Game of the Month: Dixit

This week’s game was Dixit, an award winning, family game whose game pieces are beautifully illustrated and engaging.  If you are looking for a fun game that will spark creative storytelling and test your vocabulary skills, this is the game for you!

Designed by Jean-Louis- Roubira, illustrated by Marie Cardouat, and published by Libellud, this game is a delight to play, though a little complex.  There are many ways to earn point on your quest to be the first to 30, however with so many ways to score sometimes the enjoyment gets lost.Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 12.39.29 PM

Similar to Apples to Apples, this game involves creativity, innovation, and a bit of collaboration.  In this game the active player (or team as we played it) selects a card from the hand and creates a clue.  Other players look at their cards and selects one that fits best with the clue.  Then, all cards are slid face down to the active player who shuffles them and places them face up along the board.  Players look at the card and secretly choose the one they think belongs to the active player.  Their secret choice is revealed and points are awarded.

The game is suggested for ages 8+.  While this is possible, we decided that 8 might be too young to get the full effect of the game.  Middle school aged students and adults might get the most benefit from this creative and aesthetically pleasing game.  We would not suggest playing in teams as we did.  As we were all sitting in the same room, collaborating for ideas without other players hearing was extremely difficult.

One of our suggestions is to add a timer.  The Zulama staff tends to be very competitive and we took a long time trying to think of creative, but not too obscure clues for our cards.  We probably doubled the estimated time of 30 minutes.  So, adding a timer would be beneficial.

We also suggest checking out this game for writing activities.  The game includes 84 beautiful and creative cards that can easily be used as writing prompts or story ideas.  They even offer additional card decks to use when the enchantment of the originals wears off.

Overall, a bit complex, but visually stunning.  Definately a game to play more than once!

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Crossing Borders Through Games

By Sarah Avery, Zulama Community Advocate, Educator

With our global economy and game industry, it’s important that our students are provided the chance to improve their skills and shine.  And they are! Through a variety of innovative initiatives, both through Zulama classes and other technological projects, students are given opportunities to code, design, build, and create, even at the global scale!

Today teachers are expanding their classroom beyond national borders.  Take a look at the following video.  You’ll see students at the Qingddao Amerasia International School connect with Dan Geisler, award winning designer, through a video conference.  During that conference students were able to learn about the industry and the design process from across the world.

In addition to classroom conference calls, many students are able to cross cultural bonds in higher education while studying something they love. Centered in Barcelona, leading game design companies, Digital Legends, Crytek, Ubisoft Barcelona and King collaborate on the new Bachelor’s Degree in Video Game Design and Development taught 100 percent in English at the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya.

Students from across the world, joined by a common language, are able to come together and collaborate on games while learning valuable industry skills at this university.

Holly from edTechTeacher writes an article titled, Five Amazing Ways to Collaborate With Another Class, where she provides examples of ways to widen the education reach of your classroom, not just with games.  Examples include project collaboration through google docs, video conferences, cross culture blogging, and more.

For some ideas on how to connect with classrooms around the world, check out Fractus Learning’s article, 5 Great Tools to Make Global Classroom Connections. Many of the examples provided are similar to pen-pal letters on steroids, thanks to the invention of social media!

As a final recommendation, if you are looking to connect with game design professionals, I suggest sending an email to ask. Consider the possibilities when students researched companies to connect with and wrote professional introduction and invitation emails to those companies?  Through organizing the google hangouts I have found that it never hurts to ask.  Sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised by who is interested in sharing their knowledge and experience, especially for the sake of education.

In coming weeks we will be joined by professionals, directors, and students in our next hangout, The Global Games Industry.  During this hangout we’ll be discussing topics ranging from concerns of an indie developer to global diversity and originality.  We would love to have you join us and tweet in comments and questions to @ZulamaLearn.  It will definitely be time well spent!

Until then, please enjoy some of our past hangouts:

Awkward Family Photos

This week’s lunchtime game was Awkward Family Photos.   Based on a popular website and a New York Times best-selling book, Awkward Family Photos promises to have players in stitches!  As the game advertises, some pictures truly are worth a thousand laughs!

Game play begins by flipping over a photo card, rolling the 20-sided die, and reading aloud the corresponding question. Questions like “If your friend found this photo in your wallet, what explanation would you give for owning it?” and “What celebrity would be a great addition to this photo?” lead to some hilariously absurd answers!

Awkward Family PhotoAll players, except the roller, writes down an answer. Answer sheets are collected and read aloud by the player to the right of the roller. The roller then picks a favorite answer and tries to guess which player said which answer.  The player who wrote the favorite answer places one of their five chips on the board. If the roller matches two or more answers correctly, the roller also places a chip on the board.  The first player with five chips on the board wins!

Everyone at Zulama had a blast playing Awkward Family Photos, definitely a great game to enjoy with friends or your fun-loving (sometimes awkward) co-workers!

 

 

awkward family photo chart

 

 

Coding: Definitely a Girl Thing

By Sarah Avery, Zulama Community Advocate, Educator 

Traditionally the video game industry has been seen as a “boys club;” however, this is changing.  With almost half of gamers being female and the number of female game programmers doubling since 2009, the fight for gender equality in the video game industry is gathering force.  This movement begins with our students.

There are many opportunities out of the classroom for girls to become involved in gaming, including Girls Who Code, iD Tech, Girls Make Games, and more.  At these programs, female students bond with their peers over their love of gaming and coding without fear of judgement.

Fort Cherry School District, uses the Hummingbird technology from Birdbrain, a Pittsburgh based technology education company, to get students interested in programming and coding through their after school Fashion Bots program.  Even at the elementary level, Fort Cherry is actively engaging girls through the building and crafting aspect of the technology.  The Hummingbird Technology, based on Carnegie Mellon’s CREATE Lab, is a robotics kit designed to enable engineering and robotics activities that involve the making of robots, kinetic sculptures, and animatronics built out of a combination of kit parts and crafting materials. As hands-on projects, students design, build, and program robots.  Fort Cherry has found that the crafting and design aspect of the Hummingbirds immediately draws in girls who then learn to love coding.

Along with classroom and camp opportunities, there are many scholarships available for female students with coding skills.  Check out the video below for the Kode with Karlie Scholarship.

Karlie Kloss, fashion model and ballerina encourages girls to join her at the Flatiron School for a summer coding session.

Karlie Kloss, after building a career modeling, discovered her love of coding.  With her passion, she has offered a scholarship to young middle and high school women to help them realize their dreams using coding.  To apply for her scholarships, students were required to make a youtube video explaining why coding is important to them and how they would use their new knowledge.  Three of these applications can be seen below.

 

“We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”Marie Curie

How have you encouraged your students to work with coding? Comment below!

The Gender Connection: Girls and Gaming

By Sarah Avery, Zulama Community Advocate, Educator

Women in the video industry? Growing at a fast pace!

Girls learning coding and loving it? Absolutely!

The 2013 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry report produced by the Entertainment Software Association found that nearly 46% of gamers are female, much larger than commonly thought. Aside from just buying and playing games, in the past few years women have been working their way towards acceptance in the video game industry as well.  In 2014, GameSpot discussed the International Game Developer’s Association (IGDA) Game Developer’s Satisfaction Survey where they found that the percentage of women developers had doubled since the preceding year, coming to 22%.

Yet, there is a long way to go.

In 2014, a hashtag, #GamerGate, took the media by storm.  #GamerGate began in the summer of 2014 through the online attack of videogame programmer, Zoe Quinn, for developing Depression Quest, a text-based game designed to discuss her struggles with depression.  Before this, anonymous players advanced on other targets, such as Anita Sarkeesian, Canadian gamer and analyst who created a project with which to look at games through a feminist lense.  These two women, and more, were hacked, had their reputations smeared, and even received death threats, all for being women in the video game industry. To learn more about #GamerGate visit Gawer’s article What is Gamergate, and Why? An Explanation for Non-Geeks.

“Feminist Frequency” creator Anita Sarkeesian weighs in on the Gamergate controversy and the pervasiveness of sexism in video games.

 

In addition to these anonymous attacks, the amount and quality of female representation in games themselves is very low.  Often, if women are shown in games, they are either extremely unrealistic, barely covered, or both.

Lara Croft is arguably the gaming world’s most recognizable female character. HalloweenCostume.com looks back at the visual evolution of both the in-game and promotional design of this icon.

 

One 12 year old girl, Maddie Messer, decided that this lack of women in games wasn’t fair, so she began a survey to look at women in games. She discovered that “in a lot of video games, the default character is a guy. If you want to play as a female character, it’s not easy. Often you have to pay…. Maddie decided to test her claim with a research project. She downloaded the 50 most popular games in the same category as  her favorite game, Temple Run. She counted up how many offered female characters and how much they cost. And she handwrote her results on a spreadsheet.  Out of the 50 games, 37 offered free male characters. Just five offered free female characters” (Henn, “A 12-Year-Old Girl Takes On The Video Game Industry“).

So, Maddie decided to write an article to the Washington Post, highlighting her findings. She found in her survey of 50 games, “18 percent had characters whose gender was not identifiable (i.e., potatoes, cats or monkeys). Of the apps that did have gender-identifiable characters, 98 percent offered boy characters. What shocked [her] was that only 46 percent offered girl characters. Even worse, of these 50 apps, 90 percent offered boy characters for free, while only 15 percent offered girl characters for free.” She also found that “when an app did sell girl characters, it charged on average $7.53, which is a lot in the world of apps,” considering she paid on average $0.26 per app. “In other words, girl characters cost about 29 times more than the cost of the apps themselves” (Messer, “I’m a 12-Year-Old Girl. Why Don’t the Characters in my Apps Look Like Me?”).

After reading her article, the creators of Temple Run were surprised to find that, though there were women on staff, no one saw the problem Maddie had seen.  In response, they are creating a free female avatar for players to use. Maddie saw something the creators had not: unfair misrepresentation of females in games.  When 46% of gamers are female, it makes sense that the representation of females should also be about 50%.

Maddie brought this inequality to the forefront just as Anita and Zoe before her, and there are countless others who have done the same.  By bringing gender inequality within games to light, they are working toward leveling the playing field (pun intended).  These strong and intelligent women working in the gaming industry will foster games in which women will be positive role models for girls and young women who play games.  Only through acceptance of others, challenging the status quo, and discussing gender equality can we, with them, help change the world.

Check out AAUW.org’s article “7 Teacher Resources that Address Gender Equality” and myjewishlearning.com’s article “10 Ways you can Promorte Gender Equality in your Local School” for more ways to discuss gender equality in your classroom.

 

How have you promoted gender equality in your classroom? Comment below!

 

Henn, Steve. “A 12-Year-Old Girl Takes on the Video Game Industry.” NPR, 8 Apr. 2015. Web. 26 May 2015
Messer, Madeline. “I’m a 12-Year-Old Girl. Why Don’t the Characters in my Apps Look Like Me?” Washington Post,4 March. 2015. Web. 26 May 2015