Gamestar Mechanic Teacher Blog

All posts from July, 2013

Focus Testing Games for Learning

Author

Posted Jul. 30, 2013

CategoryGames Research, Gaming Education

Tagged

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple weeks focus testing a new game. Testing with kids is a touchy subject; we need to be careful that we’re getting accurate feedback from kids, that kids understand what we are asking them, and that parents and schools also understand what and why we’re testing.  I thought I’d share some of my insights from my recent focus tests:

Handshakes – Kids who are participating in a playtest are doing a HUGE service for the company and game.  They are giving opinions and information that us grownups can only speculate on, no matter how well we remember elementary school. They should be treated like they are a super integral part of the development process, because they are! I’ve started giving kids formal handshakes before they start the testing, and another handshake to thank them when they are done.  This kind of “thank you for your time” gesture might seem a little odd to do with a 9 year old, but I’m finding that it helps the kids understand how important they are to the design process, and then they really step up to give great feedback.

Introductions – I’ve started asking kids who they are, what they like to do in and out of school, and how they describe their own personality before we start the testing.  Not only is this helping make kids feel comfortable during the session, but it also lets me think about who they are as gamers before they start playing. A kid who loves shooters might give different feedback than a kid who loves playing Angry Birds on a cellphone.  Once the kids talk about who they are, sometimes they start giving feedback through that lens too, saying things like, “Well, since I love sports, I like scoring points in the game.”

Repeating – When I taught ESL in schools, I tried my best not to repeat what my students said, letting the kids speak for themselves.  When filming a focus testing session, however, I find that repeating their feedback really helps.  Kids can get really into playing a game and they might start speaking to the game and not to the tester.  If I repeat what they said for confirmation, I have the benefit of hearing the kid’s ideas clearly when I review the footage.  Ideally, you’d have multiple people testing with excellent cameras and mics.  But, realistically, it might just be you and your camera phone.

Groups – I’ve mostly been conducting focus interviews one on one.  Having a kid answer questions individually is good because there is no confirmation bias; they say what they are thinking without being influenced by their peers. However, I’ve also tested in pairs to see how kids play a single-player game together (which happens all the time in the real world!), and in a large group to see how a bunch of kids in a classroom environment would react to the game.  I’ve gotten useful and different information from testing in each of these settings.

Another note, if you’re ever testing games for learning, check out the book Game Usability first. It’s full of tips and proven methods!

The Hungercraft Experience

Author

Posted Jul. 16, 2013

CategoryGaming Education

Tagged

 

In light of E-Line Media’s new partnership with MinecraftEDU we’ve been playing a lot of Minecraft in the office.  Last week E-Line’s entire development team in Seattle played Joel Levin’s (@MinecraftTeachr) mod called Hungercraft.  In Hungercraft, players explore the world of the Hunger Games in a setting 75 years before Katniss’ rise to fame.  Each person enters the Minecraft mod as either a member of the oppressive Capitol or a lowly coal miner of District 12.  The only place the two groups in the game can meet is the trading room, where they can choose to trade coal for food.  The Capitol needs coal to make food, and District 12 has no access to food, but plenty of coal. There are no right or wrong ways to solve the conflict in Hungercraft; teams can cooperate, orchestrate an uprising, battle, steal, etc.

We weren’t the only group to try out Hungercraft.  This article in the Huffington Post’s Blog describes the experience of Hungercraft with two groups of high schoolers at Brooklyn Public Library.  For these high schoolers, Hungercraft started out civil, with each side trading their goods.  But when an instigator from District 12 broke into the Capitol, conflict was unavoidable.  The teens wrote about the experience:

“We viewed this event as an opportunity to open our minds. Sure it was very fun and entertaining, but the teens from both groups also went away realizing the need for better communication and delegates, increasing the significance of the United Nations. These revelations all occurred within the walls of the Brooklyn Public Library. Who said video games aren’t educational?”

At E-Line, our teams spent their time finding loopholes and resources on their own sides before interacting at all. Once District 12 had scrounged up their own food without asking the Capitol, they prepared for attack.  It’s good to know resourcefulness and independence are prevalent qualities at E-Line!

E-Line at ISTE

Author

Posted Jul. 01, 2013

CategoryEvents

Tagged

Kerri Schlottman-Bright, our business and partnership development superstar, spent last week with our team at ISTE. Here’s her recap:

A little bit of ISTE instruction

We’ve just returned from a whirlwind three days in San Antonio, where we attended the annual ISTE conference, an exciting event where we’re able to connect with Gamestar Mechanic teachers and other educators from around the world who are interested in doing game design in the classroom. This year, game-based learning was a hot topic, thanks to an incredible keynote given by game designer/author Jane McGonigalwho touted the benefits of games for learning. Over the course of three days, we talked to well over 1,000 teachers who are fired up about using games to engage, educate and empower youth!

In addition to presenting Gamestar Mechanic in the massive trade show that accompanies ISTE, our company E-Line Media also very excitedly announced two new partnerships – with HISTORIA and with MinecraftEdu. Both of these amazing game-based resources were created by teachers for teachers! You can check out their websites for more information on how to bring them to your classroom. For you Gamestar Mechanic lovers, you’ll be happy to know we also announced two extensions to the Gamestar Mechanic platform – one for younger youth and one for high school youth, meaning that starting 2014, Gamestar Mechanic will be available for grades 1-12! Keep checking back here for news on those releases and more, or follow us on Twitter at @GamestarMech.