Why should students be involved in game design?
When anything is created, the greatest learning benefit remains for those engaged in the design process. Game design as a group activity offers many opportunities to develop higher order thinking skills such as planning, creative problem solving, storytelling, programming and collaborating with others.
The goal of student-designed games is to facilitate knowledge construction, invention, and reflection. To do this, we need what Papert (1993) calls “objects-to-think-with.” These objects are all those elements, digital or analog, that students can use to examine, construct, try, modify and apply.
Today games frequently tell stories in interactive settings, so bearing this in mind, based on their fantasy stories, students were given the choice of creating either a digital or an analog game for an audience to play.
Both types of games had to include the following:
- Main goal of the game
- Detailed instructions
- Clear rules
- Interactivity: correct and incorrect options
- A visual, appealing style
- Well designed sections which would be accessed by players by solving puzzles or clues
After a brainstorming session, both students and teachers agreed that Minecraft was the best tool for creating an interactive game as most of them know how to play.
Once they made their choice students planned and defined all the elements of their game: its setting; structure, rules, story flow, characters and objects. They created their 3d story in Creative Mode by adding different tools and blocks converting it into a virtual world which kept growing and growing.
Each section of the story/game would be accessed by players by solving certain clues. Designers had to include specific blocks to add options for players to choose from and a consequence for each action.
We were aware that only some expert students knew how to include interactive features in the game, such as command and spawn blocks and teleporting actions, but they offered themselves to teach the rest. In this case, expert students were not necessarily high achievers and this situation made them feel more self-confident within the group.
What happened next was an extraordinary collaborative situation. There was a concrete need for knowledge for designers to be able to finish the game so information was shared in a spontaneous and natural way by all.
In this compelling and engaging learning environment there was little teacher intervention. The powerful platform provided them with all the tools they needed to ignite their creativity while they learnt independently and collaboratively.
How hard would it be to create an analog game for students who were born with technology as part of their lives? We asked ourselves this question before the project was launched. To our surprise, when given the choice, around half of the students chose this option.
Our next challenge was to motivate them to produce an interactive game with minimal or no digital components that would cause both suspense and intrigue in the audience. Students that chose this option had the extra challenge of producing an attractive analog game that would compete with the popular Minecraft. Would this be possible?
Inspired in the successful Breakout Edu project, we adapted it to our Fantasy Project. Students designed an interactive game applying a wide range of resources provided by the teacher and used a variety of locked boxes where they placed the different sections of the story.
Players would be asked to solve puzzles or search for hidden clues designed by the students to be able to open the locks and continue reading the story. As players successfully unlock the boxes, they reach the end of the story and win the game.
Once the design and creative process was over, the next step was assessing their own games using a rubric, prior to being played.
The digital game was easy to test as they became players of their own game by playing in Survival mode. As a result of this assessment, adjustments were made.
In the analog game, designers changed roles to players and pretended to play their game by double checking instructions, puzzles, clues and by opening locked boxes.
Finally D day arrived. The games were ready to be played.
The question was…how would the audience react?
References: Papert, Seymour (1993), The Children’s Machine, New York: Basic Books.
Categories: Professional Development Contest 2016