Video Game Design Storyboarding

Writing is a central feature of our science-based video game design project, and we come at it from a few different angles. One is the pre-planning and storyboarding that has to take place before they can begin building the game. The storyboards offer students a chance to articulate the vision of the game but also a way for us to chat about what they envision doing, the potential roadblocks, and a path forward.

Here are a few storyboard scenes:
Gaming Storyboards 2013

Gaming Storyboards 2013

Gaming Storyboards 2013

Gaming Storyboards 2013

Peace (in the game),

What They Choose: The Science in the Video Games

We’re in the midst of a video game design project. I queried students about the geology/science theme that underpins their video game projects, and created this chart that breaks down the topics. It’s no surprise that Layers of the Earth gets the most attention, as it translates nicely to a multi-leveled game.
Video Game Science Concepts

Peace (in the topics),

An Inside Tour of Student-created/Science-based Video Games

My current group of sixth graders is at the starting point of our video game design unit, and next week, they will be fully immersed in the making of games. But this week, as they brainstormed the science concept and story ideas that will form the narrative and informational frame of their video games, I shared with them this collection of looks inside projects from last year. The video captures a lot of the elements of the project.

Peace (in the game),
PS — if you want more information about our game design project, visit our website resource:

At MiddleWeb: Using Game Design to Reach Reluctant Writers, and Reviewing Close Reading

Some of you know that I also blog over at MiddleWeb and my most recent post was an offshoot of a vignette I shared at NCTE during NCTE President Sandy Hayes’s speech. The post has to do with reaching a reluctant boy writer with our game design unit, and how he was so inspired, he began writing a novel.

Kevin-Games-illus 400

View the post: Reluctant Writers and Game Design

The second is a book review of Falling in Love with Close Reading, which I highly recommend.

falling in love with close reading hodgson

Read my review

Peace (in the web),


Curating: Video Game Design in Schools

At NCTE, I gave two talks with a theme of Video Game Design (and just so you know, I don’t spent the year with video games although you might get that impression if you were in both sessions.) I use as a way to curate interesting resources and ideas around video game design for the classroom. This is my Video Game Design Scoop. Feel free to follow and borrow.

Peace (in the sharing),

The Genres of YouTube Videos and the Rise of Machinima

As I continue my exploration of video as text via DS106, I was intrigued by a growing collaborative document that was started in a previous DS106 group that examined the various genres of videos on YouTube. Going through the list reminded me again of how vibrant and creative people are in making videos, and how ever-widening the scope has become.

A few stats from YouTube to consider:

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth, and 50% more than last year
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute

Check out this word cloud that I created from the crowdsourced genre list:
YouTube Genres Wordcloud

And I added my own category at the end: Machinima, which is when folks take screenshot clips from favorite video games, and remix them into stories. It’s one of those video phenomenons that is huge in certain circles but often falls ways below our radar screens if you are not in the loop. In fact, it makes me wonder how many of our students are making these style of movies, publishing them to YouTube, without us (or their parents, probably) ever even knowing.

Check out a few examples:
The Awakening (via Sims)

A Child’s War (via Second Life)

In the Beginning: An Imagined Minecraft History (via Minecraft)

After spending some time yesterday examining scenes from Hollywood movies, I had a critical lens on as I watched these clips. Sure, the quality is not nearly the same. But the creativity and understanding of ideas around angles, composition and other elements of filmmaking are in there, and it makes me wonder how long it will be before a major production company takes the idea of Machinima and transforms it into a blockbuster (I think I saw previews of a tongue-in-cheek Lego game movie coming down the pike.)

Peace (in the game),


Game Review: Type Rider

So, this is one of those games that made my jaw drop because it is so beautiful, visual, and so interesting, content-wise. The IOS game is called Type:Rider and while it functions like any number of the “runner games” out there (your players move through levels by running, or in this case, rolling, from danger and obstacles), Type:Rider incorporates the idea of design and typography as its platform of play.

I know. I had trouble thinking how they would pull it off, too, but they do it in wonderful fashion. The player rolls two dots — which I believe are called “interpoints” in typography speak — through a series of levels built around different styles of fonts, and along the way, there are places to learn more of the history of the design of writing. The stories told about font development and typography, and therefore writing itself, is fascinating and the game developers give just enough of the juicy historical details to make things interesting before you had back into the game itself.


Each level consists of HUGE letters that became part of the game play itself, as you roll through rounded letters, jump over spiked points of type and move through an environment that seems perfectly scaled to feeling like a small point of font. The app suggests you use headphones for an immersive musical experience, and I agree. The music seems in sync with the style of font for each level, adding yet another element of design to the game play. And check out the background images behind the game itself. it’s another element of wonder here, with shadows and light giving the game a sense of mood.

I’ve only gotten my way through three levels in Type:Rider but I am impressed. Now, would this game be valuable to students? I don’t know. Yes, for the dynamics of play, but I suspect that interest in the history of typography might be a narrow field. Still, you would learn more than a few things about how the visual design of type impacts what and how we write, and what those choices mean to the books and texts we read.

The Type:Rider game costs $2.99 for the iPad, just so you know.

Peace (in the type),

PS — cool “behind the scenes” video of the making of the game:



What It Looks Like When We Hack Chess

hack chess collage 2013
My sixth graders have been working in collaborative groups to hack the game of chess, with new pieces and new rules on how to play. I’ll share more later as part of a larger collaborative DS106 radio project but this collage nicely captures some of the work they are doing to invent new board games out of traditional ideas.

Peace (in the hack),


Why I Played Twitter vs. Zombies (3)

tvsz3 timeline
This weekend, the third iteration of the Twitter-based hashtag game called Twitter vs. Zombies took place, and I joined in when I could. I was part of the first iteration last year, never knew about the second earlier this year, and only heard about the third iteration from a friend in DS106 … on Twitter, of course.

The game is a bit difficult to explain, as the rules shift as the game progresses but essentially it is a large, virtual game of tag. Some of the main ideas are:

  • Twitter becomes the “game board” where the action takes place;
  • Hashtags — such as #bite and #dodge — are the actions that players take in the game;
  • The goal of the game: Zombies try to turn all humans in zombies, and humans try to avoid getting turned into zombies;
  • Players begin as humans and then become zombies, and then maybe back to humans;
  • The game unfolds over three days of activity;
  • Collectives of humans seek to outrun zombies, who also work in teams to get the humans;
  • The moderators add new rules and twists to the game once or twice a day;
  • Sense of humor required.

But even that list of my own understanding of the Twitter vs. Zombies game doesn’t do it justice.  When we think about how to leverage the possibilities of the Web and its various spaces for collaborative and interactive experiences, this kind of game is what we are talking about. Think about an interactive experience that unfolds over a number of days, in which people who don’t know each other must collaborate, and be creative, to accomplish a goal … that’s really what Twitter vs. Zombies is all about, for me.

Plus, I had a blast playing it. And I created comics, Vine videos, word clouds, music mixes and more as a way to add my own media touch into the game atmosphere.

Twitter vs Zombies 3

Last time I played, I think I wrote about wondering how this sort of uncentered game experience might translate into the classroom. Not as Twitter vs. Zombies, perhaps, but some variation of it in which our students are engaged in a global gaming structure that requires deftness, creativity and collaboration. I’m still wondering about that.

I want to thank the moderators of the weekend’s game. Even though I got bitten and turned into a Zombie early in the game (I was teaching on Friday when the game began) and never got an antidote from anyone to turn back to human (and by Sunday, I was ready — I just couldn’t announce it … or could I have?), I had a blast, popping in and out of the action as our busy family life allowed. Engaging in Twitter vs. Zombies reminded me again of the many ways that technology and the connected world can transform how we think about learning and playing.

Peace (coming out of the darkness),