“Greetings, valiant Mechanics! Are you ready to embark on a grand adventure? Then prepare yourselves for Game of Sprites!” (GSM News, Nov. 16, 2016)
The Holidays are upon us! The students are restless… It’s time for a new challenge! Starting November 18th, the awesome team at Gamestar Mechanic began releasing a series of brand-new Challenges for your students to play through. These challenges will not only allow your students to unlock new sprites and gear but also provide them with a great lead up to a new Contest that will task them with creating their own games using these newly-released sprites! This challenge is awesome for lessons in game design, plot, character development, user-centric design, and creative writing, among other things.
As mentioned in earlier posts, designing a balanced game, one with flow, involves system-based thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, art, storytelling, and digital media literacy. It involves “Systems-Thinking” and “User-Centered Design”. To develop even a simple game, a student must act as sociotechnical engineer, thinking about how people will interact with a system and how said systems shape both competitive and collaborative social interaction. This is the 21st Century Story-Teller’s Art. This is where Liberal Arts meet STEM. This is what STEAM is all about! This is why those of us who were children of the 90’s remember and even revisit a great old game, much as though it were a great piece of literature we had read in childhood. I’m not trying to blaspheme here. Please do not attack me for putting Cloud and Frodo in the same basket, but I would argue that they might just belong together.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that the team at Gamestar clearly had a lot of fun putting these challenges together. They are well-designed games in which students will have the opportunity to earn never-before-seen sprites that also contain a lot of humor. I may be getting my geek on a little too much, but I seriously had some “laugh-out-loud” moments as I played through the two challenges that have been released so far. I’m seriously stoked for Episode III to be released today!
As this is the Gamestar Mechanic Teacher Blog and I am a teacher, I think in lesson plans. So without further ado, here is a sample lesson plan for you! (I am so a poet and totally know it!)
These days, the idea that games can tell effective stories is not exactly new. Now many teachers are using games with their students to deconstruct stories or game design to understand narrative development. But the art of telling stories through video games is still in its adolescence. This funny video by Extra Credits and Daniel Floyd gives some good examples of how storytelling and writing, in particular, are faring in the world of video game creation.
Keep in mind this video was made 4 years ago, and 4 years can make a lot of difference. There are three main points that Floyd makes in his piece that I feel are changing by the minute:
1. Mainstream consumers are beginning to pay attention to good writing. Since 2008 a number of smash hit video games have come out with exceptional writing, the most notable of which are the two most recent installations of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series.
2. Games are no longer only a consumer product. The implementation of games in education is picking up quickly as educators recognize the potential for games to teach. While there is a lot of buzz about games teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, teachers are also realizing the power of teaching narrative in games.
3. Writing is not always seen as the key element in game storytelling. As we are seeing in a lot of Indie Games, stories in games can be enthralling and rich with almost no writing at all. Check out the popular adventure games by Aminata Design for example.
While writing and storytelling in games may never be exactly the same to that in movies or books, games are certainly growing as a medium for narrative. Because we believe in the power of games to tell stories, and the power of game design to inspire youth to create narratives, we are featuring challenges like the Scholastic What’s Your Story? Contest. Can you tell a story through your game design? Give it a shot!
Game Alley is a community spot in Gamestar Mechanic where designers publish their games to share with the Gamestar network. There are thousands of Game Alley games, and many of them are creative and special. Today, I’d like to highlight a game that is doing something completely new:
Here zenwarrior54 created the first two levels of a story. zenwarrior54 set up the beginning of this adventure and purposefully did not design any further. The outro of this game calls upon another designer to create the next chapter of the story. This is how zenwarrior54 describes the premise:
“HELLO EVERYBODY! I had an idea for a series of games: I would make the first one in a series, then decide another player to make the next part, then when that player is done making that part, he/she would decide the next player to make the next part. And it goes on. Anyone can participate if they are called forth, so this will be a series that really belongs to the entire community. So here we are! Now for the actual game: You are a young boy named Samuel . . “
And the game begins with the story of Samuel setting out on his quest. I highly encourage you to play the game here – it’s a level about collecting information, no enemies and no chance to get hurt.
While Game Alley was not initially constructed for this kind of collaboration, the kids who make up are community are exceptional and invent new ways to share all the time. Collaborative storytelling through game design is a real opportunity for learning (creative thinking, problem solving, expression). This sounds like something I would assign in a class, but instead, it was born organically in Game Alley. Now I’m waiting for Part 2!