A former middle school teacher with an archaeology degree turned a search for better classroom teaching tools into a growing Bethesda-based gaming company.

Dig It! Games is the brainchild of Suzi Wilczynski, who in 2005 put together an archaeology-based kids video game with no experience in computer coding or development. About eight years later, the Bethesda resident has built a company of six employees headquartered at 7801 Norfolk Ave., in the second-floor of a building overlooking Veterans Park.

In the last year, Dig It! Games has delivered three new games — one of which rose to the top of the Apple store’s charts for educational games aimed at kids 9-11. In a time when iPads, iPhones and other Apple devices are omnipresent, that’s a big deal — even for a company that mainly markets to schools for classroom gameplay.

“We were very much on the fringe when we started. We’re still somewhat on the cutting edge,” Wilczynski said. “Our games are fun but they are all Common Core-aligned. They are true teaching tools. They are really games. It’s not a digital textbook. You are encouraged to try it and fail and learn what you did wrong and try it again.”

Mayan Mysteries, the company’s flagship game, took more than two years to develop and provides hours of gameplay involving puzzles, problem-solving, reading comprehension and actual archaeological tasks.

It includes an online teacher’s edition that allows instructors to monitor student progress.


“Our goal is to educate kids not only on these core topics of things like, how do you do algebra, but also cultural understanding,” Wilczynski said. “Games allow you to do both. Today in our schools, there are vey few projects that cross classroom boundaries. You don’t get the question of, ‘Why do I need this if I’m never going to use this?’ It’s letting the kids see these concepts in a very different way.”

Dig It! Games (a BethesdaNow.com advertiser) held an open house on Saturday and offered participants a behind-the-scenes look at how it produces games. Bethesda Softworks (now part of Rockville-based ZeniMax Media) and a community of gaming companies in Baltimore County’s Hunt Valley have meant lots of development, art and production talent from which to choose from.

“There’s a suprising number of highly talented programmers and artists in the this area,” Wilczynski said. “This is a vibrant gaming development community. People just don’t realize it.”


She hopes to grow the company back to nine employees and keep producing new tools for classrooms.

“Even 10 years ago, the technology in the field wasn’t matching what was available for teachers,” Wilczynski said. “You could recreate an archaeology dig in three dimensions standing in the desert, but I couldn’t do it in my classroom. It’s more interactive. It’s a better teaching tool because it really engages the kids in every skill they have.”