At the inaugural Playful Learning Summit at Ohio University, I shared a couple of games that I developed for use with ESL students at Ohio State. These are both paper-based games, which stood out in a room full of computer games and an Oculus Rift connected to a Kinect. This last project — an immersive, gesture-controlled, virtual reality interface — was really cool, but isn’t something I know how to develop (yet). But, fortunately, everyone gets paper. I hope these two games serve as an inspiration for anyone who doesn’t think she can design a game for her students.
Football Simulation – I’ve posted about this one before, but it still stands as an easy-to-prepare, easy-to-play simulation that can help international students to understand the game of American football. The focus, when I use the game in the classroom, is to understand what down and distance are as well as the importance of basic offensive and defensive strategies. All that is required is one six-sided die and a printout of the document with the offense and defense cards cut out.
Orientation to Campus Game – This is a board game I developed based on the Madeline board game. Players travel around the campus map / board uncovering tokens when they land next to them. If the player uncovers one of the 5 buckeye symbols, she keeps it. If the player uncovers the name of a building, she must move to that space immediately. The best things about this game are that it is very easy to play and that students really focus and pay attention to the most important buildings on the map. There are no dice and you can use almost anything for player tokens. I also really like the mechanic of moving to the place listed on the token because this changes every time the game is played. On the down side, it is a kids game, so it doesn’t hold adults’ attention for very long. And if the students have been on campus for even a couple of weeks, they are already familiar with most of the buildings in the game. Still, this game could be useful for students to play while waiting for our orientation program to start because it might help them to discover buildings that they do not yet know.
So, don’t be afraid of developing games on paper if, like me, you don’t have a wide array of programming skills. Any game that is prototyped and play-tested on paper could later be converted to a computer version. But, by working out the kinks on paper, you can develop your game to its final version without even picking up your keyboard.