Video Game-Making in the Kovler Family Library

By the ILIS Department
Fifth graders spent the last month in Integrated Learning and Information Science (ILIS) designing, collaborating, building and coding cooperative video games. Students worked in design teams using different conductive materials and technology tools to create their interactive games. They worked in teams to code a game that would need two players collaborating to be successful, building the game board with interactive materials and designing a theme for the game.

The project started with introducing students, or reintroducing some students, to Scratch, a free online coding program designed at MIT’s Media Lab. Scratch coding allows students to learn the coding language, as well as how to design, solve problems, iterate, share their work and amplify their voice. 

Fifth graders explored the different code blocks, characters and background options. They also played games created with Scratch and shared to the Scratch site by students from around the world to help spark ideas about games they might make and explore the code they would need to use.

Next, teachers assigned students to game-building groups, which brainstormed ideas about the type of game they wanted to create—a maze, avoidance or collect game— as well as the game’s theme and board design.  Each group decided who would do each job in their game design and building. Students who focused on the coding created and tested all the code to make their game design work. Game board builders focused on wiring and building their interactive game boards. Finally the designer worked on the game’s theme, including background, characters, art and design.

Once each team had set its design, theme and plan, they started building. The coders worked on coding the games to work. When they were challenged with a code they couldn’t figure out how to execute, they talked with fellow classmates, searched the Scratch website for similar games and pored over Scratch message boards for advice.

The designers worked with a variety of materials to make a large game board that would lay on the floor for players to activate with their feet. They used conductive materials like copper sheets and conductive tape attached to wires that students cut, stripped and connected to a MakeyMakey, an external plug-and-play circuit board that allows conductive materials to connect with a computer and coding. When someone stepped on the conducted materials, they triggered the game board and connected to the instructions in the code. The game board designers tested and retested as they added the different layers of their game boards to ensure they worked at each stage of the building process.

The designers coordinated and worked with each group, collaborating with the coders to find background images, characters, villains and objects for the players to collect in the game. They also worked with the game board builders to make sure the layout of the game boards functioned and the designs and illustrations added to the game boards fit with the theme of the game.

After several sessions of building, coding, wiring, testing, editing and rethinking their game plans, students completed all their games, and it was time for game day share out! Each of the laptops with projected the Scratch program and game onto one of the screens and connected their boards, and students had a blast playing each other’s games!

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.