Friday, March 7, 2014

Game Testing


One of the coolest aspects of my job is when a new product is to be launched and they would like to have it tested by an authentic audience, in this case the students. I look at it as a win-win situation since the product makers get feedback and the students get to try something new and exciting and they feel really proud about being valued. As long as it isn't a frequent phenomenon, within limits, it is fine.

So yesterday, we had a group of college game design developers come to visit a third grade class thanks to a parent in that class who is associated to the product. The game happens to be a fraction based game (fractions is probably the most daunting concept for students that age and beyond for those who consider themselves to be "not good at Math"), with a Tetris-like appeal (Tetris has been a huge addiction for me the past twenty years at least; there was a time twenty years ago when I all I dreamed about was falling blocks and how I could fit them in and better my score). 

While the students were being called in groups of three or four, the rest got their chance to continue on their coding projects. They also now have the "Make your own Flappy Bird" from code.org which is great. 

At the end of the session, one of the developers asked the students for their feedback. The first few hands went: "It was fun", "It was great". After the first five such responses I intervened to have the students elaborate on their reasoning. The authentic feedback then started: "I like the way they fit into the squares". The first of the candid ones: "Change the music" had all the adults cracking up. "We want to make our own Avatars", "We don't like the guy playing that trumpet" - when asked why the student said "Because the guy is bald". "We want to create our own avatar and have him/her select their instrument". 

To me, that is what this was all about. Having the students think about what makes a good game design or any design, think about how can they enhance it, what effort is involved in making something of that scale and more. All real world situations that students are lucky to have around them. We, as educators, just need to provide them with greater opportunities each day.

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