(If you have been following my blog lately, you know we are towards the end of our video game design unit. I’ve been playing — assessing — games over the holiday break. I’ve seen some pretty amazing games, and played some pretty poorly-designed games, and everything in-between. Here are some things that come to mind — in a sort of stream-of-consciousness way. I don’t mean for them to be negative, but I have found myself being critical of the projects. That comes through with this list, I think.)
Ten Things I Notice When Playing My Students’ Video Games
1. It’s evident that more than a few of my students have designed games for an audience of one — themselves. They didn’t quite remember that games are developed for others, too. That’s the real joy of a designer.
2. Where’s the story? The narrative arc? All that planning, all those discussions, storyboarding … and still, some of these games are lacking it so much I wonder if it has been worth the time to teach gaming. (It has, but still …)
3. Every now and then, I get completely blown away by the skills of a student as designer. Some just … get it. More than I ever did, or ever will. In those moments, I realize that what we are doing in school with this game design unit means something to those kids. And more often than not, the students who rise to the surface during game design are not the ones who rise to the surface in other academic units. That’s a fact.
4. I’m spending too much screen time, playing their games. Have they spent too much screen time building their games? I worry about this. A lot.
5. I can’t get past this first level on a few games. If I can’t get past this first level, how can I see what they have done in the next five levels. If I can’t play the next five levels, how can I assess their work? Ack. Buckle down and play. It’s me against the game. I intend to win!
6. I teach game design here. But I am not a gamer. So, is what I consider to be a good game what they consider to be a good game? Sure, I have laid out criteria on paper and talked about the expectations. But sometimes, I wonder about gaming sensibilities of an adult (me) and children (them).
7. I should issue a challenge: make the best game you can without a single gun or shooting avatar. Make it a puzzle challenge. A logic game. A peaceful endeavor. I need to do that. No guns.
8. How is it that this particularly student thinks it is fun for a player to be stuck inside a blocked room, with 100 enemies dancing around, and the clock set at 7 minutes? I can’t move on until that time has expired and I have survived. Boring. That’s seven minutes I will never get back. Please, at least make the challenge worth my time. Here, I am just avoiding enemies, or shooting them, for no reason or rationale that I can tell.
9. Hey, remember spelling? It’s important. We even talked about it. A lot.
10. No. Not again! Fail, fail, fail. Not you. Me! But I refuse to give up. I will win this game, even if I have to come back tomorrow and keep playing. I am nothing if not resilient. (But could you give me a clue, please?)
In balance, I’d like to share out a game from a student that I really liked (although the first level is a bit tricky).
Peace (in the reflection),