Designing computer games with Kodu!

Designing computer games with Kodu! 

This is a guest blog from Mr James Jenkins, Director of Digital Pedagogy at Canterbury College, who has been using Kodu Game Lab with his students to create games on the Microsoft platform.

“Early last term the STEM team at Canterbury College Junior school decided to run a STEM day to occur in the last week of school.  For this day all the Year groups in P – 6 would spend the day working on some kind of STEM project. As part of this, Year 5 students were to participate in a computer game design project.

After looking at several game design options, we chose to use Microsoft’s Kodu Game design lab. This tool would allow students to appreciate the game design experience, from creating a location and customising characters, to creating the story and rules for the game. They would also need to learn how to code the characters and events.

We ran the Game Design Day in our new Digital Hub. Which is a bookable space in the College where students can work on Digital projects. To get them in the mood we themed the area with game design ideas on many of our screens, and had an arcade game soundtrack pumping from the speakers.

After a brief introduction to the ideas behind game design and a look at how games have evolved over the decades, it was time for the students to start work.

We hadn’t run a session like this before and weren’t sure how the students would react to it.

Firstly, students in small groups brainstormed their game ideas. Some of these were certainly creative. They then used tools within Kodu to design the area to be used for the game play. As well as the type of surface, mountains and valleys could be added. Other additions such as water or lava could be added to customise the terrain.

The next step was to add objects to the scenes. Kodu gives a good range of different objects that can be incorporated into the games. Once an object is in a scene it can be programmed. This is where some of our students really excelled. Their ideas really came to life when they created objects that could be controlled by the person playing the game. Other game characters could be programmed to move randomly, chase the main character or eat other objects etc.

As part of the process we set up a student run help board. If a student was unsure of how to do a particular thing, they could post a question to the board. If someone else knew the answer, they would find the person in need to help them. The original question would then be moved to the Questions Solved part of the board along with the names of both people. Anyone else with a similar issue now had multiple people they could go to for help. It worked really well as a way of collaborative problem solving.

The variety of games produced by the students was impressive. There were 2 player racing games and games where the player had to complete a track without bumping into enemies. There were games where characters accumulated points when eating hidden apples, and games where fish were being caught in a pond.

The best thing about the day was that all the students were engaged in what they were doing. Having them working in groups meant that they could each contribute to various parts of the process. The students that like to design, could create the landscape and the look of the characters. Those that are more interested in programming the events excelled in that component of the project. Some students loved playing the games as they were being built to look for issues, and then propose solutions.

The students and staff involved were very pleased with the results that could be achieved using Kodu in one day. Especially considering many of the students had no experience with creating games. Not all groups finished their games, but as they all saved their progress, they can go back and work on them whenever they want.

As a learning experience the Game design day was certainly a success. The students engaged in using many of the 21st Century skills that we want to facilitate. During the day they were showing their creativity. They were working collaboratively and communicating in and between their groups in an effective way. They were using Higher order thinking skills to solve problems and turn their ideas into a finished product.

We were very happy with how the day went and the learning that took place. We are now looking to expand on this success for the next STEM Day.

Exciting times ahead….”

Mr James Jenkins
Director of Digital Pedagogy 
Canterbury College

About James: James is the Director of Digital Pedagogy at Canterbury College in Queensland. He also manages the College’s Interactive Digital Hub. This space is used by classes and extra-curricular groups for a range of digital learning experiences. As well as Game design the IDH is used for Mixed reality, 3D scanning and printing, robotics, coding, Skyping, and creating with a range of digital tools

Microsoft run the Kodu Game Lab. If you are interested in designing games, you can use this website to enhance your learning!

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