Sunday, December 15, 2013

From Idea to Execution: My First Ga(meh) Expo

Sometimes things just look better in your head. To culminate our first ever game design course, I thought it would be fun to have a game expo for the students. This would give them a genuine audience for their game designs and hopefully motivate them to produce high quality work. The plan was to bring all of the Middle School students together with laptops to play my students' games and vote on their favorites. Students earning top votes would win gift cards to Game Stop and Target.

I think most of the students in game design were excited about this competition. All of them used feedback from their mentors to try to improve their designs before the game expo. I created a website and embedded their games as well as a voting tool for their players. The students seemed pleased with the site and how their games appeared within it. During the game expo, several of the students walked around, talked to players and helped with problems they may have with the games. Although Gamestar Mechanic servers had been very slow the previous day, everything was working fine for the expo. The main glitch we had was with the voting- I did not realize Poll Everywhere was going to limit us to 40 responses and after that, students could not continue to vote. I had to tell students I would fix the poll and send them an email to go in and re-vote. I ended up switching to Poll Daddy which worked fine.

So what was different in reality from what I pictured in my head? I'm an 80's chic so I was picturing a video arcade-type atmosphere with excitement and laughing and questions and whoops when a hard level was beaten.  In reality, the kids sat in bleachers with their laptops, quiet and playing; there was minimal interaction. It did not look anything like a game expo! It did not feel like a game expo.
 Where was the excitement? The sounds? The interactions? Ultimately, I think I accomplished my goal.  My students had a real
purpose for the games that they were designing; to have them played by the people whose opinions matter most- their peers. Maybe the picture that I had in my head was just a non-gamers vision of what a game expo would look like. Maybe this is just what it looks like when kids play video games. If I have an opportunity to do this again their are things I would want to do differently if for no other reason than to create a more exciting aesthetic. Maybe the better thing would be to have the students design and plan the expo themselves!