(Hunger Pangs will only work for PC or Mac, I’m currently working on the mobile version of this game.)
As a teacher going into my field study with this research questions “How does game design effect motivation and learning content?”, I decided to take a personal journey through the realm of game design. I remembered entering through college in 1998 as a computer science major because I knew I wanted to create games. Going into my first computer science class at SFSU, I felt excited that I will finally make my first game. Unfortunately after two week of learning how to program, I left the program because I didn’t see the big picture of program nor did my vision of creating game come about through that experience. Learning memorizing language didn’t teach me how to solve computer problems. It was unfortunate and all I had a was design I made when I was in middle school that will never come to reality.
I entered into the ITEC (Instructional Technology) program at SF State because I believe that education is in a state of flux. Traditional method of instruction, front loading students with concepts, and teaching concepts that don’t connect are not effective. Our brains don’t work that way. Our brains are meant to make connections. Would it wonderful if our students made connections between the following combination of art, math, science, english, social studies, technology, engineering, and music. I would love to go to that school that did . . . wait . . . I did when I was in middle school. Designing a game has the capability of integrating all of these subject area as well as integrating 21st century skills.
Before I start forming and implementing my instructional design, I was fortunate that ITEC or now ELSIT (Department of Equity, Leadership Studies, and Instructional Technologies) offered a game designing class during the summer of 2014 taught by Professor Zahira Merchant. This would a great way to get a foundation to design games in the context of learning. What I got out of the class was a process of planning, designing, and programming. After performing and making my mistakes on a variety of tutorials, reading a book by Tracy Fullerton on designing games, and applying those concept to already made games, I felt that I had the tools and awareness to design my own game.
During that time, a relative had passed away and I missed 3 classes. I made that incident as an opportunity to be persistent and to implement something I’ve wanted to do all my life which was express myself by game making and making sure that game making is a craft I can practice, master, and share to my learners who also play games but never made games. I’ve started making games before this class but I never finished the product because I didn’t have a complete vision of my product. This time I did and a week before class ended I was on my computer from 5 am – 10 pm (of course I ate, slept, walked around . . . there was a day when I worked till 2 in the morning) finding, drawing, editing, coding, tweaking the codes, testing, retweaking the code, testing more, etc. I wouldn’t stop until all aspect of the games are at least functional. It’s kind of like musical theater, if the director left a mistake behind, the audience would see it and therefore your mistake would take that experience away from the audience. I didn’t want my game to do that.
Hunger Pangs was inspired when I was aware of how healthy eat and lifestyle affects us. My late dog, Casey passed away from lymphoma and I always wondered, if I walked him daily, if I fed him real food and not kibbles (there are a lot of research articles pointing to the nutritional deficiency of kibbles and preserved canned foods), then he wouldn’t be overweight nor had cancer. I connected that experience to how I live . . . “Am I eating right? and Am I exercising?” Those are habits to build and creating this game is step to be aware of the implications of healthy eating and exercising and vice versa, unhealthy eat and not exercising. Hunger Pangs is in beta mode and there still some work I need to do before it considered done (never will a game be considered done . . . it will always be a work in progress.)
What I got from the class is the process of evaluating a game to make games an experience that is enjoyable and challenging. If it is not enjoyable, my learners will not play it. If the game is too hard, they will stop playing it. If the game is too easy, they will also stop playing it. It is a fine, balance that will require constant feedback which is something I wished I had during those three days I missed.
On the last day of class, Professor Merchant brought this whole class back to the vision of the class of “Why are games important in education?” Games provide an experience so that when you teach abstract materials, the learners can refer back to the experience, the game. The game provides pre-knowledge, scaffold, checking for understanding, and schema. Having these pre-cursors are important before you delve into other concept. If you don’t remind or give students that schema, the learner will not find connections, relationships, and relevance.
Professor Merchant says “Experiential learning is hands down the most effective way of learning.” Educational journals and research shows that this is true and in my heart I deeply believe that. My classroom is build around experiences first before constructing concepts, which is another article I will blog about. When you perform, do, analyze, describe, create, build, and innovate, you are demonstrating a variety of ways of learning. Right now we are in a sweet spot in our educational era to make sure that our learners are able to experience content and not memorize for the sake of testing.