Thursday, October 18, 2012

London Educational Games Meetup Rocks!

I very much enjoyed attending the London Educational Games Meetup last night.  They had six people present their games and platforms and things. First Laurent Arhuro presented flashapps, which looked like a nice set of mobile games for kids.  I didn't get a chance to ask him whether he had any particular pedagogical approach for these apps.  I have my kids playing all the free learning apps, so I'm not sure I'm going to immediately check out his apps since they cost money (am I a bad person?) but I wondered why he didn't have free and premium versions ... also is flashapps a confusing name since flash is a technology that is now gradually dying and doesn't run on mobiles anyway.  Either way he gave some good insights to deploying on amazon, ios and google play and how children are always moving on to next thing.  My kids zap through game after game each 30 seconds or so.

Brian Egles presented Jaguar Maths in Motion which sounded awesome - teaching kids about abstract math through a simulated F1 competition.  The project involves collaborating with schools.  Actually I'd like my boys to be slightly less obsessed with cars, but that's another story.  I asked Brian if the software was available outside schools, and apparently it can be bought, but as we've already determined I have no money so I guess I won't explore that in more detail for a while.  What was fascinating was Brian's description of how it helps kids who are switched off on math - kids who are not interested in the more abstract stuff like measuring angles.  He said early use of shop stuff for addition, multiplication works fine in schools, but abstract stuff is hard for some who could do it but can't see the point.  Personally I tend to think that schools have it all back to front and should all be based on the summerhill model but again that's another story :-)

Michael Carter presented his board game take-off, which reminded me about the lack of multiplayer support for my three boys playing on their tablets.  It's board games tonight I swear!  I don't want my kids growing up unable to negotiate and take turns.  Anyway, I asked Michael if his game involved a die? Apparently not - you get a card with number of moves from 1 to 5 so there is some skill about landing on the triangles on the board that allow you move the central section back and forth which can block access to the hangers that you need to access of win.  That technique reminded me of mariokart - guys who are behind tend to have an advantage ...  Kirsten mentioned that Rob Harris has a playtesting board game meetup that might be could for Michael, and I recalled somebody tweeting recently about it being nice to move real pieces around on a real board for a change.  Board game renaissance anyone?

In the break my friends and I started wondering why there aren't more handwriting recognition apps on touchscreen tablets/phones.

After the break we heard from Peter Stidwell about his ethical thinking game Quandary which sounds like a more philiosophical version of civilization, but is free, so I'll see if I can get my computer game students to play it.  It's all about settling on new planet, negotiating with people and has a graphic novel format!  Will blog about it once I've played if I get a chance.

We then heard from Ash Cairo about Phone battles and despite the guns and fast food content it looked like there was an exciting multiplayer multiplatform system there.  Finally we heard from Julia Bateson from Excite-ed who was previously a school teacher but now runs programs in schools to help train kids to becomes game designers - sounds like what I do for 18+ year olds at Hawaii Pacific University :-)  She mentioned GameStarMechanic which looks even easier to use than Construct2, GameMaker, GameSalad and Stencyl, but costs money, so I guess I won't be using it soon.  What particularly resonated was her talking about how kids from all different groups could collaborate, e.g. arty, techy, wordy all the different combinations of skills going into games.  Totally!  Exactly what I try to do with my collaborative game programming and game design classes where I try to get designer and programmers to collaborate to produce games.

Phew, what an evening, and followed it up with a great-ish burrito - should have ordered the salsa diablo.  Sorry I couldn't make it to "The Boot" for drinks - three young kids and all ... maybe next time - well realistically in about 15 years :-)


brian said...

There is a free account for GameStarMechanic. I wonder if it is any good and how it compares with other free tools.

Sam Joseph said...

Hi Brian, Thanks for pointing that out. I started on it. It's taking me through a comic story about sprites - I just had to play some example games to win sprites. Good for kids I guess but I'd like to go straight to the level editor :-) I'll have another hack through later - maybe use it in my games class next year, although it's age target range is a bit lower than those that I teach ...