Serious Game Design with schoolkids

Extract from game design workflow for school children

I work four days a week and on Fridays I like to be an unpaid primary school teacher. Well, sort of. I’m a STEM Ambassador (see https://www.stem.org.uk/ if you don’t know what that is) and I often volunteer to bring some of my research into schools. A great opportunity came up recently which was to support teachers in doing the Young Coder’s Competition programme with a class. Partly this is about using coding to teach computational thinking and problem solving but naturally I wanted to make it all about serious game design!

I adapted my recent work on game design workflows for novice designers (see Abbott 2020) and practical experiences of running workshops which heavily scaffold serious game design on the Agents of Change Toolkit and SECRIOUS research projects. (Briefly, this workflow combines some of the best advice and frameworks for serious games design with gameplay loop analysis and learner experience design (LXD).) I hugely simplified the steps and more closely aligned it with Triadic Game Design, and I am now in the middle of delivering it alongside the Young Coder’s lesson plan for Scratch in a group of 10-12 year olds.

As part of the #GlobalScienceShow I also made a couple of videos explaining what I’m doing. Here’s my video about the kid-friendly version of the workflow.

Because I needed to learn scratch myself I also made this little Serious Game. Try it but make sure you play to the end…

So, what do you think? I’m currently working on some research into provocative games that disrupt expectations to create critical reflection. This was a 3 hour version of that (and doubled up as me getting familiar with Scratch.)

Can you have this kid-friendly workflow for serious game design?

Yes, absolutely, please email me though so I can get a sense of who is using it.

What lessons did I learn?

So far it’s hard to say much except for that it’s really really hard to get kids to think about the purpose of a game before they think about the game mechanics of a game. This is the reverse of a robust design process as mechanics should always serve the intended outcomes of a serious game… but the kids were fixated on what the game would be like, not what it was for. I tried some techniques to deal with this and will be able to reflect more at the end of the project.

Watch this space…

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