Game Review: Superfight

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 3.32.38 PMLast Thursday, the Pittsburgh office Zulama team’s game lunch resulted in hilarity. We chose to play the game Superfight with the core 500-card deck.

There are two card types: characters and powers. We came across a wide variety of characters, from a Samurai, to an Emperor Penguin, to a Girl scout. The characters were all paired with equally interesting “powers,” from superglue with a firehose, to a  glitter shooter, to the pope-mobile. In our short two-round game, we found endless amusing combinations.

While there are many ways to play Superfight, we decided to use an individual judging method. In our gameplay, two players from our group randomly chose a character card and a power card. With the other members listening, they debated the outcome of a battle between the two characters for approximately three minutes. By strengthening our reasoning skills, we were able to find logic within the illogical, silly scenarios and present arguments to convince our listeners why certain characters would win in the contest. Once the debaters’ three minutes were up, the listeners had a minute to discuss the arguments and decide the outcome of the battle. After playing, our Pittsburgh team discussed the possible ways to play Superfight, from team to tournament style, in addition to the recommended four gameplay types. There seems to us no one-way to play this game; rather, it can be easily modified to fit any size group or setting.

To create additional challenges, expansion packs are available that include locations and different themes. Who would win if a glitter-shooting Pikachu fought an emotional George Foreman while riding a rollercoaster? I would be interested in seeing the orange deck that specifically references sci-fi and fantasy trivia (Anyone want to see Martha Stewart armed with the One Ring battle Spock who is trapped inside a giant hamster wheel?), or the purple deck that adds an extra something to your scenarios (are you ready for a contest on a floor made of lava?).

There are some power cards that may not be suitable for all classrooms. The game is centered around fighting (some power cards involve “knife throwing,” “armed with nunchucks,” etc.). However, these violent cards can be removed from your deck, leaving the silly power cards to be used, including “afraid of their own shadow” and “drank five energy drinks.” To further remove violence, the rules advocate for changing the purpose of the debate from who would win a battle to who is the funniest or would be a better nanny. You can even decide who might make the better plumber: a racoon who is really good at parkour or King Kong who can fly at the speed of molasses? There are many ways to make Superfight appropriate for any classroom.

With the endless possibilities available with this game, students could make their own versions to enhance their classroom knowledge. How interesting would it be to play a game like this in a History class (In a contest between Alexander the Great and Napoleon, who might win?), or in an English class (Which character is more idealistic: Don Quixote or Jane Bennet?)?

Though it was one of the most amusing games I’ve ever played, as a group, we decided we might not want to play Superfight all the time; location and audience factor into the enjoyment of gameplay. However, we all agreed we would love to play this game in the future and it would be great in an educational setting!

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Games=Serious Learning

By Bev Vaillancourt, Editorial Director

Conferences. A great place to network with other professionals and find out about the latest innovations – a place where creative intelligence is shared and inspired. This summer’s GLS (Games +Learning + Society) conference held at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and the Serious Play conference held at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, were perfect examples of this energized environment.

The game industry certainly is all-a-glow with designs that meet the interest of every gamer. Of particular relevance to me are games created for education. I was thrilled with what I saw coming from designers in the United States and abroad at both the GLS and Serious Play conferences. One game at the 2015 GLS conference that caught my particular interest, and garnered top honors, was “Czechoslovakia 1938 — 1989” created by game designers in Czechoslovakia. It portrays key moments in Czechoslovakia’s history through simulations and actual interviews, immersing players in history through the lens of oral history. Games such as Schell Game’s “Water Bears EDU,” a 3D puzzle game meant for grades 6 – 8 that won top honors at the 2015 Serious Play Conference, fosters systems thinking. “Happy Atoms,” another Schell Game currently in production, and the recipient of a $1M grant from the Department of Education, teaches molecular chemistry. I had the opportunity to experience the working prototype of this game, and I guarantee it’s going to spark quite a bit of high level interest in chemistry as kids build, identify, and learn about molecules within the joy of discovery.

I consider these professionally made games and think about what our Zulama students are creating as part of their game design courses for core subjects like history and science, and I marvel at their creativity and depth of knowledge. As Greg Toppo states in his insightful book, The Game Believes in You, games “consider how the parts of a system work together, how one decision affects another, and how everything affects the whole.”

For example, Zulama students at Elizabeth Forward High School in Pennsylvania created games for advance courses in math, history, and science. Zulama students at Harmony High School in Florida, created a game that queries and reinforces science concepts needed to successfully pass the AP Environmental Science test. The students used the computer programming skills they gained by taking Zulama’s Entertainment Technology courses, and worked as design teams, to build games that required them to dive into content not bound by a course assignment, and then shared the games they built with teachers within their school and beyond. What incredible learning and educational outreach.

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 9.42.31 AMCreated by Zulama students at Elizabeth Forward High School, Elizabeth, PA

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Created by Zulama students at Harmony High School, Osceola, Florida.

Over the past month I’ve had the great privilege of working with new Zulama teachers in Massachusetts, Maine, and in southwestern New York. These high powered and creative educators are the first teachers in their states to bring Zulama to their classrooms. They join Zulama teachers in several other states that share the delightful challenge of engaging students in systems thinking, problem solving, team collaboration, iteration, and a deep investment in content knowledge through creative game design. Here students meet the standards through application of knowledge in an interest driven learning environment, assessed authentically through production of a game, created by a design team. It’s education that matters to kids.

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Educators in CABOCES, Olean, NY, with a mod of Nine Man Morris
Cattaraugus – Allegany BOCES

How to creatively merge Zulama’s Entertainment Technology curricula with existing curricula was a common topic of discussion among these new schools offering Zulama’s courses to their students.  Because Zulama’s courses become cornerstones of high interest learning for so many kids, teachers and administrators want to maximize course availability.  Moreover, given Zulama’s dual credit articulation agreements with several Art Institutes across the United States, advance learning and newly considered careers in the game industry are doors of opportunity waiting for students to kick open.  With that in mind, figuring out where and how to infuse Zulama’s courses into existing school offerings in an immediate way always becomes a lively and focused discussion among educators.

In most states Zulama’s courses are offered as electives. However, schools in New York can use courses that focus on computer science, such as Zulama’s GameMaker Programming and Unity 3D Programming courses, as core math or science courses, instead of electives that students have to somehow fit into an already packed day. This is an exciting and proactive approach that recognizes the high-level math skills and inquiry-based problem solving required to be successful in applying computer science skills in a game design environment.

Some teachers are combining their history or science courses with Evolution of Games or Game Design. Here students’ high interest in games ignites investment in the content presented in their textbooks and drives student-led research into other print and Internet-based sources. Other schools are using Zulama’s new 15 – 20 hour “short courses,” such as Coding with GameMaker, Storytelling in Games, and Games from American History, as after school offerings or as high interest catalysts infused into core curriculum courses such as algebra or literature.

What’s a game? At its core a game is a problem to solve. A game defines fun as a challenge enveloped by flow – that golden point in time where time stands still. Games provide an opportunity to immerse oneself in an educational experience within a social context that is welcoming, built by a culture of encouragement to try and try again until success is attained. Game design and game-based education need to lead, not follow, in our schools. It’s the power of positive change driven by design and collaboration. It’s students tackling real world problems through the application of meaningful learning within the context of challenges set forth in a game. It simply works.

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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.  Two 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!

Coding a GirlyThing

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!

Gender Connection

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