Our university game lab is really starting to come together. Next week, we begin our first Game Play Think Tank, where we bring in a gaggle of kids from diverse audiences, teach them to look critically at games and elucidate their opinions, and plumb them for insights on game design targeted at their age range.
The result of this first Think Tank will hopefully be a solid process for helping kids help us analyze games, and a way to package that up for clients or for our own internal user testing. Once we get the process down, we'll start doing actual feedback testing with a lot more kids in an after-school program setting. We have two projects in the pipe for the next Think Tank already : our own pirate-themed food safety game, and a careers game for NASA.
Also, a long-term goal will be to help kids produce some games themselves by teaching them how to use programs like Adobe Photoshop and some easy-to-use game development engines. The goal here is to see what they come up with, make them really good at thinking about game design, get kids doing creative work instead of passive play, and to get them thinking about a possible career in game development.
But first, we have to get everything set up. We've got the game lab painted with hip colors, and we've got a lot of our equipment in place, but we still need to purchase some furniture, consoles, and even more games to round out our little game library. The library itself is rather tiny - my personal library eclipses it - but part of the expansion strategy for the library is to let the kids advise us on the games we absolutely have to have, so we purposefully held back some budget to pick up more games later on.
If you have relatively recent games you would like to donate to our library, or if you're a game developer and you'd like to send us a review copy of your game to include in our kids-as-critics program, please contact me - we'd love to have your game(s)!