Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Developing Games with Young People: LAP Recycling Game

Following on from a previous blog post (Proof of the Pudding) where I wrote about using games based learning in the classroom, I thought I would share some experience of developing games with young people. I have been fortunate to have led on two such projects / workshops:

While it is worth noting that the trainers from games-ED (pixelfountain) have years of designing and developing games plus are experienced workshop facilitators, this workshop could be replicated without technical know-how.

Over the next couple of weeks we will upload the resources necessary to run these lessons. The free resource section can be accessed by signing up to our news and blog update via mailchimp.

LAP Recycling Game - Description
Opening presentation and quiz
The workshop was run as part of the St. Helens Local Area Partnership Climate Change Project. The workshop was held on the 25th January 2011 and began the process of designing a recycling game. The workshop was facilitated by Paul Ladley (games-ED) and officers from St.Helens Council. The young people came from 6 primary schools in St. Helens, Merseyside UK and were aged 7 to 11.

The workshop was split into three parts:

  1. An opening presentation and quiz.
  2. Each school generated an initial idea.
  3. Two ideas were chosen and more detail was added to them.  
    • Two teams worked in three groups to look at game play, graphics for the characters, scenes and menus and finally ideas to keep up the game interesting.

LAP Recycling Game - Challenges
Realism: The larger project was young people led. This meant that the designs had to be what they wanted, even if this meant making them happen would be difficult. It was felt that a sense of realism had to be injected into the designs so young people could design with their eyes wide open. Therefore, the presentation with embedded quiz included a slide on the golden rules of design:

  • Need - Think about what the player wants (educational, fun, challenge and information).
  • Platform - What gaming device should the game work on (internet, console, computer or mobile phone)?
  • Money - Consider the cost of developing the game.
  • Time - How much time will the game take to develop?

Voting: As expected, when it came to the final two, the groups tended to vote for their own design.

LAP Recycling Game - Outputs and Outcomes
The five game ideas:

  1. Polluto – Polluto and his army are trying to stop you from making the world a better place. You only have a certain amount of time in each level. Can you solve the problems and find the green portal in time?
  2. Walk around the World – Your character visits different parts of the world to solve environmental problems. As you try to solve problems such as removing litter, people create more!
  3. Eco Factory – This is a game of mini games such as eco Pac Man. When you successfully complete a mini game, you earn part of an eco factory. When your factory is complete it will create eco products such as recycled pencils.
  4. Eco Busters – You move through rooms in houses with your pet Munchie solving eco problems. As you and Munch (who can eat rubbish) solve problems you earn credits that enable you to buy more items such as another Munchie.
  5. Eco Party Planning – Every party creates a mess! But if you can clear up and recycle everything properly you earn money. With the extra money your next party can be even better, but if you don’t earn money then your next party is going to be rubbish.

Presenting the game design to the group
The initial winners were Polluto and Eco Busters. The latter became the ultimate winner when other schools who had not been able to attend voted.

The children enjoyed the session, learned a lot and worked well right through to the end.

Two technical specifications for the games were generated and can be found in the full report – see the Slideshare widget in the sidebar of this blog or visit http://www.games-ed.co.uk/games-design-workshop.html

Ultimately, to ensure that the game is developed the following will need to happen:

  • Money to develop the game will need to be found.
  • An individual / design team will need to create a more robust design for a developer to work with. This will make the development costs cheaper, but will mainly ensure the ideas from the workshop are not lost in translation. 

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