Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Developing Games with Young People: Climate Crew

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:

Avatar design
While it is worth noting that the trainers from games-ED (pixelfountain) have years of designing and developing games plus are experienced workshop facilitators, some of the ideas from these projects could be replicated without technical know-how, specifically:

  • Logo theory, design and creation.
  • Computer Games Design.

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.

Climate Crew - Description
The project was made of over 40 young people from 2 schools and a Girl Guides group from St.Helens, Merseyside UK. The young people were aged between 14 and 18.

The young people led the project and they all agreed on all aspects of the content of the workshops and skills they were to learn. The project ran three types of media skills workshops that a dual purpose; to provide media skills for the young people and to feed into a design of a game.

Each workshop was held over the course of the morning with additional one to one work in the afternoons for Mill Green pupils. The workshops were repeated in the evenings with the Guides with some changes to expand on the work done by the schools.

  • Workshop 1 - Creative Skills:
    • Theory of logo design > design roughs on paper > designs crated in a vector drawing package.
    • The guides developed a flier based on the logo.
  • Workshop 2 - Computer Games Design:
    • The Schools created initial designs: premise > story > game-play and Easter eggs (hidden features in the game).
    • The Guides drew up the screen designs on huge sheets of paper.
  • Workshop 3 - Computer Games Build (done using Adobe Flash):
    • Game inner working and artificial intelligence 
    • Interface, animation and navigation coding
    • Avatar design and coding
    • Real world interaction 
  • Workshop 4 – Testing

Climate Crew - Challenges 
The young people in this project included those with learning disabilities and also young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. To ensure that the young people with learning difficulties could be involved as much as possible we ran follow-on session just for them – A tablet PC came to the fore in these sessions. 

Even though the project ran over a number of weeks and multiple sessions, there still wasn’t enough time to teach the young people the varied skills they would need to design and develop a game. The approach we took was to let the young experience the spectrum of roles in a games company, rather than trying to make them expert in any one area. . The game was completed by the facilitators and can be found at http://www.games-ed.co.uk/bespoke.html.

Climate Crew - Outcomes
Flier design
The young people learned a lot of skills through designing, leading and implementing the project and through the interactive workshops including creative marketing and facilitation, project management, community leadership, computer game design and development.

Before and after the workshops the young people were asked to judge their skills in key areas, the data is shown below.  The data shows that the young people gained skills in design and computer game development as well as communication skills. The workshops were ranked very highly by the young people, particularly the final workshop on game development where they saw all their previous work slot together as they built the game.

Workshop 1
  • 47% improvement in understanding the use of logos for communicating ideas.
  • 57% improvement in understanding climate change.
  • 62% improvement of skills in logo design.
  • 51% improvement of skills in graphic design (taking an idea to completed product).
  • 31% improvement of skills in using a computer art/design package.
  • 23% improvement in communication skills for the verbal presentation of ideas. 

They also ranked the workshop in four different areas:
  • Skills Learnt = 7.6 out of 10.
  • Enjoyment = 8 out of 10.
  • Presenters  = 8.4 out of 10.
  • Interacting with others = 8.4 out of 10.

The key learning messages they will take away include computer drawing skills, the benefit of sharing ideas and team work and taking an idea and developing it into a product.
“Computer drawing skills.”
“Sharing ideas is better than keeping it to yourself.”
“To work as a team and it will turn out good.”
“Taking ideas to full scale.”
Workshop 2
  • 33 % improvement in understanding the use of games for learning and communication.
  • 48% improvement in understanding games design.
  • 46% improvement of skills in games design.
  • 30% improvement in communication skills in the verbal presentation of ideas.

  • Skills Learnt = 7.2 out of 10.
  • Enjoyment = 7.2 out of 10. 
  • Presenters  = 8 out of 10.
  • Interacting with others = 8.4 out of 10.

The key messages the young people will take away include that all ideas are valuable, everyone can have a say, how to lower your carbon footprint and they key principles of game design.
“No idea is a bad one.”
“Bigger understanding of designing games.”
“That we should take our time to think of ideas instead of rushing.”
“That when designing a game it has to be simple but catchy.”
“How to lower my carbon footprint.”

Workshop 3:
  • 25% improvement of their understanding the use of games for learning and communication.
  • 58% improvement in their understanding of games development.
  • 58% improvement of their skills in games development.
  • 31% improvement of their communication skills in the verbal presentation of ideas.

  • Skills learnt = 8 out of 10.
  • Enjoyment = 8.8 out of 10.
  • Presenters = 9.4 out of 10.
  • Interacting with others = 8.8 out of 10.

When asked what they most liked about the workshop all of the students said the learning of the actual skills:
“Learning coding and algorithms.”
“We could do a lot of different aspects of game designing.”
“The animation of some objects.”

Climate Crew - Thoughts of the teachers/group leaders

Coding of the algorithm!

St. Aelreds Catholic Technology College:
“[I liked] when the pupils finally realised that they were in control.”
“Pupils enjoyed the experience, facilitators were fantastic with all pupils and were very patient with them. [The] highlight was last session.”
Mill Green:
 “The students enjoyed working at St Aelreds school, it was a fantastic opportunity for them to work as part of a team with mainstream students. A fantastic idea for our students to have some individual input in the afternoon session back a Mill Green.”

St. Lukes Guides:
 “Having sufficient leaders where the girls could work in individual peer groups worked well. This meant that we could get a good perspective from all ages ranging from 13 to 18. The final testing of the game was excellent – the girls had their own individual computer rather than sharing one between a group.”

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