Free Rice is a game where playing really does make a difference: sponsored by the World Food Programme, players answer questions in exchange for grains of rice which are then donated in real life through funding provided by ad sponsors. The creators state that the goal of the game is twofold: to provide free education to all, and to help end world hunger by providing rice for free.
The gameplay is very simple, and currently available in five languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Korean. A multiple-choice question pops up on the screen and you choose a response, with immediate feedback. Correct responses result in advancing levels and more challenging questions. The default question type is vocabulary, but a ‘subjects’ menu allows you to choose questions on a variety of topics from literature and paintings to geography, anatomy, math, chemistry, flags, and famous quotes. The English language option has the most subjects, but there is a separate section in English for practicing other languages: all of the above except Korean, plus Latin. There’s also an SAT prep subject option.
The great thing about this game is it helps answer a favorite student question: “What can I do to help?” This is something they can do immediately that makes a small difference, and the time and commitment to joining in is very small. The game has over a million registered players, and they can play solo or in teams, for a minute or an hour. As a direct teaching tool in political science it may be limited–the geography section can be useful if you give map quizzes in international relations; likewise if you have a language requirement this might be a neat tool for that–but as a way to show students that they can make a difference in their daily lives, and to introduce them to the World Food Programme, it can be invaluable.
Fun: 2/4–good if you are a fan of trivia style games, although its not highly interactive.
Ease of use: 3/4 there is no set up required to play the vocabulary version, but the other categories of play are hidden behind a ‘subjects’ menu that you may not notice right away.
Polisci Class Applicability: 2/4 pretty limited in terms of content and skills for the gameplay itself, with only the geography questions having direct relevance, but really nice as a tool to give to students in answer to the ‘what can I do right now’ question.