Game Titles for Comparison
I don't own a game console, but I have probably played every adventure game available for PC, so my list is heavily weighted towards those. I'm looking forward to seeing what others like/recommend.
Myst: http://www.cyanworlds.com/products/ (old school, but I worked on the original Myst and still have a soft spot for it). I liked the exploration and puzzle-solving aspects; think it could be updated to be collaborative and with more real-world-type puzzles (fitting cargo on a ship, identifying ports from old-style maps, etc.). Not sure how it would be 'graded.'
SecondLife: http://www.secondlife.com/ I, personally, think these sorts of virtual social networks are a huge time sink, but they're popular and I could see how they might be an effective vehicle. If people start with $X, and can choose to build shops, ships, become traders, merchants, etc., an interesting critical mass of commerce might emerge. In fact, I wonder if this could be expanded -- start with Dor/Tantura, and maybe one or two other port cities, all students in an entire class year -- not just a single class -- could be participating as the population of this ancient world, with constraints as they existed then. Cons: not enough explosions?
Machinarium: Played on iPad. Beautiful graphics, puzzle/adventure-based. Single-player. I haven't finished it yet, but will report.
There have been a number of 'murder mystery'-type games (Secret of Grisly Manor, ; following the 'clues' from an excavation could provide the basis for something similar. I don't think that's ever been done from an actual archaeological site. I couldn't find any examples, anyhow.
ARQ Treasure Quest: http://game.aww.pt/ This game is still in development, but the screen shots are awesome. It's a game developed by a group of developers sort of 'shadowing' an archaeology company. The point of the game is to manage an expedition (plan, control costs, conduct the excavation, etc.). I like a lot of what they say they've done. Alpha due early 2013. This approach would be great for teaching archaeology, but doesn't appear to me to go into much of the post-excavation work (the part that would actually address cultures, trade, economy, etc.).
SimCity is cool...lots of similar engines to work with. Kind of a "SecondLife" premise with simpler graphics.
My husband prefers the strategy/battle games (I include him for the male point of view). His favorites include:
All of the Civilization games: Liked that you can build your civilization and grow your cities, but laments the fact that all players have the same choices -- he thinks it would be more interesting if choices were binary -- you choose one path, and you lose access to the other.
OGame.it/Grepolis.it: Two free online games, both of which include building your empire, forming alliances, defeating enemies, claiming their resources. He played both for years, until he finally lost interest. I could see something like this working between schools -- a bit of friendly competition? Cri think Grepolis is the better of the two (it involves building your island civilization, then ships, then conquering other island civilizations). I lost interest in it in a few weeks because it's a 'real time' game -- by this I mean if you want to build a ship, and they say it takes 20 hours, you have to wait 20 actual hours. Similar to World of Warcraft, it creates a sense of urgency that I find supremely annoying. I want to play games when *I* want to play games, not because it's important that I 'check in' on my world or need to coordinate a war with my allies. Maybe with kids, with a scheduled game time, this wouldn't be an issue.