By Aaron Mace, Full-Time JBFC Faculty06.30.14
Kids aren’t the only ones playing video games anymore. If you have a smart phone, you probably have at least one or two games on it. Maybe Sudoku? How about Candy Crush Saga? Don’t be embarrassed, games are a larger part of American culture than they have ever been before.
Harnessing that interest and teaching the fundamentals of what happens behind the screen are the basis for the Game Design workshops at the Media Arts Lab. In this workshop, small groups of students learn how to write logical statements of code, solve problems methodically, tell interactive stories, evaluate what they find fun, and work to bring more of that into the world. The end result is an original video game. Workshops like Game Design are part of the JBFC’s mission to shift kids from consumers to creators, giving them a voice in what their world looks like and letting them choose how to participate in it.
Creating a game involves many different skills: writing story or dialogue, creation of all the visual artistic assets, music and sound design, developing a rule system for the game to function by, programming the code for the computer to make ideas a reality, and more. Because learning how to design a game from scratch can seem a bit overwhelming, at the Media Arts Lab we use a beginner’s program called Kodu Game Lab to teach students a series of complex skills in a fun and interactive way.
Kodu is a FREE, downloadable program designed as a tool to teach programming. It has a simple interface that allows for immense creative expression. By not allowing the game designer to add their own artwork or sounds, it allows them to focus on what really makes the game: the code. Students here at the lab have made action games, shooters, castle defense, racing games, role playing games, platformers, puzzle games, and even uncatagorizable moody exploration games. With Kodu the possibilities are as endless and the imagination of the creator.
Through the process of designing a game students practice so many different life skills. Clearly communicating intentions with players, anticipating the possibilities of how others will interact with your creation, solving the multitudes of problems that arise, working through things in a methodical way, creating small and large goals to accomplish, reviewing work and developing an eye for editing, creatively expressing ideas, and so many more. And Kodu is there for every step of the way!