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Motivating a Teenage Boy

The Game Design class ended on a Friday with the team pleading for more time to finish the game on their own until it was posted. The challenge was accepted and I gave them a new deadline of the following Wednesday if they wanted to work on their own.  And work they did! Over 30 more hours into debugging and trouble shooting to make their game Changing Oliver’s Life for a local Pittsburgh Homeless Service called Outreached Arms.

You can play through their final game and watch a short film about the project at their website Debugging was a problem when they combined games and the grids from one didn’t fit over the grid from another.  One coordinate at a time needed moved.  Another creative solution came about when Steve (a visiting student from Shanghai High School) suggested a remake of Tetris, where the objective is to build, not delete rows.  He randomized the row placement and made a challenging game (you have to play through to the point that Oliver chooses the dish “Get Housing” at Outreached Arms).

What was the secret sauce?

+ PURPOSE:  The project was one they believed in (they went to Outreached Arms and met some of the homeless, including one, a college graduate and Texas football player named Oliver).  The project had the potential to change real lives or at least bring awareness and contributions to people with boots on the ground really helping the homeless.

+ AUTONOMY:  Their names were associated with this, but they also worked as a team.  This type of project is seen as something to make them stand out on a college or scholarship application.  They were able to complete and take ownership of their individual part (listen to Bob’s description in the video of the pride he felt completing his part), oversee the incorporation of each part into the whole, and create the quotes and description of themselves for the website.

+ MASTERY:  Thank you to Jesse Schell for the Art of Game Design cards that helped them incorporate elements of good game design. Using Scratch (or any open sourced platform) has the advantage of grabbing code from another person’s project and tweaking it to make it your own. It is a great way to introduce advanced programming concepts in a short time frame and to teach someone to be an independent learner.  That allowed for students to go home and continue to build.

I am pasting the game and video below.  I encourage you to open and make comments to encourage these amazing kids.

If you are looking for a meaningful project made possible that your child can participate in, fill out the survey for the Fall 2017 G-MITE Camp offerings.  CLICK TO TAKE SURVEY  or consider applying for a Research Fellowship and have your child lead a team in a game design project  RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP APPLICATIONS.

And yes, at this game design class I was asking, where are the girls!



The game requires Flash, so you need to be at a computer to play.
​If the link below doesn’t work, visit the Scratch website to play:  Changing Oliver’s Life


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