Teaching Teamwork Through Video Game Development (Transcript)
Ben: Everybody who makes something really, really wonderful gets there through a process of making something that's really not that great to start with, and then slowly improving it, taking feedback, getting new ideas, in what I think is a process that's a little bit closer to the real world.
Ben (to students): The decisions that you need to make today are decisions about what's gonna get into the game and what's gonna need to be left out, in order for you to finish in time for the fifth graders to actually play these games in a week, okay?
Ben: In this project that they're working on right now, is the biggest one of the year. They're making an educational video game for a particular fifth grade class that we went and visited at a local elementary school.
Ben (to student): Oh, oh, it's when the corn pops up and it's ready to harvest. Do you have to actually activate on each one?
Ben: And so we went and interviewed the students and got to know them and found out what kinds of music they listened to, what movies they like, the cartoon characters that they follow, the video games that they already play. Students also interviewed the fifth grade teacher and found out what the learning objectives are, the California State fifth grade content standards. And so by going there and really seeing what their classroom was like, we were sort of immersed into their world, and we understand that we're creating something for them.
Ben (to student): Why are we hitting the out of memory here? You've hit it.
Ben: Because of what?
Student: Too many images.
Ben: Too many images, or the images themselves are too big, right?
Student: That too.
Ben: The software that we use is called Processing, and it's actually a project that was initiated at the MIT Media Lab. It uses the Java syntax. The thing that Processing provides is a built in graphics library and a really easy sort of development process, so you don't have to compile in it. You just push play, and then your code immediately turns into something that's happening on the screen.
Student: It's pretty interesting to do, I mean like, if you want to be a computer or a scientist and it's a good starter.
Ben: We form teams and the teams go through a brainstorming process and an idea refinement process.
Right now, I have teams of three. The different roles that the students take on are the technical lead, and that's the person who's gonna be sort of most responsible for the programming, the art lead, the person who's gonna be responsible for not only the concept art, but actually the production are, the actual, you know, pixels that go on the screen during the game, and then a project manager.
Student: Half the map's gonna be like a city. Other half is gonna be like a grass playing type of area.
Student: I'm the project manager, which is basically telling these guys when the project is due, like what we need to catch up on, the schedule, what kinda pace we're gonna be on.
Ben: Instead of having there be a designated designer role, it's actually that everybody is the designer.
Student: I took like an image of a horse shrinking down. Then I remade it into a pixelated horse.
Ben: There's thirteen teams and there's some pretty interesting stuff going on. There's a game called Cookie Attack and it's about fractions. I think this is a real achievement in terms of responding to the audience.
Student: We noticed that the fifth graders, they-- this kind of like violence and we kind of incorporate it into our game, where they have to answer the questions to get the cookies and they have to use the cookies to shoot the monsters.
Student: I'm better at programming than all the other stuff, so I did the programming and then Miranda, she's better at Photoshop, so she did the graphics. And then Angel, her part was to separate kind of like the jobs and then find some concepts.
Ben: Just recently, actually, that fifth grade class came here to Galileo and visited us, and we had a chance to show them some demos and some prototypes of the games that my students are working on. And my students took that feedback to really help them shape their games.
Student: Was this in the same thing?
Student: No, this is screen number three. This one, you exit in.
Student: No, no, oh.
Student: I really wanna know if they get bored of the game or if they're having fun with it, because it makes me feel happy if they like the game, but if they have some bad feedback, then I'd have to work on it some more, you know.
Ben: By doing a project that has a real audience, I think it provides a little bit more motivation to really put the effort into making it good and that allows them an opportunity to find out that you don't just make something good the first time you try. And software that's running on computers, whether it's on your Smartphone or on your desktop computer, or on a website somewhere, that software dominates a lot of our reality. So having some idea of how those things work, I think allows you to be just a more informed citizen.