Collaboration is Key in Creating Games That Make Learning Fun

Posted October 13th, 2012 at 2:47 pm (UTC+0)
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Games and applications designed for computers and platforms such as smartphones and tablets have become tools in providing an effective, yet fun way learning experience. (Photo: Jesse Knish Photography for GDC Online via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Games and applications designed for computers and platforms such as smartphones and tablets have become important tools in providing an effective, yet fun learning experience. (Photo: Jesse Knish Photography for GDC Online via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Educators, businesses, public service organizations and media outlets have all discovered that developing and offering a variety of computer and smartphone games and applications is a successful way to engage and communicate with their audiences as well as providing challenging, but entertaining learning opportunities.

The U.N. Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) also sees the growing value and importance that these digital games offer, so they recently launched “Create UNAOC 2012.” It’s a global competition that will award cash prizes to creators and developers of computer games and apps that promote intercultural dialogue and understanding.  The Voice of America is also a partner with the UNAOC for this contest.

With “Create UNAOC 2012″ in mind, more than 20 VOA Journalists, web editors, computer program developers and experts in developing educational games — like Alex Chisholm from the Learning Games Network and Scot Osterweil of the MIT Education Arcade — gathered last Thursday (10/11/12), at VOA headquarters in Washington for something called a “Game Jam.”

A Game Jam is a gathering of people with a variety of backgrounds and skills, along with experts like Chisholm and Osterweil who discuss goals and brainstorms game ideas that would offer an entertaining and fun playing experience, but also provide a unique learning opportunity as well.

The participants in the VOA Game Jam were divided into teams that worked on coming up with new and fresh ideas for games that will be able help VOA effectively communicate and better connect with its ever-changing worldwide audience.

With the Game Jam in full swing, and the participants fully engaged in brainstorming ideas for new games, organizers said that there were at least five or six good ideas for possible game development.

VOA Game Jam participants listen to a presentation on creating effect, yet fun and entertaining games by Scot Osterweil, Creative Director of the MIT Education Arcade and a research director in the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program. (Photo: VOA)

VOA Game Jam participants listen to a presentation by Scot Osterweil, Creative Director of the MIT Education Arcade on how to create games that not only teach but are also entertaining and fun. (Photo: VOA)

The room, where the Game Jam was being held, buzzed with exciting and animated discussion as the participants worked out their ideas, talked about how their games should look, and function as well as what would be needed to make them fun.

Among the some of the game ideas that were discussed was an immigration game, where the player does a little role playing and virtually experiences what an immigrant could face in moving to a new country.  Another, from VOA’s “Learning English,” proposes a fun way to learn the English language.

After last Thursday’s brainstorming session, the proposed games will be evaluated, with the most promising game ideas selected to continue development into a finished product that will be made available to the VOA audience.

With the Voice of America broadcasting in more than 40 languages, the games selected to be developed could be produced in a number of different languages.  But since it represents VOA’s largest web audience, it’s probable that several of the games will be in English.

While developing and producing a finished game product is an involved process, it’s hoped that it will take about two to three months to develop and produce a finished game. The first games could be released sometime in early 2013.

If you’re 13 or older, you too can take part in the “Create UNAOC 2012″ and be eligible for a nice cash prize.  Just visit the Create UNAOC 2012 website for more information.  Keep in mind, though, that you’ve got only to the end of November to get your entry in for this contest.

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