The introduction of technological elements and video games in the learning processes in educational environments is increasingly present in the debates on how to improve the experience of our young people in a context where the digital is being incorporated into more domains of our lives.
Education and training are evolving to adapt, include or interact with different technological changes that are taking place in our society: tablets, smartphones and all kind of devices are becoming a part of the educational processes. Video games have started to be used in the classroom with education aims beyond fun and entertainment: they are tools to teach from advanced logics and strategy, to very practical questions.
Video games can be a very stimulating learning tool for young people in our schools. They can address certain curricular content, and above all, they can support the development of certain skills necessary to promote their competitiveness and work habits. These habits should be based on the complementarity of knowledge and teamwork.
Even though video games are increasingly present in both formal and non-formal education as a tool to engage students in a learning process, there are still very few guides to help teachers and learners to create their own video games adapted to their own needs.
One of the objectives of the Gaming for Skills project is to contribute to the construction of learning tools so that teachers can have certain references to be able to apply it in their own context and according to their own needs.
To this end, we have conducted a short interview with Òscar Martínez who participated in the development of the European project CoGame and coordinates the MakerConvent project, a space for digital creation, social technology and informal learning, which is part of the community cultural center Convent de Sant Agustí specialized in audiovisual creation and technology and located in Barcelona.
The purpose of the interview is to learn more about his experience in creating video games with young people between the ages of 12 and 16.
– Good morning Òscar. Could you briefly explain what the MakerConvent project is about?
The MakerConvent is an informal learning space which offers an introduction to the new digital fabrication tools, digital prototyping and production. Its main attraction is that it is located in the Cívic Center Convent of Sant Agusti and all the work that is done is open to the general public and addressed to the neighbourhood.
In this learning environment children, teenagers, adults and families can play, design and create together, reuse everyday materials in exciting ways and encourage experimentation and exploring based on the idea that making mistakes is a great way to learn.
The MakerConvent aims to facilitate access to the general knowledge of the new digital production methods and manufacturing people of all ages. The project, conceived as a makerspace, provides and uses techniques in design thinking, electronics, code, mechanics, robotics, and also it conducts projects connecting digital artists and people in the neighbourhood.
– Can you tell us about the project in which you created several video games with teenagers? How was the creation process?
When we try to facilitate the approach of these digital tools, we already consider this process according to the typology and age of the people.
In this sense, when we work with teenagers we use to design the activities so as to put more emphasis on developing entrepreneurial skills and depth of knowledge in specific areas such as electronics, coding or robotics. The activities are designed from a creative and educational point of view. The involvement with the EU CoGame project offered us this possibility.
Young people play video games, but they don’t think critically about it. A video game is software, art, documentation, audio and gameplay. The methodology for video game development is agility based on iterative prototyping. Consequently, a video game is a complex process in which many profiles of workers are involved: designers, documenters, computer scientists, writers, cartoonists, sound experts, etc. As a source of employment, it has shown an unstoppable growth in the last two decades and has been generating thousands of jobs in Europe, in many small and medium-sized companies, but with a very erratic and dispersed VET offer.
CoGame is an introduction to this world from scratch, it is a sandbox for testing, discovering vocations and living an extensive workgroup.
We worked with 15 male and female teenagers in the development of 4 video games. It took us a week, 4 hours per day; 20 hours of work. It is an intensive process and we divided them into small groups. In the pre-production phase, each group plans their project focusing on the development of the idea and concept and the production of initial design documents. Our main focus is to work on unique sites in Barcelona with a lot of history. They developed a brief summary, a presentation for the other groups, the story and the gameplay.
The groups then moved into the production phase, working on development within the creative software, in our case RPGMaker. Game design is an essential and collaborative process of designing the content and rules of a game, requiring artistic and technical competence as well as writing skills, each group can synchronize their work.
In the final phase, the presentation of the final video game, each group explained the creative process, the problems and the challenges and we have all played all the other video games. Our evaluation is how participants develop new skills or discover hidden competences.
– What about young participants’ engagement?
La implicación de los jóvenes es mucho más fácil cuando se trata de videojuegos. Es más, cuando empiezan a descubrir todo lo que conlleva la creación de un videojuego, su interés va en aumento y ven cómo pueden contribuir al grupo con sus propios conocimientos y aprender de los demás.
– What is your assessment of the involvement of young people in the process of creating video games? What learning skills do you think they developed?
I think if we want participation to be meaningful, the most important element is how we create the right elements for the youth group to organise their workflow. We know where we want them to go, so we have to help them by providing the necessary resources.
We have detected that young people who have participated in video game design tend to develop several of the following skills: detail-oriented, goal-oriented, problem-solving skills, good communication skills, problem-solving skills, works well in a team, advanced mathematical skills, computer skills, creative thinking, writing skills, digital drawing skills.
– What recommendations would you give to educators or teachers who want to start a process to create a video game with their students?
The first thing we must transmit to a group of young people who are starting out in the field of video game development is that they should have fun, put their already acquired skills into practice and share them with the group. Making mistakes is the way to improve.
Thank you Òscar for giving us some insights in the projects; it was a pleasure to talk with you.