoo animals the basics of computer use. That's a pretty original idea! The educational value presumbably being teaching you how to teach.