On cable television this past weekend, one of my favorite trilogies found its way into my heart again. I’m not sure what it is about The Hunger Games that gets the tears flowing. I suspect it may be as a result of reading the books. “You imagine your daughter in the role of the main character,” says my wife. She may be right. As I watched the evil President Snow brag on his game-makers to save him, the term “game-makers” stuck in my mind. In this blog entry, we’ll explore a few ways you can raise up some game-makers of your own.
After all, game-makers play a powerful role in The Hunger Games. The whole idea of changing life into a game you play to survive has its appeal. Author Daniel Suarez captured this in his techno-thrillers, Daemon and Freedom. All science-fiction aside, game-making is now child’s play.
To be a game-maker, you have to know how to code, to strategize, and to plan big. More importantly, you have to know how to create a meaningful story. Let’s take a quick look at what game design is all about:
Game design is a subset of the field of video game development. Relying on several fields of study, the skills of a game designer are specific to computer science and programming, creative writing, and graphic design.
Designers take the creative lead in imagining and bringing to life game elements. Those elements include video game stories, characters, gameplay, rules, interfaces, dialogue and environments. The game designer is a cross between a writer, artist and programmer. It is a person who presents a comprehensive artistic vision.
The designer must have the technical skill to lead or contribute to various efforts. Those efforts include programming, image rendering, level design. Also, digital editing and other construction aspects of game design. (source)
How can teachers scaffold young learners’ design efforts? One approach may be to introduce them to game creation tools that are less about coding, yet ensure that game design efforts and activities are possible.
Introducing Giphy Arcade
While several design environments (e.g. Microsoft’s Minecraft) come to mind, why not take a look at Giphy Arcade? Giphy (makers of the animated GIF search engine) has created an arcade that includes a variety of mini-games or “microgames.” With Giphy Arcade, you can play existing games on any device.
More exciting for young game designers, you can remix these microgames because each aspect of the game is cutomizable. Giphy Arcade offers templates and stickers to start with. While making a game is child’s play, teaching game design can be quite powerful for learners.
You can find several templates for action in the game. You’ll get to choose your hero, background, and soundtrack.
The Game Design Process and Rapid Prototyping
You can find many different design processes online. It would be important to settle on some process to introduce your students to. For example, this game design process presents some interesting stages. Imagine cooperative groups of students working to design a game.
Watch video overview of the Game Design Process expressed in the image below:
Image Source: https://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/1415/the_game_design_process.php
Another key aspect of game design is failing fast to succeed faster. Rapid prototyping is a must in game design.
A good rapid prototyper would realize that failure is ok! That’s what prototyping is for, so go crazy! If you fail, there will be dozens more, and chances are, you’ll learn something anyway. By embracing the possibility of failure, rewarding experimentation becomes possible.(Source)
Ready to get started?
Here’s a quick game I put together. I didn’t engage in the whole process, or I would have made some changes (e.g. pigs are not the bad guys). That aside, creating this simple game was quite fun and easy.
Play the game at the Giphy Arcade.
Game-making is child’s play. Game design offers us the opportunity as educators to combine various important elements and can engage students while offering the opportunity for direct instruction. Give it a try at Giphy Arcade.