New Frontiers, developed in 1986, was a cooperative therapeutic board game set in the context of a wilderness expedition. It was designed to provide a practice/generalization experience for children ages 7-14 years old who were working on the development of social skills and social competence. Success throughout the game depended on proper application of social skills and social judgment as participants made their way through mountain ranges and forests, down wild rivers, through caves and swamps, and over collapsed bridges.
Teams for the New Frontiers Game were not formed to compete, but to help each other survive. Success throughout the game depended on the entire group, rather than the survival of the individual, as the expedition required cooperation around solving social problems, answering personal questions, discussing emotional issues, and reaching consensus about moral dilemmas. Progress through the game (it took many sessions to complete the expedition course) was measured by the individual furthest behind. At the beginning of the next game session, all participants started from that person’s position on the board.
New Frontiers was large (3.5’ X 3’), colorful, and elaborately illustrated to maximize engagement and motivation to play. The game was structured enough to provide children with a rich social experience, yet spontaneous enough and motivating enough to simulate “real life”. New Frontiers was designed to be effective as a “stand-alone” program, but it was most effective when it was used in conjunction with a social skills building curriculum such as The Social Challenge Program (described in a separate document), alternating sessions, a couple of sessions of skill development followed by a few sessions of practice and application with New Frontiers.
New Frontiers is currently out of print and no longer available, but it was widely distributed in schools, children’s psychiatric hospitals, and mental health private practices and agencies throughout the United States and several countries around the world.
Today, New Frontiers would probably be a tremendous success as a therapeutic video game.