As those who have been following Gamestar and this blog for a while may know, one of the most compelling uses of Gamestar that we see (and one that was the subject of early academic research into Gamestar) is using game design to allow students to understand and model systems in other areas.
For the past few months, the team behind Gamestar has been working with the folks from the Start Strong Rhode Island initiative at Sojourner House on a game that applies this concept to an interesting (and perhaps unexpected) area: healthy relationships. Just like games (or biological systems, or mechanical systems, or technological systems or… well, you get the idea), a social environment is a system, and our theory is that by playing, making and sharing games based on social system dynamics, kids will gain a better understanding of how the social systems they inhabit work and be in a better position to deal with issue like gender-based violence, bullying and online safety.
This new game, The Real Robots of Robot High, includes a brand new original world and storyline (featuring the cast of the the titular reality tv series — the longest running and most successful in Robotville). While the game builds on the technology and concepts behind Gamestar, it allows for very different kinds of gameplay and game making. Instead of platforming and blasting, think, for example, about games where characters compete to spread (or prevent the spread) of rumors or challenge each other to see who can become the most influential.
This summer, we’re looking for a core group of teachers who might be interested in helping us beta test the Real Robots in preparation for its official release in the fall. Interested teachers can learn more and sign up for the beta by following this link.
What’s better than kids making video games? Kids making opportunities for other kids to make video games!
You may have read earlier that this year we’ve partnered with Global Kids’ Online Leadership Program. The students at OLP are creating two challenges in Gamestar Mechanic as part of our series of Impact Challenges sponsored by the AMD Foundation. Well, the first challenge, about ending war, has been up and running since March, and closed with more than 700 entries! Recently, Global Kids spoke about their challenges at the 2012 Annual Youth Conference. Below is a video of some OLP kids explaining their projects:
We are so proud to be part of this project. Youth creating contests for other youth in the game design for impact space is the kind of activity that will spur youth participation, leadership, and creativity. Not to mention, bring us a step closer to making the world a better place.
We’ll continue to work with Global Kids on releasing their second challenge in Gamestar, and judging both of the contests.
Here is a very quick and sweet story of a boy who loves games and wanted to share them with his blind grandmother. Because there are not many accessible games for blind people, this boy decided to make his own for her. Quarky’s Quest is an example of being driven to design a game because of your audience. Often young game designers think about the cool features they want to put in their game, or the crazy story it will tell, before they think about who their game is made for. A great design exercise is to choose the audience before creating the game. What kinds of games would kids make to be played by babies? By the elderly? By people who cannot see? By non-gamers? By teachers?
Quarky's Quest Screenshot
If games that don’t use visual cues, like Quarky’s Quest, interest you, check out:
I’ve just returned from a 2 week trip to Chile where I taught, along with game producer Eddie Yoo, about the importance of protecting intellectual property through workshops using Gamestar Mechanic. We taught six workshops total in 3 cities in Chile to about 150 middle schoolers. Below is a fun video (in Spanish) that gives some clips of the workshops.
In teaching with games, we often use the creation of games to teach about other subjects like earth science, math systems, or storytelling. In contrast, these workshops in Chile focused on the artifact that the kids produced – the game itself, not the creation of it – as a component in understanding the subject matter. Our students created Gamestar games, and then bought and sold their same games as products in a commercial economy role playing simulation. They practiced buying and selling games in an economy without intellectual property pirates, and in an economy with them. Because the students were buying and selling games that they themselves created, we hoped for them to feel a sense of ownership and pride over their products.
Intellectual property is an abstract and important subject, especially in our digital world where material can be easily downloaded illegally. Often kids don’t understand the similarities between physical and digital property, and how pirating digital goods is akin to stealing physical ones. Using video games as the example of intellectual property was particularly relevant because the kids in our workshops were super gamers! I believe the strongest lesson that these students took from the workshops was that responsibly making games is a real career choice, and it’s one that will help the economy grow.
If you’re interested in teaching about copyright and intellectual property, Common Sense Media has some great lesson plans. Here’s a favorite of mine that teaches about copyright through music.