Last Tuesday I taught a district PD class on Building Interactive Digital Games. I realized I was sharing so many different things, so quickly, to make sure we fit everything in within the hour time frame, that it may have been a whirlwind for many of the participants, so I decided to write it out, make it easier to follow, so that anyone can make it themselves!
Where do you start?
With so many tiny steps, it seems like it could be anywhere, but for me, it starts with a simple question where any good lesson plan begins: What do you want your kids to get out of this?
Obviously you want them to communicate, collaborate, problem solve, and demonstrate resilience through multiple challenges. What content do you want to center this game around? That content will be your guide. Pick 3 or 4 key details you want to build the rest of your game.
I then move to a simple table like this to help me build.
I can change the locks to fit whatever I need. This is just a standard BreakOut Edu planning page. For example: for a game I built on changing states of matter, I have an “atomic lock”, a “solids”, “liquids”, and “gasses” lock as well.
Step 2: Decide Your Answers
Once you have decided what the topic is and what the most important things your students ought to remember are going to be, it is time to pick your lock answers. Now I am narrowing the topics (atoms, solids, liquids, gasses) into some very specific ideas. I wanted kids to know about melting points and changes of that matter, so I pick specific terms and numbers that will focus on changes in states of matter. I pick my 3-5 answers. I don’t need the clues yet, just know your answers.
Step 3: Determine Your Resources
Where are your kids getting their information? Using YouTube, Google Arts and Culture, Slides presentations, articles, letters, primary resources, or whatever else, you can create a scenario where your students review a significant amount of information while focusing their critical reading/viewing skills on the information what will eventually become your clues.
If a YouTube video is long, use a editing tool like EdPuzzle. You can also use EdPuzzle to focus people’s attention on details or add a hint/clue.
Once you know what your resources are going to be for students to find the content, you are FINALLY ready to start creating your story.
Step 4: Tell a Story
This step will be broke up into some smaller parts to help make it simpler.
It is time to create the story. Your story includes the premise for the game. Mine usually involve some outrageously odd super villain that likes to steal candy. Whatever you decide is the premise, remember, it doesn’t have to be amazing. Most of the stories I have made are absurd or absurdly bad. The point is your story can help you frame your clues. Your clues should be a part of the story with information missing that leads them to a specific part of the resources you’ve shared. Again, it isn’t about making it an amazing story, just guiding kids toward the information and making them read and think critically about the information they are consuming.
Decide your platform:
Do you want to create a simple Google Form (this is the simplest way.) Here is how:
- Add your clue
- Click on the three small dots (the snowman) next to where it says “required” and select “Data Validation”
- Numbers must be set to Equal to, Text should be set to “contains” and you must input a custom Error text. This would be a good place to add an extra hint.
- Make sure you select “Required”
- Click the two lines on the far right (looks like an equal sign) to add a new section. If you do it this way, players must complete each lock in sequence.
Embed Everything into a Site:
- Start by creating a new Site in Google Sites. If this sounds crazy or too hard, just go to sites.google.com and click “create new” and blank template.
- Give your site a name.
- Click on the pencil to edit your new site.
- Click on the “insert” tab and add a Google Form. The form you add should have been made the same way as above, only you don’t NEED to create sections. This will allow players to shift from one question to another if they get stuck.
- When you insert pictures into your site, click on them and you will see a link. (This is the link to the web address for the picture.) You can then click “change” and add your own link, or select the tab that lets you choose your own sites and link it to different pages on your site.
- Add pages with resource content. To add videos you may need to insert a “gadget”. If you click on insert and select “more gadgets” you need the iFrame gadget, then when you click on “share” from YouTube or EdPuzzle, choose “embed code” and add it to your site.
- Take off the NAVIGATION BAR! This is simple. Save all your work in Sites and then click on the settings gear. Select “Edit Site Layout” and then click on the navigation bar and find the X to get rid of it. It will look like the image below.
You can get as fancy or as simplistic with your site as you would like. What is most important is that your game players have the opportunity access all the materials.
In the most recent games I have made I have been getting a bit more creative with the endings. Many digital games do not require any physical box to open. I have found kids really like opening the box, even if the game is all online. What does this mean? It means I leave clues in different languages, hide the lock combination in blacklight marker, hide a bitly link or QR Code for them to find, or any other type of misdirection. It isn’t necessary, but it does add a little fun to the game for both you and them.
Play Your Game!
I cannot stress this enough. Play the game as a player. Even have someone else try it. I have learned from experience that if you don’t actually try the game out, it can very quickly show your mistakes while kids are working in the room. There is nothing more frustrating for kids than getting the answers to the riddle correct but the lock doesn’t “open”. Once you have done all the work (It looks like a lot more than it is) than you just test it out (it’s easy, you know the answers already.) You are not ready to share this game with kids. A link to the Form or Site you created will be more than enough.
Finally, Have FUN! During the game, walk around and listen, observe, give Hints as teams request them (I typically allow each team 1 per game) and enjoy the engagement and excitement of the activity.
Additional Note: The more you play games, the better you get at them and the more great ideas you will start having to create fantastic, engaging learning experiences for anyone.