Primary School Visit

April 2nd 2012

A few weeks ago I got in touch with Games Britannia and I was put in touch with a local primary school teacher (Lucie Carney who runs a club for students interested in designing computer games at her school (Farsley Farfield Primary Schoo) in North Leeds.

Together with Lucie I arranged a presentation for the children in her club and also took a range of devices on which the children could play my game, Positron.

Lucie was kind enough to give me a short tour of the school when I arrived and I must say it does look like a very nice school! They have their own on-site farm where they grow a variety of fruit and vegetables and even keep their own chickens on the school farm. There's a very nice little cafe on-site which is open to the public and the children that bake things at school get to sell their creations in the cafe too! They have more than enough computers (and a lot of Macs) for the students to use which was good to see. There's also an on-site radio station which is currently not being used but Lucie intends to get it up and running again with the help of the students and I got the feeling that the school provides many such opportunities for the children to learn outside of their set curriculum studies which was great to see.

In my presentation I tried to give the children an overview of what 'indie' development was and how many skills are brought together to create games. I wanted them to understand how art, music and other subjects can all be combined when creating a game and suggested that some of their less technical friends would probably love to collaborate and develop a game together.

They have all been using Scratch and Kodu to create games at the club and I had a chance to check out some of the games they had made the previous week. It was great to see they'd all been able to create a racing game in which you had to collect coins and reach the exit. It showed that they understand logic and they all understood the game mechanics they were trying to implement.

After my presentation the children were given the chance to play on Positron and passed around my two Windows Phones while others were playing the game on the MacBook Pro I'd brought along. It was great to see them pick it up quickly and understand what the objective was. The feedback was great too and was mostly based on their experience of other games.

School Visit
Jonathan playing Positron (© Lucie Carney)

One girl suggested I add coins in to the game to collect so you can spend them on upgrades. She had no doubt played some of the more recent mobile games which make extensive use of this model. Almost everyone that played the game said the only thing they didn't like was when they crashed in to walls... Not much I can do about that one I'm afraid.

When it was time for them all to go home I could tell they'd really enjoyed the session and I hope I have inspired them in some way. I have also set them a challenge to recreate Positron as close as possible from within Kodu (which seems to be their preferred program for creating their games). I may infact even open up this challenge to a wider audience and see if I can work with Games Britannia to promote the challenge and showcase all the games here on the website.

I'm also signed up to speak at an event at the National Media Museum on May 17th. Secondary school children will be invited to the event which will also feature a BAFTA Game Development Workshop in the afternoon. More details will be posted later this week.

I hope more developers decide to get involved and speak to school children about game development and our industry as we need to inspire them to help build the next generation of interactive entertainment right here in the UK.
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