1701 A.D. by Aspyr Media
Commonsensemedia.org rating: 10 +
ESRB rating: 10+

1701 is a multi-player computer game that can be played alone, on multiple computers, or online. The game begins when the Queen of England commissions you to sail to the West Indies and establish a colony. Once there, you must trade with other players and natives to grow your town. Most growth of colonies occurs through successful management and trade, but occasionally from conquering another’s ship or island. There is the occasional uprising of citizens, especially when their chocolate, tobacco, or alcohol runs low. The computer plays the pirate ships which sail around randomly. If they come too close to your ship or colony, they may attack and steal your goods. Players can type messages to each other to ask for help or to band together to form an alliance. The game rewards cooperation between players. It keeps track of the time you have spent playing and reminds you to take a break after 2 hours. The game is won when your city is sustainable.

1701 is straight up economics 101. How does commerce and trade affect behavior? Am I strong and prosperous enough to capture another colony? Am I desperate enough to attack an ally’s ship to steal the goods? It is an experiment with the free market. I grow sugar cane. Would I make more profit by selling the sugar or making it into alcohol? If I make too much alcohol and the price drops, how will that affect my profit and the behavior of my colony?

It also is a lesson in geometry and foreign and native cultures. Traders come from all over the world. You must find out what they want and learn to be their ally to be able to trade for their special goods.

My sons began playing 1701 when my youngest was about 7 and struggling with writing. He didn’t understand why he needed to learn to write. In 1701, he could write to his dad for more money. He now had a reason to learn to write!

1701’s 10+ rating is because of the alcohol and tobacco referrals, the ability to bomb another’s ships and colonies, and because the pirates occasionally say ‘damn.’ To play on multiple computers, you need a game disc for each computer at about $10-19 per disc.