by Lindsay Clandfield

I was first pointed to this amazing cooperative and communicative video game by a colleague of mine on Facebook who was raving about playing it with some friends at a party. “You have to defuse a bomb, together!” was all I could remember before I was clicking away and searching it out. I think the game had me at the title.

You need to defuse this bomb in less than five minutes or… boom.

Here is the description of the game, from Steel Crate Games, the company behind it: One player is trapped in a virtual room with a ticking time bomb they must defuse. The other players are the “Experts” who must give the instructions to defuse the bomb by deciphering the information found in the bomb defusal manual. But there’s a catch: the experts can’t see the bomb, so everyone will need to talk it out – fast!

To play the game with students (or with friends), you need one computer with the game installed, and one copy of the bomb defusal manual (a free pdf download from their site). One person has to sit at the computer and try and defuse the bomb, asking questions and listening to instructions from the other players. For this reason, it’s best played on a laptop that you can orient easily so only one person can see it.

The bomb defusal manual... what the students have to use to help.
The bomb defusal manual… what the students have to use to help the bomb defuser.

I’ve played this game with a group of six students. One student is at the computer, and the others take turns giving instructions to defuse the different bits. Each “turn” lasts 3 to 5 minutes, so we rotate in order for everyone to get a turn. I should mention that the “bomb” is randomly generated each turn so you never get the exact same bomb twice. Obviously, the language required to play this game means it’s not suitable for beginner students, but I played with low level B1 students and it was fine – at least for the first few levels which was all I needed. We played for around half an hour, and yes there was LOTS of talking (and, eventually, excited shouting).

In a way, this is the ultimate information gap. There is a clear need for communication, and the stakes are high. The game has sound effects and music that really ratchets up the tension as the countdown clock winds down.

I don’t really have any criticisms of this game. It’s easy to install on a computer, the controls are very intuitive and the tutorial is super quick and easy. Within 5 minutes of opening the game you’ll know what to do.

I am looking forward to trying it out this upcoming term with a new group, and meanwhile I’ve been playing with my kids. I even brought this game to IATEFL last year, and played with several other teachers late into the night.

As an “extreme language teaching” experience, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes really delivers. Check out the video gameplay below if you aren’t sure, and then get defusing yourselves!

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes costs $14.99 and is available for PC and Mac on Steam, or via the company’s website here.