Category Archives: Serious Game Design

How to design a Serious Game.

Video Games in Class; A Professional Development Course-Part Two

Game Design Document Outline

Part Two:  Integrating the design of a game into your lessons/Using video game design to get your students to interact and learn great amounts from a local scientist.

1.  Choose a topic you wish to address.  I chose “neurology.”   You can choose any topic, video game design works well in English, social studies, and   other classes.  Choose a length of time to devote to game design.  One class period, 4 weeks, or 8 weeks.  Have students turn in drafts after 1-2 days.  Iteration is very important.  So get them iterating quickly.

2.  If you are not an expert on the topic you wish to address, find an scientist to participate in this program with you.  National Lab Network, for example, is designed to connect teachers with scientists for an extended relationship.  Graduate students and post doctoral scientists are qualified to serve as experts for this purpose.  The expert should help you choose the core concepts of the topic, and provide an introductory lecture on the core concepts.  Let the students speak directly with the scientist as much as possible.

3.  The core concepts become the basis of each game.  I chose 4 concepts for my neurology lessons:  Myelin sheath creation and damage, Neurotransmitter reception and signal integration (whether the neuron fires of not after receding chemical signals from other neurons), Long term change in neurons (gene regulation in response to signals), synapse function such as neurotransmitter re-uptake).  The students choose a process and work in small groups or on their own.

4.  Schedule the program for 4-8 weeks.  Ask the expert to come once a week to discuss the details of the topic with the students.  Skype may work, as well as telephone + teamviewer.  But each group of students or each student will need 15-30 minutes per week to speak directly with the expert, and will also need to be able to communicate by email.  This level of commitment is possible to get from a graduate student, or post doctoral scientist.  They are experts in the concepts and principles of their fields and have the capacity to research facts and details on behalf of your students.

5.  Students will need to decide what they want to present in their game.  They should make a list of principles and concepts they hope to teach their players.  They may also choose to make a list of facts and vocabulary to teach.  Review this list of concepts, principles, vocabulary and facts for their relevance to the topic, for their overall importance in the field, and for their appropriateness for the target audience/your class.  For example, if your 10th grade English students plan to design a game that teaches 4 year olds to read, you may question whether that choice will teach your students the concepts and principles you expect them to learn in your class.  A better idea may be to have the 10th graders design a game for 6th graders that helps them identify metaphors and decipher them.

5. Game design documents.  Show samples, discuss what they are used for:  For the game designer to communicate to the programmer, for the designer to communicate to the funder, for a scientist to communicate with the designer.

6.  Iteration.  Just like essays, video games require editing.  Leave time for it, and also encourage students to keep track of the game ideas in a notebook, and to save their version of the game once a week.  40% of the scheduled time must be left for testing with focus groups (fellow students) and problems will arise in understanding and troubleshooting them is part of the learning process for the game designers.

7.  Paper prototypes and focus group testing.  Game design does not require computer programming.   Games are usually tested with a paper prototype anyway.  Many types of paper prototypes are used.  Additionally, PowerPoint presentations can be used to create a series of “screenshots” to describe the game.

8.  Discuss whether a different design would have presented the same ideas, whether the game misrepresents anything, how technology development is a team process, and how the final project varied from the original designs.

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End of the Paper Design version of Video Game Design.  The STEM Video Game Challenge has a Paper Design entry class, see their requirements here: http://www.stemchallenge.org/about/Default.aspx?Cat=MS

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9.  Programming.  Games can be programmed in many different programs with varying levels of programming skills required.  Game Maker, Small Basic, Unity3d, Kodu, Scratch, Game Salad, Atmosphir are a few inexpensive programming engines.  GameStar Mechanic is a commercial product that makes simple 2d games, but that does not require programming.

10.  Iteration increases engagement of target audience as well as the quality of teaching.

11.  Assessing learning.  Your students should create a 10 question survey based on the concepts they expected to convey as they began designing their game.  They can design an evaluation of learning, using principles of good experimental design:  controlled samples, an unbiased analysis, statistical analysis, etc.

12.  Discuss whether a different design would have presented the same ideas, whether the game misrepresents anything, how technology development is a team process, and how the final project varied from the original designs.

Video Games in Class–A Professional Development Course Part One

Part One:  Integrating a game into your lessons

1.  Decide what to teach.  Start with your list of Principles and Concepts you want to teach in the semester.  Games are good for conveying vocabulary and facts, but their true advantage is in conveying abstract or complex concepts.

2.  Find a game.  Consult the list of video games at the ScienceGameCenter.org.  Game suggestions welcomed, and your reviews and comments needed).  Choose the game that conveys the concepts and principles (sort games by subject).  Make sure that the chosen game will work on your classroom’s computers (sort games by platform).

3.  Design your lecture to draw on game’s graphics, situations and names.  Use the video game as an introduction to the concepts.  Choose vocabulary and graphics that highly correlate with those of the video game.  Our data shows that students who play Immune Attack are more confident in their ability to understand graphics that are similar to Immune Attack than different styled graphics of the same types of cells.

4.  Address misconceptions.    Every model is an imperfect representation of reality, so consider which aspects of the game (graphics or gameplay) may be misleading and that you may wish to directly address in your class.  For example, the cells in Immune Attack are drawn to represent the H&E stained cells we are familiar with in text books.  However, unstained cells, and live cells under a light microscope do not look this way.   After introducing H&E stained cells, that look similar to the ones in Immune Attack, you could follow up with live cells pictured through a light microscope, for example.

5.  Play related games/use related models.  Playing a related science game will show the students a different model of the same thing.  Cellcraft shows a different mRNA model than EteRNA.  Both games about mRNA, but Cellcraft puts mRNA in the context of a cell and players use mRNA to make proteins.  In EteRNA, players fold up the 2D RNA molecules and learn about base pairing.

6.  Show students the game objects are real.  Find relevant Wikipedia pages, research articles, and research labs that address the principles and concepts so that students can find more information about the topics and continue their own exploration.  This is similar to  reading the story behind your favorite characters/tools in video games and movies.

7.  Have your students review the game at ScienceGameCenter.org.  Give them extra credit for a critical thinking essay.  Give them credit for discussing the role of mRNA in a cell and whether the game simplified the roll or provided a good introduction.

8.  Some fun follow ups.  Have the students write a report on anything they discovered from the game that addresses a current research issue.  Maybe they learned mRNA is related to a disease….  Have your students re-design the game, design the next level, or add new tools/characters to the game.  Ask them to explain why they choose what they did and what the player should learn from their additions.

 

 

Video games in Class–a Teacher Development Course Introduction

Video Games in the classroom-A Professional Development Course 

Video Games like Immune Attack present scientific concepts in an intuitive format.  Watching a cell react to a chemical signal in a movie like Inner Life of the Cell is helpful in visualizing the concepts of cell biology.  But it is much more memorable if we must control the cell’s response to the chemical signal and know how it is required to vanquish the enemy bacteria that are multiplying out of control.  Additionally, many jobs involve adding art to science:  Medical Illustration, video game development, and human computer interaction are all growing fields.  Creating and even using a video game and then discussing it are excellent introductions to these fields.

 

Melanie Stegman, Ph.D. is a biochemist who is creating and evaluating the much anticipated sequel to Immune Attack.   Additionally, Dr. Stegman has served as a subject matter expert for high school students in a summer ITEST program in Washington D.C for the past two years.  Here, students enrolled in the “Be the Game” class were learning to program games in Game Maker.   Additionally, Dr Stegman has used game design to teach molecular cell biology to high school students at the American Museum of Ntural History.  Based on her extensive experience in learning games design and evaluation, Dr. Stegman has created some guidelines for getting the most out of a video games in the science classroom.

 

Two methods exist, each with their own benefits and challenges.  First, more and more games exist that address science topics, and many games exist that were not intended to address science but do.  See Dr. Stegman’s continuously updated Learning Technology Blog at The ScienceGameCenter.org for existing science-related video and card games.  Second, designing or programming a game can be an excellent project for students to work on with a collaborating scientist.  Below is an outline of what Dr. Stegman would like to present to any teacher interested in integrating video games into their science class.

 

Video Games and Historical Novels.

A serious video game is like a historical novel.  It is a story told in a setting that is somehow very accurate, but it is still a story, and it must operate under constrains similar to any other story.  A story must be engaging, or else it is not read and therefore useless.  To be engaging the story may be presented from a certain character’s perspective.  It may ignore some events.  It may misrepresent the passage of time.  Perhaps this is how the main character experienced the events.  A historical novel is different from the omniscient and disinterested voice in our textbooks, but it is a necessary addition if we are to create a deeper understanding of the past culture and history.

 

A video game can add such detail into science.  Just like a historical novel, a game may present the facts from a unique perspective, such as from the enzyme’s point of view.  This view may not be complete, but it can be enlightening and motivating to the student.  Additionally, games have a way of drawing us in and helping us process much complicated data while still making us feel like we are having fun.  Just play Angry Birds for five minutes.  You have learned about trajectories, momentum, and you have perfected by trial and error your skills (bird sling shot skills, in this case).  Because the game is well designed, you played through, longer that you may have read through a paragraph.

 

Kurt Squire writes that students learn a systemic of history from playing the game Civilization (1).  His work outlines a method, and a set of potential obstacles to account for, when introducing a video game into a classroom.  This workshop will discuss the use of video games in the classroom as a means of deepening student understanding and providing personalized relevance to facts to be learned.

 

1.  Designing Centers of Expertise for Academic Learning Through Video Games  Kurt D. Squire; Ben DeVane; Shree Durga.  Theory into Practice47:240 – 251. 2008.

 

2.  Students Designing Video Games about Immunology: Insights for Science Learning, Neda Khalili, Kimberly Sheridan, Asia Williams, Kevin Clark & Melanie Stegman.  Computers in the Schools, 28:228-240.  2011.

 

Immune Attack is free for everyone to download here:   www.ImmuneAttack.org  Watch our video of Immune Attack!

Our Learning Technologies Blog:  All of these materials are posted here.

blogs.fas.org/learningtech

Our list of video game and card games that teach science.  Please contribute!  Add games, your reviews, your students can review.  Share your experiences with other teachers and read about theirs.

ScienceGameCenter.org

Our current game is Immune Defense.  It will be a web based game, or a downloadable game for Mac and PC.   Ead more about it at

ImmuneDefenseGame.org
Stegman Video Game in the classroom Professional Development course

 

STEM Video Game Challenge and Teaching Youngsters to Program

Hi.  Do you have a kid at home who is 8?  Or are you a kid who is 8?  Perhaps you are a kid who is 14, or 34.   What would you like to do when you grow up?  Would you like to help the environment, work for major league baseball, or discover something about the human body that helps everyone live longer and happier?  Well, what could you learn to do that would help you with any of those goals?

Programming.

Programming computers is necessary for everything, from the giant scoreboard at the ballpark to discovering which mutated gene a group of cancer patients have in common.  Computer programmers help make weather stations function more effectively, help us analyze data more completely, and they can also program video games!

So, why doesn’t everyone program?  For the same reasons that not everyone plays the guitar:  Not everyone has a computer, or a guide to programming (book or person) and not everyone will look at moving pixels on a computer screen and think, “I want to learn how to move those pixels!”  Personally, I took an informatics class in my German high school, in 1988.  I took the class because all my friends were taking it: yes, I hung out with, and really enjoyed the company of a crowd of geeky boys.  But the class was boring, I didn’t like the projects we did and so I did not try to understand how to program.  We were making a receipt.  So that a store clerk could use a computer to type in the prices, and the receipt software would calculate a total, tax and put it all into a printable format.  OMG is was so boring!

When you are 17 (and when you are any age) it is very easy to get discouraged and think, “I don’t need to understand this, I will never use it.”  Learning anything always takes some effort.  Making an effort is always risky, because you may not triumph!  You may find out that you can’t figure out whatever it is, and 90% of the time you will be sitting next to someone who looks at you funny because you aren’t figuring it out!

The magic happens when your interest and curiosity wins out over your fear of failure.  So we all need interesting songs to play on our guitar, and we all need cool things to program!  Cool is defined by the user, so there is really no telling what will inspire each person to program or learn guitar…  we can just listen to as many songs as possible and check out as many computer programs as possible!

So what can you do to get your 8 year old to learn how to program?  What can you do as a 14 year old who would like to become a valuable crew member on a marine life observation station in the Pacific Ocean?  How can you learn to program?  You do the same as if you wanted to learn guitar.  Find a guitar you like, find a book or a mentor you like (or both) and practice.  Some mentors will be smart but not polite, some mentors will be nice but not smart, and your best mentors will be the mean kids who brag about how great they are and act like you don’t know anything.  Listen to what everyone tells you and then make your own decisions.  Let everyone talk, don’t waste time arguing with them about whether you are smart.

And then practice.  Make things.  Join a Game Jam, join a computer programming class or club, talk to your local biology lab and see what kinds of programs they need.Ask your teacher if she needs a spreadsheet that can calculate grades.  Make Things!

The STEM Video Game Challenge was started by a bunch of nice folks who wanted to give you all something to make. Next year in February there will be another chance to compete for prizes with kids all over the country (USA).  There are also likely competitions you can enter in your own country, or local city or state.  Enter all kinds of competitions!  Even if your thing is awful.  Enter!

The http://www.stemchallenge.org/

And then come back and tell me how you did it!  Did you use GameMakerSmall BasicScratch?  These are all good ways to start programming, with GameMaker being the most advanced.

You could also write your game designs on paper, and collaborate with your friends (or enemies) who know how to program.  They may show you a few programming details to get you started.  The STEM Video Game Challenge has a Design Category, too.  Not all winners have playable games, yet!  There are programs (Commercial = not free): Gamestar Mechanic, Little Big Planet, etc. for making games without programming.  Maybe you all know of some others?

OK.  Get busy!  And show me what you make!  Send me your links!  Share your triumphs.  Let me see how you made programming your thing.  Let me see what FUN you had!

 

Upcoming Event: What Can a Video Game Teach?

Melanie Stegman, yours truly, will be presenting her research on Immune Attack, development of the sequal and all about using game to teach and learn.  April 23, 6PM.  At the FabLab on North Capitol at P.  If you have made a game, bring it with you!  Please Register Here.

Video Games can teach science by presenting and requiring your interaction with complex 3D models of things you otherwise need to imagine because they are too small, to rare, or too far away to see.

Video games can also teach science to you if you decide to MAKE your own video game.  If you design it on paper you are doing systems thinking, planning, designing, and considering human computer interactions.  If you program a game you are learning to convert a designer’s instructions accurately, how to creatively solve programming problems, and how to optimize your system.

Video Games can also be made about science, as well.  If you make a game about science, then you are learning the science yourself and everyone who plays your game may learn, to.

Have you made a video game?  Would you like to show it off?  Have you ever submitted it to a contest, like the STEM Video Game Challenge?  Have you almost created a game and want to get some feedback?  Are you just curious about what anyone could actually be learning from a video game?
Then come out and meet game developer and many other types of design and maker people at Fab Lab DC.

Melanie will talk about Immune Attack and what students are learning.  There will be time before and after the presentation to try out some other great science games:

History of Biology
Minesweeper
Fold It
Cellcraft
You Make Me Sick
EtRNA
You Make Me Sick

Please Register here!

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This event is an official part of the month long USA Science and Engineering Festival.  The Finale Expo will be April 29-30 in the DC Convention Center April 27-29th.  Come out and meet Melanie at the FAS booth, talk with scientists in the “Encounter’s with Scientists” booth (FAS hour is 11AM Sunday the 29th) and meet the Fab Lab people in their booth #3050!

Please Register here!

 

 

 

Please register here:http://learnfromgamesstegman.eventbrite.com/  

This event is an official part of the month long USA Science and Engineering Festival.  The Finale Expo will be April 29-30 in the DC Convention Center April 27-29th.  Come out and meet Melanie at the FAS booth, talk with scientists in the “Encouter’s with Scientists” booth (FAS hour is 11AM Sunday the 29th) and meet the Fab Lab DC people at their booth (#3050)!

Teacher made an Immune Attack Demonstration video!

Check out this great Immune Attack demonstration video!!

If you would like to see what Immune Attack is exactly like, watch video of himself playing Immune Attack!

Spoiler alert!  This video is better if you are a teacher, and less interesting if you are a PLAYER!  If you are a student and you are curious, then just download the game (free) and play for yourself!

 

Teachers role in a high tech classroom

Everyone seems to have an opinion about teacher’s role in the classroom of the future.  Some claim that teachers should get out of the way and let kids simply have unfettered access to the internet.  Others imagine a classroom in which teachers curate the vast world of information that is available and facilitate students’ understanding.  Certainly, there is more to learn in any subject than any one person could be an expert in.  How can we take the best advantage of technology in the classroom?

Please share your comments below!  I am preparing a blog post addressing the role of teachers in the future, and I would appreciate your thoughts and any resources!

 

IGDA Newsletter Feature: Positive Impact Gaming

If you are a game developer, you have probably heard of the International Game Developer’s Association (IDGA). If you are a student who is interested in a career in gaming, if you make games as a hobby, or if you are a teacher/professor with students who are interested in game development you can find/recommend the local IDGA chapter and go there for camaraderie, advice, helpful critiques of your ideas…. The IDGA has created a new newsletter, and this issue is focused on a new interest group in the IDGA, positive Impact gaming.

Double click on the picture below to make it a full screen browsable magazine. (It’s pretty neat technically, informationally, and because it’s about positive games this issue!.)

2011 is the Year of Chemistry

www.moleclues.org is a website where you can learn about the things molecules do… like make us fall in love, for instance.

The people behind Moleclues and the Year of Chemistry are The Molecular Frontiers Foundation.

Moleclues wants you to know that 2011 is the international YEAR OF CHEMISTRY!  Watch their videos about chemistry, there will be a new one every month of 2011.  http://www.moleclues.org/chemistry-calendar Teachers can also get some teachers guides for each month… topics range from fashion, to weather, to love…

Molecular Frontiers is collaborating with Chalmers University of Technology, University of Gothenburg, Universeum and the film company Untamed Science to produce 12 videos during the International Year of Chemistry 2011. The topic of the monthly videos follows the themes set up by Swedish Chemical Society.

 

STEM Video Game Challenge!

STEM Challenge!

 

 

 

This fall the first  National STEM Video Game Challenge invited professional, collegiate, and youth developers to submit prototypes of games to inspire STEM learning for kids pre-k to 4th grade.  The winners will be announced soon.  You can get your students or yourself involved next year!

Read about the contest at the http://www.cooneycenterprizes.org

I served as a judge for this year’s contest.  I played every game submitted in the STEM game category.  I can tell you that we have many smart, and free thinking young minds out there.  Encourage the minds you know to compete next year!  I will be discussing software that middle school and High School students can use to design and create games.

You can read what another STEM Challenge game judge wrote Here.