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Okay, so the first task I found to be necessary, particularly for middle school students, was making the connections obvious between the lessons learned in Gamestar Mechanic and students' experience in Portal 2. As a prerequisite for beginning the Portal Project in my class, students must earn the Apprentice Badge in GameStar Mechanic. As a part of this badge, students have the opportunity to analyze the 5 elements of game design as a system, evaluate games for balance (flow), participate in the iteration feedback loop, and consider end user experience. I wanted to extend this experience to Portal 2. Steam for Schools is quite limited in that it provides no method for sharing projects between students or community for students. In order to provide some opportunity for community, I've had to use blogging and Edmodo. First, I require students to blog throughout the project during play and Test Chamber creation. Students may blog as an analysis of game play (focusing on the 5 Elements) or as fanfiction from the perspective of Chell.
- Analyzing the Core Design Elements of the Prologue and Courtesy Call, using the questions (mostly from Gamestar) below.
- “What did you do in the game?” (mechanics: jumping, collecting)
- “How do you win the game?” (goal)
- “What are the rules of the game?”
- “Describe the game space.” (open, narrow pathways, maze-like)
- "Consider the dynamics of being able to make your own portals. How does the game guide you to a solution?"
- or a Fanfiction accounting of their adventure as Chell in this first part of the game.
Experience, Challenge, & Complexity
Again, I'm returning to GameStar Mechanic because my students began this journey there. The Introductory Quest, Addison Joins the League, introduces the five elements piece by piece, giving players increasing degrees of creative responsibility until they have a repertoire of sprites, backgrounds, and other tools as well as a license to publish.
The core mechanics available in the Puzzle Creator are overwhelming. In order to avoid having students create unplayable or simply confusing test chambers, I decided to use the model, explained above. I limit the elements that students can use in each test chamber they create, based upon where they are in the game. For example, after playing the Prologue and Courtesy call, students can create a chamber using only the following elements:
Iteration & FeedbackNow we need an engine for iteration and feedback. There is no way for students to share their chambers with the community online, and there is no built in forums for steam. Currently, I have found that the most efficient means for this to take place is the blogs the students are already using. I have the students blog about the process of creation. What tools did they use? What was their core mechanic? They must include some screenshots. of their chamber in their blog post. Then, the students get someone to play the test chamber and review it in a comment on under the blog post. In order to guide the reviewing process, I provided this rubric, I decided to make it one to four "companion cubes" instead of "thumbs up" or "stars" for thematic fun.
Another option would be to use Edmodo to accomplish this task. I've even had students, who are averse to writing, screencast their chamber and reviews, using Screencastomatic, and embed it in their blog or Edmodo post.