Library helps local youth learn to design video games

Last fall we wrote about the Independence (KS) Public Library and the Scratch programming classes they were offering for kids ages 8-12. Last Tuesday, the library once again provided its community with an opportunity to learn to be digital creators. They hosted a 4 hour video game design workshop. Game industry pros from E-Line Media! traveled to the small town to provide a workshop for 30 middle and high school students.  The event was made possible because of the National STEM Video Game Challenge and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The National STEM Video Game Challenge

Inspired by the Educate to Innovate Campaign, President Obama’s initiative to promote a renewed focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education, the National STEM Video Game Challenge is a multi-year competition whose goal is to motivate interest in STEM learning among America’s youth by tapping into students’ natural passion for playing and making video games. Middle and high school students are encouraged to submit original game designs for the opportunity to earn recognition and prizes for themselves, as well as prizes for their schools. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is partnering with the National STEM Video Game Challenge to foster the role libraries can play in helping youth learn game design.

The Workshop at the Independence Public Library

The Independence Public Library hosted a game design workshop to help students gain skills necessary to participate in the challenge.

The goals of the workshop were: 

  • Familiarize students with the elements of game systems:
    • Introducing games as systems made up of components that work together to create a fun, challenging experience for the player.    
    •  Introducing goals, rules, space, components, and mechanics. 
  • Introduce various roles and responsibilities of team members in the game creation process (e.g. designers, programmers, artists, etc.) 
  • Allow students to design both simple digital and physical games. 
  • Introduce the concept of the iterative game design cycle (Design>Test>Receive Feedback>Analyze Data>Iterate.)

Game industry pros from E-Line Media! traveled to Independence to lead the workshop. They used IPL’s computer lab, which staff bulked up by deploying all the laptops normally reserved for patron checkouts and program presenters.  Apart from the rearrangement of the lab space to create double the usual number work stations--all of which was handled by John Long, IPL’s resident tech ninja--set-up was minimal.  Staff did not have to load any special software prior to the event. When asked about E-Line Media’s fees, IPL staff member Mike Hall replied, “E-line media paid for the whole thing:  their staff's travel expenses, the food for the event, all of it.  All we had to do was provide a good space for the workshop, demonstrate a commitment to making the event happen, and then market it effectively to bring in as many kids as we could accommodate.”

During the workshop, students and educators received an introduction to game design and learned about the elements of game systems. They completed a number of hands-on, physical game design exercises resulting in the making and modifying of simple, real-world games. They designed an original digital game using Gamestar Mechanic. They completed and shared digital games with the other workshop participants. They also played the games created by other participants and delivered and received feedback. They then had time to go back and improve their game designs. Students were encouraged to submit their games to the National STEM Video Game Challenge for an opportunity to earn recognition and prizes (laptops and game design software)! 

Commenting on the success of the event, Mike Hall says,

"The kids were incredibly excited both before and after the workshop.  We marketed the event as a rare, even once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this area, and as such the kids came ready to dive in and make the most of it.  They were genuinely engaged, and the enthusiasm in the room was palpable.  Michael and Ian, the designers from E-Line, were really impressed by the group's energy level, participation, and collaborative spirit.


Want to host a workshop at your library?

Interested in hosting a game design workshop? There’s a mentor resource kit for museums and libraries. There’s a resource guide that includes information to help with planning, organizing and conducting youth game design workshops, with a sample workshop agenda.

Other Resources:

Slides from Teaching Youth Game Design IMLS webinar