Posts tagged ‘climate and energy science TERC’

March 5, 2013

Girls Are the Newest Game Designers at TERC!

How many developers does it take to roll out six versions of engaging online games in 3 days?

It takes six…11-12 year old girls.

The researchers behind the girls’ energy conservation badge program for Girl Scouts and the EdGE transmedia games are now investigating how girls think about energy conservation through interactive game design for their peers.  In this exploratory endeavor, project researchers are evaluating how SCRATCH-familiar girls apply their engagement around computer programming to promote understanding of energy saving and the connection of energy use to climate change.

From the desk of a game design guru...

From the desk of a game design guru…

Over the course of a three-day on-site pilot, TERC researchers mentored the six 6th grade game designers as they brainstormed, storyboarded, animated, and pushed live their six respective games. The girls were already active members of the SCRATCH community, having learned about the programming technology either through school or tech-savvy parents and friends (several had been designing games in SCRATCH since first or second grade).

While the girls had varying degrees of familiarity with energy issues coming into this pilot, their on-site exposure to some of the complexities of this topic led them to produce demo games uniting interactive story lines with issues of climate change, energy tradeoffs, and sustainability. Their demos included challenges ranging from rescuing fish from environmental hazards against the clock to answering energy tradeoff questions to save a penguin from a melting iceberg—and featured imaginative characters spanning a recycling and composting cat and an energy-tradeoff-wise talking flower.

girlsgames3

Hard at work…

Said one of the designers after showing her game, “This project at TERC was really great. I got to learn more about climate change and think about making a game that would appeal to other people my age—and also younger kids too—so they could learn about global warming at younger ages.”

Said another, “designing with SCRATCH means that kids anywhere around the world can learn about climate change and play our games.”

All six gaming gurus agreed that designing a game that was both fun AND educational was the hardest part of the equation—those categories still have the stigma of being mutually exclusive—and that there was inherent difficulty in addressing lots of ‘tweaks’ and ‘bugs’ in the game design process while not diluting the educational content in their games. But judging from the responsive and compelling games demoed by these girls, their game designing efforts paralleled how one participant described a ‘good’ game experience—“challenging, but definitely not impossible”.