The Grading Game
The red pen is mightier than the sword.
Grading papers is mind-numbingly boring, but as we've learned, even the most mundane tasks make for an enjoyable video game. Case in point, The Grading Game, a surprisingly entertaining iPhone and iPad title partially inspired by first-person shooters, of all things. Except instead of mowing down enemies with a machine gun, you take a red pen to a variety of assignments from college students struggling with the English language. Even more bizarre, you play as a teacher's assistant to the nefarious Dr. Snerpus, a prof who loves the letter F.
Like most college grads, your character has a sizable amount of debt. The only way to pay down the bill is to mark-up papers on a variety of topics, searching for errors that include unnecessary words, misspellings, capitalization snafus and other common mistakes, such as the difference between there and their, or too and two. Spot all of the errors, or enough to give the student an average to failing grade, and Snerpus rewards you with cash.
If only it were that easy. Career mode takes you through freshman to graduate quality work, and unlike real life, you'll need to grade under duress from a constantly ticking clock. The developers at Mode of Expression never give you enough time (15 to 30 seconds), while incorrect presses result in a penalty. It's the type of game where you can't afford to lose one second.
Fortunately, The Grading Game comes with Quick Play and Practice modes to help get the hang of things, and the freshman and sophomore papers are easy enough to spot the majority of errors. Despite the difficulty, however, the game is a riot. Snerpus displays student complaints, and while the dialogue repeats, it reminds us of how we felt about a particularly boring/out-of-touch professor from our college days. The biggest complaint, and it's minor, involves an apparent disconnect between proper comma use and putting periods in U.S. (for United States) where the game lists it as US. We'll agree to disagree.
At the same time, Snerpus is mostly helpful. Although he comes across as some nasty, bitter old man, his grammar lessons before each paper will probably teach you a thing or two. At the very least, it should help players brush up on their writing skills.
In the end, The Grading Game is a welcome change of pace and a solid fit for touchscreen devices. After suffering through numerous classes years ago, it's refreshing to play a game that makes learning fun. That said, grab your virtual pen and let the red ink flow.
What's Hot: Over 100 papers to grade, amusing student complaints, surprisingly helpful.
What's Not: Student Tweets repeat, there's a bit of a gray area between correct punctuation/comma use, easier to play on the iPad.