03 May Making Games Educational
As a parent myself, a common concern is whether games are good for my daughter’s personal development. Shouldn’t she be reading books, playing outside with friends socially and generally discovering more about the World than just playing ‘endless mindless games’. I have to admit that these concerns aren’t as great for myself as I grew up playing computer games a lot and have continued to do so whilst having a successful career.
If you do have these concerns then I am going to share with you some personal tips on how you can simply use your children’s gaming habit and turn it into a more educational experience.
Now I’m not suggesting that you force your children to only play educational games, a while ago a popular phrase was ‘edutainment’, a hybrid of educational and entertainment that very few games managed to achieve. Instead I am going to share tips that can be used for any type of game, regardless if it is meant to actually be educational.
A piece of advice though. These aren’t activities that you can set your child and then disappear! They are much more effective if you stay engaged and help them complete them. This will also help you to understand more about the games that they play and open up conversation topics around their hobby.
Review The Game
As keen gamers they will be used to reading reviews and comments about games on web-sites and social media. Gamers always have strong opinions about different games. Get them to take a break from the game and critically think about it instead.
Ask them to score the game (out of 10, or 100) against different aspects of the game, typically these would include:
- The graphics: how does the game look? Are the graphics and animation impressive? Do they accurately reflect the characters and scenes?
- Sound: how good are the sound effects and music?
- Gameplay: Is the game easy to play? Do the controls work well for the game?
- Longevity: Do they think they will be playing the game for a long time?
- Value for Money: Does the game offer good value for money?
- Overall: Given all of the factors above, what is their overall rating and score for the game?
Don’t allow them to just give a score. Ask them to explain why they gave that score for each category. This helps them to articulate and analyse different aspects and to justify their personal view.
Design the Sequel
A lot of games have sequels and are part of an ongoing franchise. Ask your child to help design the sequel, a follow up to the game. How would they change the game? Would they include different characters and scenes? How would they evolve the game’s storyline? Would the game take place in a different setting? Maybe a different world or time in history.
Ask them to create a short presentation of their proposed game. Be as creative as possible and use props to help design different levels of the game (lego is great for this but you can also use cardboard and other art supplies). If they think that this is stupid, explain to them that a lot of new games go through a prototyping process (and yes we use lots of different toys, materials and objects) when prototyping here at Super Happy Games.
Develop Their Own Game
If you have designed the sequel then why not use some tools available to actually help them build the game. Now, realistically they aren’t going to be able to make the next xBox or Playstation game. But they could create a very simple and playable game using online tools. These are also a great introduction into learning to code.
We will cover these in much more depth in a later post but good starting points are:
Depending on the age and capability of your child you may need to give them some help. And don’t worry if you have no technical experience, you will both enjoy learning and creating the game together. As I mentioned i’ll share much more about this in a future post.
If your children are more artistic and creative ask them to create some artwork of the game. Can they draw the main characters in different scenarios? Maybe they can create and illustrate new characters or environments?
They could design and illustrate a poster. Similar to a movie poster this could include all of the main characters, their names and also some key points about the game.
A really simple but great thing to do is to ask them to try and draw a map of the game. Obviously this doesn’t work for all games (e.g. sports) but for a lot of games that take place in open World environments this is a great way for them to use their design skills and try and represent a World with a drawing.
Perhaps your child can write a short story about the game, the characters and the different events. This could be historical, telling the tales that lead up to the game taking place. Or it could be set in the future, many years after the game has completed and the characters are much older.
If a story seems too much for them, try writing a a newspaper article about a key event in the game. How would it be reported? What are the key facts? Are there different sides to the story with characters having different opinions? How would the journalist check the facts?
If your child doesn’t want to write, then there is still a lot of good in telling a story to each other using the game as a background setting. This will help with their imagination and it will be easier to encourage them to also try some of the other activities above.
The Most Important Thing
My personal advice to any parent is to play games with your children. It is a hobby that you can bond over and by increasing your understanding of games and the types of games that they like will open up lots of opportunities to talk about games.
I really hope that the help and advice above helps you as a parent. I would love to hear from anyone that has tried the above or if you have some other ideas, please feel free to comment below or on our Facebook group. I’m sure that other parents would benefit from your ideas and experience.
Lee Michael McCance
CEO and Founder
Super Happy Games