Category: education

p5.play

I just released p5.play, a javascript library for the creation of games and playthings. It’s still a beta but it includes features that are common to most 2D games: Sprites with animation support, collision detection and resolution (limited to Axis Aligned Bounding Boxes and circles for now), a camera and functions to facilitate mouse and keyboard input.
The library is built with accessibility – not performance – in mind and tries to not be “opinionated” in terms of how a video game is supposed to work, something that is easier to say than to implement.

P5.play is an add-on to p5.js, which is in turn a spin-off / spiritual successor of Processing, a popular tool among creative coders and educators. I’m looking forward to adopt p5.js in my courses at CMU and happy to be finally contributing to an open source project.

Check p5.play here

Experimental Game Design – Critical Playthings


This year’s installment of my undergraduate course Experimental Game Design went really well. Students designed non-digital games (outdoor and tabletop) for the first half of the semester and worked on digital projects for the second half. You can find course materials here, and downloadable final projects in the student area, mostly Mac only.

Experimental Game Design – Alternative Interfaces


Selected students’ works from my experimental game design class at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Art.

A hands-on game design course focused on innovative and expressive forms of gameplay.
In this installment of Experimental Game Design the emphasis is placed on the interface: inputs beyond mouse/keyboard/joystick/touch, outputs beyond screen/speakers, playing contexts beyond the suburban living room (alternative arcade, gallery museum spaces, urban environments etc…).

Unfortunately I couldn’t include some Windows-only works.
Project descriptions and downloads here:
mycours.es/gamedesign2013/

The Fishing Game

The unimaginatively called “Fishing game” was designed for the 2013 Allied Media Conference. It’s meant to be played, discussed and modded in a interactive workshop context. The companion presentation can be found here.

In order to play the game you need:
.Exactly 4 players
.About 30 money bits – decorative marbles will work
.About 30 fish bits – Swedish fish candies work perfectly
.The printable materials below:

Fishing Game Rules

Fishing Game materials to be printed on 4 Letter sized card stock sheets (black and white).

Allied Media Conference Games Lineup

Next week I’ll be in Detroit at the Allied Media Conference. The conference track “Imagining Better Futures Through Play” looks dense and exciting, with a strong focus around DIY gamemaking and inclusivity.

You still have 5 days to back our indiegogo campaign, the proceeds will cover travel and lodging costs for the presenters

Here are some session highlights, the full schedule is here here.

Animation in Art & Digital Storytelling
SATURDAY – JUNE 22, 9:00am – 10:30am
The tools to create games and stories on the computer are more accessible than ever before, but this technological method of creative expression can seem challenging. This workshop aims to demystify a powerful element of digital storytelling: Animation. Through simple, effective examples using inexpensive, easy-to-use software, participants will learn a technical skill that they can use in their own projects and even teach to others. By lowering the barriers of entry to digital storytelling, we will begin to see more thematic, cultural and aesthetic diversity in games, media and audiences.
Presenters:
Sagan Yee – Dames Making Games

Effective Games for Outreach & Education
SATURDAY – JUNE 22, 9:00am – 10:30am
We will explore ways play and games can be a tool to change a group’s basic understanding of a topic. We will give a brief overview of effective and not-so-effective techniques to create your own group games, and emphasize making simple, physical games to use for outreach and or education. A brief discussion will empower participants with the basic skills needed to start making their own games, followed by a fun session of game playing. Participants walk away with game creation guidelines applicable in their own communities.
Presenters:
Ben Norskov, Ida Bennedetto, Mohini Dutta – Antidote Games

Video Games & Cartoons With Scratch!
SATURDAY – JUNE 22, 2013: 2:00pm – 3:30pm
We’ll use Scratch, the drag-and-drop programming environment developed by MIT for kids. We’ll show you how to get started making your own games and animated cartoons. As kids we don’t have to be just consumers: we can be creators, too!
Presenters:
Lisa Williams – Data for Radicals
Clayton Dewey

Making Games for Social Change
SATURDAY – JUNE 22, 2013 4:00pm – 5:30pm
This session will be a quick and dirty game design intensive. Participants will be broken into small teams organized around social issues and target audiences they care about. They will be taken through a four-part co-design process, which will result in a game concept and paper prototype. The four-part process will entail the following steps: 1) getting at core values, 2) cracking the “culture code,” 3) unearthing systems thinking, and 4) designing a board game. Participants will pitch their final concepts Pecha Kutcha-style, and vote on the best game.
Presenters:
Heidi Boisvert – futurePerfect lab

The Beautiful Game: SJ Soccer
SATURDAY – JUNE 22, 2013. 4:00pm – 5:30pm
In today’s world, where sports are often hyper-aggressive and stress winning at all costs, is it possible to honor cooperation and inclusivity over competition and elitism? Is it possible to inject principles of social justice into “the beautiful game”? We will examine alternative models for healthier, more inclusive, socially just sports through a soccer framework. Participants will walk away with a framework for implementing community-based social justice sports programs and tactics for engaging youth in conscious sports. Workshop will be followed by a game reflective of the values discussed
Presenters:
Dania Cabello – Left Wing FC, Guerilla Educator
Antonio Crisostomo-Romo – L.A. Futbolistas, California State University Long Beach
Emmanuel Ortiz – Left Wing TC
Martin Macias Jr. – Chicago Fair Trade, University of Illinois at Chicago

Making Your Game for Free or Less
SUNDAY – JUNE 23, 2013: SUN 3:00PM – 4:30pm
It’s one thing to design a game that challenges and reshapes narratives, but it’s another task to actually make that game available to people. In this session, we’ll discuss techniques for producing a game on a shoestring budget, including crowdsourcing funds and doing your own publishing and distribution. Participants will come away with the knowledge necessary to become their own publishers and take their games from concept to production.
Presenters:
Liam Burke – Liwanag Press
Greg Austic – Austic Labs

Make Your First Videogame!
FRIDAY – JUNE 21, 2013: FRI 9:00am – 10:30am
Have you ever wanted to make a video game but didn’t know where to start or how to code? This hands-on workshop is dedicated to giving you an introduction to the world of game making. We’ll be using Stencyl – an easy-to-learn, free, drag & drop software – to literally snap the blocks of your first game together! Programming skills or previous games experience are not required for this workshop.
Presenters:
Rebecca Cohen Palacios – Pixelles

Making Personal Videogames With Twine
FRIDAY – JUNE 21, 2013: FRI 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Digital games have a unique capacity for telling personal stories and challenging systems of oppression. But the skills to make videogames are notoriously gatekept. In this workshop, we’ll explain how to use a software called Twine. Twine is a free program for making branching hypertext stories, sort of like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books of the nineties. By the end of the workshop, everyone will have made a videogame from their personal experience.
Presenters:
anna anthropy
merritt kopas

Designing Games to Understand Complexity
FRIDAY – JUNE 21, 2013: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
How can we tell the story of a dysfunctional food system? How can we understand the roots of a rich-getting-richer class dynamic? How can we grasp the nuances and the shared responsibilities of an energy crisis? Some issues seem to have way too many “moving parts” to be reduced to personal stories or linear cause-and-effect relationships. That’s where games and simulations can help! By playing and making games we can take a step out of the social systems we inhabit, conceptualize them as a whole, identify the conflicting forces in play, and envision better systems.
Presenters:
Paolo Pedercini – Molleindustria
Liam Burke – Liwanag Press

*Top image stolen from Dames Making Games.

Radical Game Makers: We Want You!


The Allied Media Conference is a yearly gathering of independent and activist media makers from all over North America. We gather in Detroit to share strategies on how to create sustainable social change through media.
This year’s conference is June 20-23 and I’m honored to be one of the coordinators of the game-oriented track along with a team of awesome people: Liam Burke, Una Lee, Adam Liszkiewicz and Cayden Mak.

Last year I wrote about the AMC and the workshop I conducted with Una, the experience was so positive that I asked to be more involved this year.

The name of the track is Imagining Better Futures Through Play and will consist in a series of hands-on workshops and the Playpen, a more informal space to show, play, playtest and discuss all sorts of socially engaged games.

Everyone is encouraged to submit a session proposal though the AMC website: the deadline is March 8.
You can contact any of the coordinators for assistance with the proposal. We can help you craft a kickass proposal that will knock the socks off my co-coordinators and the AMC organizers.

Note: this is not an academic nor a game developers’ conference. Most of the participants won’t have a strong gaming background: this would be a rare opportunity for game makers who give a damn about the world outside geekland to work with real, and really passionate people.

Call for Participation

Everyone plays games, but why are so many of the most popular games about violence, inequality, and imperialism, and why do they misrepresent our communities for commercial gain? Can’t they reflect the world we want to live in instead? Imagining Better Futures through Play at the Allied Media Conference is about promoting games and creative play as media for telling our own stories, for envisioning systemic change, and for building movements.

But what does it take to make a game? You don’t need hundreds of people and thousands of dollars. We want to bring together anyone who has a love for games and a desire to build a more just and creative world to share ideas and skills. We’re looking for workshops that help game designers, both novice and experienced, who are involved in social movements develop conceptual and technical skills so they can create fun, powerful, world-changing games.

We are seeking sessions that do one or more of these things:

  1. Share technical skills related to game creation
  2. Demonstrate how issues and movements can be explored and expressed through games
  3. Challenge assumptions about what games are and what they can do
  4. Actively include and represent people who are normally marginalized by mainstream games and gaming
  5. Empower participants to begin or continue working on a prototype

Workshops from Past AMCs

Imagining Better Futures through Play intends to discuss all types of games, whether they’re tabletop, electronic, movement-based, role-playing, etc. Session proposals are due March 8, 2013 on AMPtalk (http://talk.alliedmedia.org/). Game on!

A COMPUTERLESS VIDEOGAME MODDING WORKSHOP

Here is a recipe for a rrradical game design & literacy workshop I had the chance to organize together with Una Lee, Toronto-based activist, designer and all-around awesome person. It was presented at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit in June 2012 but you can try it at home, with your own class, club, organization or anywhere, really.

In short, it involved remixing gameplays and cardboard sprites from classic arcade games in response to a pressing social issue or a real world scenario.

“Radical turtles try to convince moderate Goombas to join the fight against the imperialist Mario and Princess Peach…”

Context

Every year, hundreds of media producers, hackers and geeks working in LGBTQ, social and environmental justice movements converge to Detroit to share stories and skills, to create meaningful connections and have a lot fun. As the organizers put it:

At the Allied Media Conference, media creation is not only about personal expression, but about transformation – of ourselves and the structures of power around us. We create media that exposes, investigates, resists, heals, builds confidence and radical hope, incites dialogue and debate. We demystify technology, not only learning how to use it, but how to take it apart, fix it and build our own.

Starting from this year the AMC included a section about games called “Imagining better futures through play” coordinated by Una and Cayden Mak, brilliant SUNY-Buffalo game scholar. Our workshop, awkwardly titled “Designing revolutionary games with verbs” was part of it.

The beautiful people of the AMC

The Workshop

The big challenge was to propose an exercise that could be executed in an hour and a half, by any number of people, of all ages, of any level of game and computer literacy, assuming no equipment at all.

The main inspirations for the workshop were Grow-A-Game, a card deck by Tiltfactor and the research Videogames of the Oppressed projects by Gonzalo Frasca. We basically adapted these projects for a more socially-conscious and (potentially) less game-literate crowd.

We opted for a quick paper prototyping activity, to take the technological aspects out of the equation and to provide a fun, physical tool to brainstorm in small groups.

The Games

Modifying (or modding) pre-existing games prevented participants from spending too much time thinking about the “kind” of game they deemed more appropriate. It also pushed them to deconstruct the rhetoric and the ideological biases that inform commercial games. Before the modding phase we asked them to break down the game mechanics into “verbs” and think about the implicit or explicit “messages” that these formal systems may entail. We selected a handful of games to analyze and remix:

Bomberman
Frogger
Lemmings
Pacman
Space invaders
Super Mario Bros.

Needless to say, the choice was not motivated by 8-bit nostalgia. Classic arcade games in this context have several advantages:

  • They are way more simple, with few elements and transparent mechanics. Many people are familiar with them or they can easily figure out the gameplay by watching a video playthrough.
  • They help to conceptualize games as something more general and diverse than the contemporary dominant genre: a 3D space to be explored by an avatar, peppered by fragments of a story, puzzles and enemies.
  • They are 2D, and that helps a lot when you are working on paper.
  • They are, into some extent, game archetypes. They introduced some of the most basic elements that are still present in contemporary videogames (shooting and avoiding in Space invaders, Maze exploration in PacMan etc…).

Problem Cards

The second creative constraint was a randomly assigned “problem” card that represented an abstract social issue and a more concrete scenario.
Example:

Issue:
Discrimination / Tolerance,
Racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying…
Scenario:
The mainstream media is portraying a minority group as a social disease

We thought it was important to describe issues as tensions and not only as negative or positive values to stimulate a variety of approach. Games can represent a problem, envision a solution, embody an interpersonal dynamic that resonates with the scenario and so on.

The scenario is meant to be an example. Participants were able to choose to approach the problem in an abstract way (e.g. Economic Inequality) or in more geographically or historically specific way (e.g. the Downsizing of Detroit along class and racial lines) or anything in between.

Paper Prototyping

We provided each group with a collection of sprites ripped from the randomly assigned game, printed on cardstock, and pre-cut. The sprites represented the main movable visual modules; for levels and backgrounds we recommended to use markers on big cardboard sheets.

We found that the physical paper pieces compelled participants to reason in visual and spatial terms and, at the same time, allowed a more democratic process since all members of the group (3-4 people) were able to rearrange elements as if they were working on a jigsaw puzzle.

Providing visual elements to start from also discouraged the simple re-skinning approach, namely: changing stories and characters while keeping the mechanics intact.

Bomberman becomes a complex resource management game about the military-industrial complex

Variant?

We didn’t have the time to test it but it may be fun to allow groups to trade elements and incorporate sprites from different games in the same design.

Materials

More Results!

Unfortunately we were too busy to properly document the prototypes but Una did a write-up of a dry-run of the workshop in Toronto. Read it here.

P.S.
If you are interested in proposing a game-related activity for next year’s AMC contact Cayden, Una or me. It’s going to be a blast!