Mission US: Flight to Freedom
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mission US: Flight to Freedom is an age-appropriate but realistic simulation of life for Lucy, an African-American teenage girl living in the pre-Civil War period, as she attempts to flee from slavery to freedom. This gamified learning experience is intended to be used as part of an integrated curriculum on slavery (resources are provided on the publisher's website), not necessarily as a stand-alone experience. Kids who play will get a sense of what it's like to be ordered around by a master, leave family behind to run for freedom, and have to make difficult decisions. Some choices will result in Lucy being captured, and the simulation will end. Given the subject matter, kids might find the experience to be emotionally intense; families are torn apart, people are treated poorly, and characters are unfairly imprisoned. The use of words such as "Negro" could feel offensive to some, although they're authentic to the time period. Most decisions have no right or wrong answer, which may be a new experience for kids. There are repercussions for each decision and, much like in real life, you can't always know which will end poorly. Some choices result in "badges," which aren't rewards so much as representations of personality traits within the experience. Players may receive a badge for being rebellious, but they also can earn one for following all the rules. One badge is earned by saying a prayer in a difficult moment. As in life, you can't develop all the personality traits, as some conflict with others. As the game progresses, these personality traits come into play and help shape Lucy's life.
What kids can learn
Language & Reading
- reading comprehension
- cultural understanding
- historical figures
Thinking & Reasoning
- applying information
- asking questions
- developing resilience
- perspective taking
Responsibility & Ethics
- embracing differences
- learning from consequences
- making wise decisions
Engagement, Approach, Support
This isn't a typical video game or "edutainment" experience, and it shouldn't be treated as such. Instead of dry textbook lessons, kids will be very engaged by the game's immersive feel and the ability to make their own choices while still learning about the time period. Still, between the difficult subject matter and the slower-moving style, don't expect that kids will choose this over pure entertainment titles.
Learning is well integrated; the experiential/first-person nature of the simulation brings historical details to life and may help kids absorb the content more readily. By exploring in-world objects and vocabulary words, kids help shape their character and the story's trajectory.
Teachers may miss a central dashboard to track student progress, but other support materials are plentiful and top-notch. Lesson plans, activities, vocabulary worlds, and primary sources are available on the website to help educators and parents provide historical context for the simulation, as well as a deeper learning experience.
What's it about?
MISSION US: FLIGHT TO FREEDOM follows the journey of 14-year-old Kentucky slave Lucy as she leaves her family behind in a quest for freedom. She begins on the plantation, where she has chores such as laundry, feeding the pigs, and collecting eggs from the chickens. When things go catastrophically wrong, she must run away to avoid being beaten or sold to a different plantation. You lead Lucy as she runs, making decisions that control the course of her fate. She befriends abolitionists and joins their cause, putting her own life at risk in the process. And when her friends are in need, she can step up to help out. But will Lucy ever really be free? Will she see her family again? It's your story, based on the choices you make. As you progress through the story, you'll help develop Lucy's personality. Is she self-reliant? Family-oriented? Rebellious? In the end, it's these traits that allow you to make the final decisions to tell the end of Lucy's story.
Is it any good?
Mission US: Flight to Freedom is a powerful and compelling simulation about one girl's attempt to flee slavery and reach freedom. It requires kids to make some difficult decisions in a gaming world where there are no right or wrong answers. Unlike in some simulations, the choices aren't obvious, and what seems like a reasonable decision could have very negative consequences. The result is an ongoing sense of peril, especially for kids who are able to relate in some way to the lead character. Because no simulation can or should adequately convey the full depth of slavery or the escape to freedom, this shouldn't serve as a stand-alone experience. But when it's paired with a strong curriculum unit -- or discussions and research as a family -- Flight to Freedom has the ability to humanize the people of the time and can serve as a springboard for further learning and conversation.
The experience can go even deeper as you replay with different choices. Since your decisions result in different "badges," or personality traits, they can subtly or radically change Lucy's fate. Kids can experience how each choice they make can impact Lucy's life, a lesson that's valuable even beyond the constraints of the activity. Although "fun" isn't the right word to describe the simulation, it's certainly engaging in a way that typical history lessons aren't. This means that kids will connect more deeply with the subject matter and gain a greater understanding of the challenges of the time. Mission US: Flight to Freedom also offers a complete set of teacher materials, including activities, historical context, vocabulary, and primary sources, which make it useful for school and after-school programs as well.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about slavery. What would it be like to have someone own you and make all your choices? How would you feel?
When is it OK to disobey someone? Name some situations where you should stand up for yourself and disobey. When should you listen and follow the rules? How do you know the difference?
What do you think life was like on a plantation for the plantation owner's family? For the slaves? Did you learn about history by playing this game?
Can you think of a time when you stood up for or helped someone else? Why did you do it? How did it make you feel? Why do you think the abolitionists helped Lucy?