Playing 4 Keeps

[p4k/teen] Survival 

What I learned today is about New Orleans trying to survive the hurricane by using boats,planes,and airbeds to float on the water. There was no food or shelter. There more than two bodies floating in the water; it was horrible to see. The hurricane was hard for the New Orleans resident because they did not have many people helping them with their problems.

[p4k/teen] What would be Great 

Today I have watched a devastating video which would be really useful for our game. Before I mention anything else, I would love to say that I have learned very much from watching this film. Seeing people suffer in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina was really hard and kind of peaved me off as well. But seeing that the U.S. Coast Guards were the first ones to start coping with the situation made me really happy. Then FEMA came along 4-5 days later to help the rest of the victims that were down as well. I can understand why people like Condaleezza Rice couldn't help with the situation, but Micheal Chertoff could have helped much better than he did. Thinking this through gives me an idea.

[p4k/teen] What We've Been Up To 

The date is Thursday, January 17, 2008 from 3-5pm, and the location is Canarsie High School. Our hangout room is rm. 344 and today we watched a bit more of the HBO documentary: "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts". Personally, i didn't watch the 6-hour documentary directed by Spike Lee, but i did learn a few things despite the fact that once again I was a little drowsy as usual. One thing I was disturbed to learn about was the fact it took about 4-5 days to rescue over a thousand people in New Orleans. But fear not, for within my disturbance of this fact comes an idea for the upcoming video game that I and the rest of the gang from Playing 4 Keeps are making.

As for the incite or insight on game designs and/or game ideas for the game, well...I'll probably inform you on that in the next blog.

'Til Then, All
Otis

[p4k] It's really really business time 

We got down to business at this week at Playing 4 Keeps. Since October, we’ve been having fun learning about game design, but in this second half we’re starting to pull our new skills together. We’ve reached the production cycle, and it’s time for the swirling ideals to coalesce into a coherent game idea. Towards that goal, we spent Monday researching and Thursday designing.

First, we spent the afternoon discussing how to use a search engine effectively. The internet is an ocean of information, but without an understanding of how to titrate it, the volume is simply overwhelming. We need to learn more about the Hurricane Katrina disaster, but there is also very specific information we’re looking for. The only way to find it is to effectively use search engines skillfully. I’m not sure what’s being taught in library these days (do kids even have a library class anymore?) but I think more time needs to be spent on research skills. There is much less need to memorize data if you simply know how to find it quickly.

[p4k] Evaluation on both Playing 4 Keeps and Ayiti released! 

After two and a half years, Global Kids is delighted to release the results of the independent evaluation by the Center for Children and Technology of both Playing 4 Keeps, our after school gaming program, and Ayiti, the game produced with Gamelab during the first year of the program.

For the evaluation CCT observed the program and interviewed the students. To evaluate the game they looked at the results of nearly 16,000 game plays.

Download the full report here.

In short, when we made Ayiti we wanted to learn if players would learn if the factors affecting access to education within an impoverished condition are both interdependent and exist within a dynamic system. CCT's research found that "the central idea embedded in the game play, that no single factor accounts for success, appears to have been successfully communicated to the majority of players." Bingo!

In addition, they describe how youth report that through their participation in the after school program their experiences involved:

[p4k student] Jean 's thoughts on today workshop 

Hey today I did a workshop teaming up with 3 other people to work on finding Katrina facts. We each worked on one question and wrote the answer on on the paper.

[press] The Parent's Paper spotlights virtual worlds and education 

The January issue of the New Jersey magazine The Parent Paper, has an article entitled "Student's Try a Virtual World", which spotlight's both the programs Global Kids and Ramapo are running within Second Life.

theparentpaper0108.jpg

They quoted Barry several times regarding TSL.

“Once we went into Teen Second Life, we found things we didn’t find anywhere else. In Teen Second Life you have a spatial relationship with others around you and it feels like you are with people. We could do the same workshops for kids virtually that we were doing in reality.

We could do these workshops in ways that we never thought were possible. In Teen Second Life you don’t have to just imagine you are in a factory – you are in a factory. And teens are building the factory. A lot of our top down approach for spreading information was met equally with ideas from the bottom up. The space is about putting young people in charge and giving them tools. What we are able to do as educators in that space is tap into nascent leadership skills.”

[p4k] Gettin our hands dirty 

We had a short week at Playing 4 Keeps, with only one workshop as we came back from the winter break. On Thursday, the whole afternoon was devoted to a more complex version of the role playing exercise we did before the break. Instead of just pretending to be members of a game lab with an imaginary project to develop, the kids were tasked with modifying a game in Scratch.

This was really a perfect use for the software; it’s so easy to use that everyone was able to actually act out his or her role, and in the end we had a unique game. The Scratch team develops and releases games and programs for users to remix, and the one we chose was “Fish Chomp,” a simple game where players control a fish trying to eat smaller fish.

We split the kids into development teams and each one was assigned different responsibilities. The art director, illustrators, and graphic designer worked together to customize the fish graphics, instruction screen, and health and point meters. The audio team found background music and sound effects for the game. Our game and level designers worked on new ways to make the game more challenging, and imagined what further levels would be like. Finally, the programmer implemented the changes. Coding is simple enough in Scratch that within minutes he was able to figure out how the game worked and what could be easily changed.

[p4k] Slate.com counts Ayiti as one of their top picks 

Ayiti: the Cost of Life was spotlighted on Slate.com in an article written by Justin Peters focusing on his top choices of free games to play online. Not only did we make his list, but he had some great things to say.

Best game with a social conscience: No matter how bad things are going, you could always be a subsistence farmer in Haiti. (To our Haitian subsistence-farming readers: God bless.) Ayiti: The Cost Of Life makes the Oregon Trail look like Candy Land. The game puts you in control of the lives of a Haitian family of five. You have four years to guide the family through a catalog of privations and calamities: hurricanes, robbers, depression, illiteracy, and on-the-job injuries. Ideally, you'll find education, prosperity, and health, but you'll probably just come down with malaria and die.

The article was also picked up by Slashdot on their site! They even made special note of Ayiti.

[p4k] Milestones 

In our last week before the new year, Playing 4 Keeps had three major milestones: we chose our issue for the game, the students wrote their first blog entries, and we began experimenting with digital media creation. First, on Monday Barry came out to help resolve a schism in the group: the students were evenly divided between two issues for our game. Half the group wanted to do Hurricane Katrina, and half wanted to focus on the various issues of war and the military that President Eisenhower termed “the military-industrial complex.” While no one knew that term, many students could described its features: excessive spending on increasingly destructive weapons, underfunding social services to fund the military, and starting expensive, devastating, unnecessary wars.