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Playtesting Haunts 2014 Treks
You don't need a time machine to experience the past. That's what students at the High School for Global Citizenship and the School for Human Rights found out this semester as they created their own location-based games for GPS devices that drew on local history and made connections to larger global issues, such as protection of the right to equality before the law, as stated in Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Stroll down to the housing complex across the street from Jackie Robinson School in Crown Heights with your cell phone or tablet and load up the TaleBlazer app. By playing the student-produced game, you'll learn that if you were at that spot five decades ago, you would have seen Ebbet's Field-- the Brooklyn Dodgers home baseball field where Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Playing as Jackie Robinson, you'll be faced with racist, dehumanizing situations as you visit all four bases of the baseball diamond and attempt to score a home run. You must make decisions in character. As is noted in the game, Jackie Robinson is just one of many who faced discrimination on the basis of race over the years. Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects people around the world from such unlawful treatment by ensuring that "all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law."
On the day of the final playtest, student game-designers presented their game in front of their peers and staff from Global Kids and the Brooklyn Public Library.
They discussed game play, the game design process, and some of the challenges they faced in designing the game.
Then everyone set out on a trek around the site to experience the game as players would.
After all playtesters completed their "homeruns," students remarked they were most excited about the bonus points that they conceived as invisible "easter eggs" around the map. They were concerned about one section of the course -- between second and third base -- that seemed to be empty of agents and activities. "The player would get bored," Alaya said, hinting at yet another iteration of the game... When asked what they were most proud of, Isatu said "educating my colleagues about Ebbet's Field and Jackie Robinson."
Meanwhile, a few blocks south, students at School for Human Rights had just finished up a playtest of their own game, Keep Wingate Safe, which takes place on the playground outside of their school. A few of them told the GK Alumni Assistant trainer, Tsara Carlie about why they made their game:
We want to let people know about the stories of gun violence in the past and show them some of the locations that the shootings took place. We are interested in gun violence because we don’t feel safe in our community and we want others to know what steps they should take to feel safe if they have the same problem. When people finish playing our game we do not want them to be sad, we want them to feel hopeful that they can do something about gun violence even if it’s just a little step they take.
As at HSGC, student game-designers at SHR first presented their game to their peers, as well as high schoolers from Global Kids' program, their school's principal, and their social studies teacher.
Outside, students who had taken part in the design process guided other students to use the Taleblazer app on tablets and phones.
They also supported their principal!
Arianna said she was most proud of the playtest part of the process "because I got to show the game to my friends and teachers."
At Global Kids, we are gearing up for the summer when youth affiliated with NYC Hive Learning Network organizations around the city will produce three new geo-locative games about the issues and stories they care about. Stay tuned!