By Beverly Vaillancourt
As a high school game design student, what would it be like to have a game designed by you showcased at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.? Pretty awesome!
That’s exactly what happened for Zulama students from Elizabeth Forward High School in Pennsylvania and Harmony High School in Florida on January 18, 2016. Games designed by teams from both schools were chosen from several games created last September as part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sponsored climate game jam. The games joined those created by professional game designers and university students showcased at the Smithsonian for museum visitors to play. Three students, Alex Winter, Josh Turner, Scott McAlpine, from Elizabeth Forward, along with teachers Mary Wilson and Alexis Dombrowsky, made the trip to Washington, D.C. to set up their game and watch gamers of all ages playtest it. Museum staff estimated some 600 people visited the two-level game showcase during the afternoon hours. Talk about the ultimate playtest experience!
Unable to make the trip, Harmony High School students sent their game to the Smithsonian for the showcase. Several young gamers admired the art and the complexity of the game. While Azure Skies, the board game created by Harmony High School students, certainly is an excellent example of a board game prototype, several young players commented on what a good digital game it could be, as well. Their comments are a window in the game design process as game ideas move from paper prototype to digital game.
For Zulama students to be part of the Smithsonian event certainly speaks to their high level game design skills and ability to work effectively as a design team. It also speaks to the investment of their talented teachers who inspire and facilitate student interest in deepening game design knowledge. Zulama congratulates both teams on their success and hopes they use the feedback received from the Washington D.C. showcase to continue to develop their games. NOAA has offered to host both Elizabeth Forward’s and Harmony’s games on the NOAA website featuring science games. That’s quite the pat on the back for these young game designers!
Building on the success of last September’s climate game jam, an early Spring game jam is being planned by NOAA for high school students across the county. Information about the game jam will be shared in a coming newsletter. It’s hoped that several Zulama students participate in the Spring game jam. It’s quite the experience for students to come together as a design team and develop a game prototype in the short span of a school day. The pride of accomplishment was quite evident with three talented game design students from Elizabeth Forward High School who saw their game from the perspective of players new to their game through the showcase experience. The feedback that was shared was an incredibly valuable and a deeply important learning experience for them.
The glass globe given to the winning high school teams from Elizabeth Forward and Harmony by NOAA and the Smithsonian are as valued as any school sports trophy. Zulama applauds their efforts and the efforts of all students who took part in last September’s game jam.