Thursday, March 17, 2005


The other day I was given a lesson in motivation by my Year 12 students. I gave them a Game Maker program I had written called Clickball_interactive. The purpose of the exercise was to teach them a new technique, how to draw a flowboard, a non linear design tool for games. I set them the task of reverse engineering my game to produce a flowboard out of it.

Instead of getting on with that some of the students critically analysed my game design from their perspective. It was light hearted but many of the features were described as "crap".

For instance, I had given the player a configuring option where they could set their own background colour or alternatively a tiled image. But once they had set an image, they couldn't go back and reset the colour, the image wouldn't go away. Also if they set the background colour to red then the red writing on the page could no longer be seen.

All of this is happening because I am using Game Maker and games are a medium with which these students feel confident and more or less expert. They are engaged.

From my perspective, I found their light hearted but vigorous criticisms very motivating. That night I spent a fair bit of time going through all their criticisms (I identified seven) and improved the game significantly.

This made me think that if I could help create a similar environment for my students later in the year where they could critically analyse their own games then it's likely that this would be a growth experience for them as well.


Blogger Bill Kerr said...

There has been a lively discussion of this item at the national Game Maker forum

In particular, Margaret Meijers shares her experiences of organising student peer review of games in 2004

2:02 PM  
Blogger Bill Kerr said...

What margaret meijers said at the national game makers forum (I'm putting it here because I think it's really important - the bit about teachers allowing lesson time for students to play each others games):

Last year I got my students to 'rate' and comment on each others games
using an online survey tool. Ratings and comments were often quite
brutally honest (as a teacher I would have been much more diplomatic). I
very quickly learned to insist that they must balance each negative with
a positive comment. This turned out to be very effective as they also
had to look for good points, which for some was quite challenging.

What I found was that as soon as a negative comment appeared the game
creator would rush back to their game and try to rectify it and would
immediately insist that I replaced the old copy of their game on the
server straight away as they had a 'better version'. The positive
comments also resulted in much 'puffing out of chests' and others
picking up on the good ideas to incorporate into their games.

What I have found, however, is reluctance on the part of many teachers
to allow time for playing other students' games. Opportunities need to
be provided both in class and out of class for this. It is really quite
time consuming, but when combined with a requirement for evaluation of
the game involved, it is a most worthwhile activity.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Bill Kerr said...

my motivation sequel:

on friday I showed the students my rewritten game

there was some positive feedback for some of the new features, eg. when they clicked on red a message box came up saying "sorry, red not allowed"

there was also about 3 good new suggestions about how I could further improve the game, eg. in the choice menu I had suggest ball speed of 10 for a difficult game but had not programmed a ceiling on the speed so students could enter a speed greater than 10

but what I notice about my reaction is that my motivation to do the work now is far less than the first time around, even though the suggestions are good ones - the first time it felt like compulsion, nothing else mattered, this time I'll do it if there is time to get around to it

so, it's about me proving myself to both myself and the students - it's NOT so much about making the game as good as it could be

psychologically I'm thinking: I've already proved I can improve it, the students now know I can respond to the challenge, so my current motivation is far less than my response to the initial challenge

hence the motivation is hard to sustain, for me, for my students

another thought:

I want to link this to the theory of intrinsic motivation being developed by Jacob Habgood, based on earlier work by Malone.

this involves categories of individual motivation such as challenge, fantasy, curiosity and control and categories of interpersonal motivation such as co-operation, competition and recognition

8:32 PM  

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