Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Engaging Learners through Innovative Practice

Like Anthony in his previous post, I found the Office of Schools Conference a rewarding two days and you can read my reflections about the Conference on my blog. Within the next couple of weeks, Angelica and Indigo, the two students who presented along side us, will be blogging about their experience as participants in the Game Design project and presenting to a cross section of members from the NSW Department of Education. Along with teacher, Judy Farr, who also presented with us at the Conference, I want to thank them for their valuable, engaging and, at times, humorous insight into students as game designers.

Amazing, educational time at the Office of Schools Conference 2010

Welcome back, I hope you've all enjoyed the well-earned time off over the holidays. I'm going to deviate from the plan just this week, instead of delving further into the design process I'd like to take some time to have a quick chat about the 2010 Office of Schools Conference. Cathie and I from the Games Design team, along with members of the Local Environment Project, were invited over to Brighton to give presentations at the two day conference.

It was a fantastic opportunity to spread the word about some of the great things we are achieving at MacICT and also a great learning experience. Over the two days, we got the chance to sit in on several workshops including cutting-edge Web2.0 tools and advanced techniques for engaging a variety of students.

We were very lucky to also hear notable thinkers such as Jason Clarke and Adrian Bertolini share their thoughts on incredible topics such as superior team-building and the importance of design. Obviously these were incredibly important with regard to the value we in Game Design attach to the planning and design stages.

We met some great people, had a lot of fun and we showcased students designing and playing their games to a live audience. All in all it was an amazing experience and on behalf of Cathie and myself we'd like to thank our corporate sponsor Panasonic, our incredible teacher Judy Farr and our two fantastic students Angelica and Indigo.

Thanks guys! We couldn't have done it without you.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Reflecting on the Game Design Project 5F

As I pull together my thoughts in readiness for the conference I thought that I would record part of my intended speech in the blog.

"Engagement of the children in the game design project was powerful. They looked forward to our sessions eagerly, each week. I had many requests for lunch sessions in the classroom and computer library passes were in high demand so that the children could continue to build a polished game. In terms of the Quality Teaching Model, it certainly met the criteria for effective learning to take place."

"This style of literacy gave all of my children a new way to express themselves. It provided some of my children, who have great difficulty with conventional literacy, an opportunity to create very effective games. We were very proud of their achievements and they were very proud of their success."

"Literacy skills featured as the children articulated their thinking in the design process. They had to look at the complications in the story and decide on three main events to include in their game. Within this process the children were developing their higher order thinking skills and problem solving skills as they wrote their ideas; converted these ideas into a storyboard; developed a script that they might use and decided upon the written and visual guidance that the player might need to play their game successfully. Communication skills also featured as the children collaborated with their classmates at all stages of the game project. The children were continually improving their games as they observed others and had friends play their games to give them feedback."

"Through this game design project my class has been immersed in digital literacy and as a consequence their skills across many curriculum areas have increased." Judy Farr

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Designing Games: Students’ Reflections

Next week, we have the opportunity to present at the 2010 Office of Schools Conference: Engaging Learners through Innovative Practice. We are presenting on Students as Game Designers using 3D animation software. A teacher and two students, who were involved in the MacICT Game Design project last term, will also speak about their experience with the project.
At MacICT we have been exploring multi-touch surfaces and, at the Conference, the students will be collaborating on a game design storyboard using a multi-touch IWB.
Both students created games based on the book, Rowan of Rin which they had studied in class. I asked the students to reflect on:
  • How they turned one of their 'exciting events' into a game level?
  • What they learnt from designing and building their own game?
  • What did you find challenging?
  • What do you think about designing and building games at school?
Below is their response.

“For the last event, the Dragon’s Lair, I get the player to click on a series of baby dragons, which is completely different from the story. In the story, Rowan pulls a bone out from in between the Dragon’s teeth. Pretty much the only similarity is having the Dragon in the background. You have to blow up the little Dragons to finish, instead of earning the big Dragon’s trust.”

“When I was designing my game, I had it all planned out in my head and I knew what I was doing. When I was making the game though, I changed practically every single scene and made it even better. I learnt a lot more about Kahootz as we had lessons on it, designed the game and built it. I knew about Kahootz before we had the lessons but I still learnt a lot of things I didn’t know before, like variables and actions.”

“I found variables and actions a little challenging. Variables and actions are what you use to tell your game how to work. These were challenging because they were new to me. I also found it hard to think of different types of challenges.”

“I think that designing and building Kahootz games at school is really fun and puzzling. I think it was really good for my learning on the computer and revision on Kahootz. I definitely think it is something we should go on with in the future.”

“I based my game on Rowan of Rin, a book we read in class. The book is about the town of Rin. Rin was cut mysteriously of their water supply and Rowan, the main character, is chosen to venture up the mountain with 6 others as the town suspects that the dragon at the top of the mountain might have something to do with the drought.”

“On the way up the mountain, the team faces 7 challenges. I took 3 of those challenges and changed them into levels of my game. For example, the forest of spiders was one of my levels and I made sure that the level could be as much the same as the book as possible, but it’s just impossible to make it exactly the same as the book, so I changed some of the items to give a new feeling to people who have read the book, and also because some of the items I needed were not there.”

“When building my game, I learnt that you need support for you to strive for something better, and for getting ideas from your friends. I found that a lot of my game I thought up of after dwelling on my friends’ ideas so that my game would be different from theirs but with a touch of their good ideas.”

“All I found challenging during the design process was making my game in the time limit we were given.”

“I thought that the designing and building process was really fun because I got to work with my friends and I got to really use my brain power. Overall I’d be happy to do this again.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Let's Make a Game! - Part 3: Nuts and Bolts

Over the past two weeks we have thought about how to come up with an idea and then how to expand and sketch out those ideas. These are really basic steps that almost every game designer takes, and it's important to understand that these are steps that happen before we even get near a computer. It's very rare that a complete game can be made without at least a little bit of preparation and planning. But that's all behind us now, we've got the ideas for two levels - based on the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - and we've sketched these ideas out to get a feel for the emotions and environments that the player will experience. Grab all your drawings, grab the book and grab a computer. We're about to begin the final evolution from exciting event to game.


For this post we're going to be looking exclusively at the Kahootz 3D software when we're making our game. Don't worry though, we won't really have time to go into any technical details or expect you to know how to use Kahootz. However, if you're a teacher and you're interested in learning to use Kahootz with your class, feel free to leave me a comment or visit us at our website http://web1.macquarieict.schools.nsw.edu.au/index.php/projects/gbl.html.

As soon as we jump on the computer, a game designer has to start by thinking like a game player. What other games have you played before? How did they show you where you were in the world, what you could jump on or interact with. How did they show you something was an enemy or a friend?


You've also got to keep in mind the limitations of the software you're using. Kahootz is really good at showing amazing, life-like worlds from the eyes of the player (ie/ first person perspective) but it's not so good at 2D Platformers like Mario up there.

Fig 1. First-Person Perspective

But that's great for us. If you think back to the two levels we've come up with, both are strongly centred around one character. Lucy is trying to find her way back to the lamppost and Edmund is fleeing from the White Witch and her castle guards. First-person perspective will work brilliantly to help the player think and act like Lucy or Edmund.

This is only the start of the building process, and there's a lot more that I'd like to go into. But for the moment I think we'll leave it there. The very first step when it comes to turning an exciting event into a game is to find the right software to build it in. Some professional game designers even go as far as to create their own game-making software.

Next week we're going to start building and populating our game worlds, and we'll talk about some of the decisions that need to be made about how enemies look and how we explain to the player the rules of our game. See you all next week.

Stay tuned!