This year our HNC Games students at Reid Kerr College worked in partnership with a local Primary School, Lochfield Primary in Paisley, to produce games for their HNC Group graded unit project. This is the third year we have worked in partnership with Lochfield for our HNC Graded Unit games, however this year we took things a step further with the schoolchildren actually contributing art work for the games.
The project began in February and in discussion with the school we set the theme for this years games to be “Healthy Living”. So we tasked our students to come up with game ideas that promote an awareness of the benefits of healthy living and asked them to select a representative from each team of 4, who would present those ideas to the primary school. On the 8th of February we visited Lochfield Primary and our students gave PowerPoint presentations on their game ideas to around 70 Primary 6 pupils. They were then given the opportunity to get feedback from the kids and discuss their ideas further in small groups, effectively using the schoolchildren as a focus group. Some of my students were extremely nervous about the idea of presenting to and talking to schoolchildren, but as in previous years those fears soon dissipated when they realised how enthusiastic and positive the children were about the games, something that rubbed off on the rest of their team-mates when the representatives reported back. One thing that we introduced this year, which we hadn’t done before, was that we asked the schoolchildren to draw art for the games, so during the discussions with the schoolchildren, our students also discussed with them the types of art they would like them to create.
From February to May our students worked away in their teams turning their concepts into games for Windows 7 using XNA4. We received a bunch of art from the schoolchildren which we scanned in and used in at least half the games, along with art produced by our own students.
On May 20th we had a big event at the college and over 70 Primary 6 pupils were bussed into the college for the day. We had to split the schoolchildren up and we enlisted help from the Care & Construction departments in our college, who took turns with half of the group while the other half played the games our groups had created. Once the children were finished playing the games they went onto an online survey and rated the games out of 20, based on originality, graphics, sound and most importantly gameplay.
Lee Stott from Microsoft attended the event and very kindly provided prizes, in the form of Kinects, for the winning team. It was a close call between two of the games and in the end one vote could have swung it either way; eventually the only game which featured a 2 player mode won. In the end it was a triumph for gameplay, however the game which came second had an excellent concept, was a great game with far more complexity to it and even had a level designer. I’m hopefully they will develop it further and enter it into the imagine cup next year.
This partnership with Lochfield Primary has improved our students’ experience of learning in a number of ways and opened the eyes of the schoolchildren to games development as a possible career path.
Benefits to Games Development students
1. They had a realistic learning experience by designing and writing games for a live client group.
2. The partnership was an enjoyable and positive learning experience for both the schoolchildren and the college students, as they experienced working with a partner to produce artwork for the games.
3. The competitive element of the partnership was appealing to them and a motivating factor.
4. Peer review by other students and by the schoolchildren was invaluable in forming ideas on how the games could be improved in the future.
Lee stayed on after the schoolchildren had left and took part in a judging event in the afternoon with my HND Games Development students, who had been tasked with producing a Windows Phone game based around an apocalyptic theme (so lots of Zombie games). We had an impressive judging panel,which I had kept as a little surprise from my students :-), that included myself, David Marshall & Martin Barrett from Reid Kerr, Fiona Rushton & Ian Tyson from James Watt, Daniel Livingstone from UWS and of course Lee Stott from Microsoft. Ten of my students presented their game concepts, how their games had been developed and how they felt about the way their game had turned out. They also answered questions from the panel, who had the opportunity to play all the games on Windows Phones. In the end the panel came up with a top 3 and Lee presented the winning student with a Windows Phone as a prize.