I used to be a teacher. It was the most harrowing period of my life, and I'm not exaggerating when I say it left me with some permanent mental scars.
A lot of this may have had something to do with the fact that I was teaching a somewhat niche subject (music) in schools that were, to put it politely, "struggling." That said, teaching is an immensely challenging (and occasionally rewarding) profession, regardless of whether or not your students are threatening to knife you for asking them to please be quiet while you explain what they're actually supposed to be doing in your lesson. Yes, that really happened.
Despite my own bad experiences, I do remain fascinated with the education system and the complex psychological, sociological influences that are in play in every classroom. I have a real soft spot for any kind of story set in a school -- which explains my enjoyment of both slice-of-life anime and Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- and, particularly, games that take place at least in part in and around a school.
More often than not, though, school-themed games tend to focus on the trials, tribulations and teenage angst of the students rather than the struggles of the actual teaching staff. And that's fair enough; high school is a challenging period for young people, and the stories that come out of teenagers finding themselves can be fascinating and inspirational in their own right.
I won't lie, though, I've been longing to play a game in which the teacher is the hero for the longest time. Christine Love's visual novel Don't Take It Personally, Babe, It Just Ain't Your Story was a good start, but again, this arguably focused somewhat more on the lives of the students than the teacher, and didn't look so much at what goes on during a lesson.
Enter Teacher Story, then. The work of French free-to-play game developer Motion Twin and publisher Twinoid, Teacher Story is a tactical role-playing game (yes, really) in which you take on the role of James, a beleaguered young teacher trying his best to survive in the challenging battleground that is his classroom.
In each lesson, James must "defeat" as many students as possible by using his teaching skills, which appear on a hotbar at the bottom of the screen. Each student in the class has a stupidity bar which must be depleted in order to improve their test scores, but their stupidity points are protected by boredom points which act as "armor" to stupidity's "health." James' various skills have an impact on students' stupidity and boredom points, and the aim is to deplete as many stupidity bars as possible before either the lesson's number of turns expires, or James' self-control health bar runs out.
Each of James' skills affect students in different ways; some affect all students on a single table, others can bypass boredom and directly impact stupidity. Others still can work with positive and negative status effects. There's also a number of "free actions" available that don't cost a turn; these tend to take the form of consumable items that can be purchased with real money.
Yes, this is a free-to-play game, with everything that entails -- slow earning of in-game currency unless you buy it, lengthy wait times between play sessions unless you pay up, benefits for paying players -- but for some reason it doesn't feel all that offensive here. The core gameplay is solid and friendly to "dipping into," and your initial allowance of Twinoid's hard currency allows you to play several classes in a row without having to wait.
There's also some social elements that encourage you to play with friends: you can send students to one another, for example, and doing so allows James access to extra skills and bonus objectives in each in-game "day." Inviting friends also provides you with in-game currency bonuses, too, allowing you to either play more or take advantage of the consumable items. Since Twinoid's site is completely separate from Facebook and other social networks, you don't have to worry about spamming your friends with invites; anyone who is already on Twinoid is there to play the games, so likely won't mind getting a notification or two.
Since it's free and browser-based, I strongly recommend giving it a shot. You might just find yourself by turns charmed by the game's pixel art and amusing abstraction of social interactions, and horrified by the startlingly accurate depiction of what your average teacher has to deal with on a daily basis.
Check it out here.
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