Posts tagged ‘EdGE Arcadia’

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”.

March 14, 2012

Games for Thought

“What is your favorite game?”

That question caught me entirely off-guard when I recently attended an after-hours user testing event hosted by EdGE (Educational Gaming Environments) @TERC with the sole intention of jotting down a few notes for this web feature.

After a quick scan of my memory, I was at an impasse. I hastily blurted out “Scrabble. I’m a lexophile”. Blank stares from the young, hip, and connected console and mobile players around me. In that very moment, time caught up and lapped me. “But on the iPhone as well,” I added. It was already too late. The world had moved on. Generation Y, meet Generation Z. There’s no need to shake hands or exchange contact info—just bump Androids. And definitely download the Temple Run app—it’s going viral.

There had to be something I was forgetting.

I worked my way around the room multiple times after that, recording (with a pen and paper) gamers chatting over Where’s My Water?, Angry Birds, Physics 101, and Limbo. And then it happened—I remembered something. I heard a gamer say, “I like it when I can learn about topics and try new things that would be impossible in real life—and pick up and try again if I make a mistake”. Strangely, I could almost hear a lone bongo drum, and then the rattle of maracas…was that the distant yowl of a black panther? There I was, photographing the fauna of the forest floor, consulting my guidebook, searching for the elusive, near-magical cinchona…but was I running low on supplies? Would I stave off malnourishment and get to the next level before dinnertime?

The Amazon Trail. Memories came rushing back, carried on a swift current. Propelled by an in-game glimpse of the Blue Morpho butterfly, I took it upon myself to catalogue the Monarchs and Swallowtails in our backyard. I would sneak out of bed to the window when my dad took our puppy out at night—hoping to catch a glimpse of an errant Luna moth by the floodlight. My world—and that of the digitized Amazon jungle—blurred together around the edges.

I didn’t realize then that I was learning (let alone learning a lot). I certainly didn’t realize that I’d remember researching Blue Morphos only to discover that they live for a mere 115 days. That broke my heart at the time, and still pulls at my heartstrings.

Check out ‘Games and Ubiquitous Science Learning Environments’ from EdGE’s Director Jodi Asbell-Clarke for the 2012 Cyberlearning Research Summit

In a dizzying time where the allure of many technologies doesn’t last much beyond 115 days, the R&D work that the EdGE team is doing has lasting implications for the intersection of meaningful science content and gaming. More specifically, they’re researching and developing the kind of gripping, highly-visual transmedia experiences that cutting-‘EdGE’ gamers like to play (and will likely continue to like to play in the future) and measuring these games’ impact on science learning.

Suddenly, it’s not so difficult to imagine a future where we’re all engaging in science-centric gaming and real-world learning through our various devices. Even as a lexophile/Luddite, I guarantee that I’d be doing a lot more mobile gaming and Lepidopteran observation if MECC made an app version of The Amazon Trail

So I leave you with two questions—what’s your favorite game to play? And what did you learn from it?

I bet it’s more than you think.