How NOT to Be Stupid

Meeting with teachers

Meeting with actual (really good) teachers

I was going to title this “How not to be stupid in game design” but then I realized the points apply to just about everything.

Hello, people in industry, non-profits, government – in short, just about everybody – if you are going to design something for a group of people, involve them in it from the beginning!

Sounds obvious, no? Yet, let me give you a few very common examples:

  1. Educational games designed with minimal input from actual teachers.
  2. Athlete development programs that ask athletes exactly zero times what they think.
  3. Products sold to women that have no women on the design or marketing team.

When WE RECEIVED OUR LATEST USDA SMALL BUSINESS INNOVATION RESEARCH GRANT (see how I just cleverly threw that in there) for Aztech Games, we brought in experts in teaching in rural schools, teachers with expertise in teaching classes with a wide range of English proficiency, experts in math and history. We did this day one. Then we did it again the next week. Then the week after that.

Our first month, before we wrote a single line of code, was spent talking to people who would use our games. We came up with the coolest design ever.

Two students are in a classroom with a teacher who is telling them about how much of their early history was irretrievably lost when the records were burned. The Mayan codex shown in their book is one of the few remaining. The teacher cautions the students not to touch the codex, as history can be very powerful. Of course, the minute the teacher leaves the room, the students do exactly that and their touch brings one of the figures in the codex to life. It leaps out of the page and …

Mayan codex

… well, you’ll have to wait a few weeks and see the artwork our amazing Justin Flores is creating for this.

With the game design mostly completed, he is burning the dawn oil (not midnight, he’s more of a morning person) to finish the artwork for the first two levels.

There is a lot more great stuff going on at 7 Generation Games, but I’ll save some for my next post.

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