Game Design by Middle School Students

We’re wrapping up the game design class at Spirit Lake this week. Two weeks was the most time I could spare away from the office but we have accomplished a lot.

Applications used in game design by middle school students

Because all of the students had just completed grades 4 through 7, much of the software they would be using was new to them. Not to mention I had to spend five hours installing it all on the first day! We also played several games to get an idea of genre and what was feasible to do on a budget that didn’t rival Nintendo. To name just part of what the students learned:

Student Game Design Ideas

We ended up with a 12-page, single-spaced, Word document with notes – and a few sketches – for several games, as well as suggestions for improving existing games. We also have dozens of photos to use as a basis for images in the game and at least an hour of video. After submitting their ideas, students receive suggestions and requests for clarification from the developers, that they then need to answer.

An example of one game design is below, along with the questions they’ll be answering tomorrow. In case you didn’t know, the school where I have been teaching is in Warwick, North Dakota, population: 65, which is why several of the game ideas have Warwick in the title.

Title of Game: Build Warwick

Level 1 Build Warwick Rec Center

Collect items and money to build a recreation center. This is a puzzle type game with pages where you search, like a shed with lots of equipment and you need to find three basketballs and a hoop, an abandoned house where you need to find hockey skates, hockey sticks and a stash of money. There is a stack of barrels that contain gas. We have included pictures of the stack of barrels. A code (math problem) tells you which has a hidden treasure. Get it right and you get a bunch of money. Get it wrong and you blow up.

Questions from our developers about this level:

  • How do you build the rec? Drag and drop blocks for rooms? An empty building you fill with stuff like Making Camp? Is there just a video at the end where now you have some amazing building?
  • After they build the rec can we include the dodging basketballs game?
Cluttered shed that inspired middle school game design ideas
Aaron has already started putting this “searching the shed” into a game

Level 2: Building Warwick roads

Road crews build paved roads in the town
• We could use the railroad game from Chile 1800 maybe?

Level 3: School Spring Cleanup

Cecil Walkman goes around the school and tidies up all the different classrooms. You get to paint some in the game. He also does maintenance and fixes broken things.

This level also yielded some questions and requests for further clarification from our developers.

  • Can we use the code from puzzle game to put it in order ? Click to turn clockwise, anti-clockwise, etc.
  • Maybe just drag and drop items to the right spot?
  • Paint the classrooms and hallways. Could easily do with jQuery and CSS. Click to pick a color.
  • Could drag and drop posters or pictures
  • What would be broken and how would you fix it? If it was broken in pieces you could drag the pieces together?


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