Power in numbers: Student-led video game design in elementary school art class

Title screen of Island Adventure
Here is a screenshot of the game loading up on a Chromebook.

Multi-grade art project for students

Mr. Jerred wanted to have students create a massive video game project together. So he organized and facilitated a crazy experiment at school this year. All Lanigan 3rd through 6th grade students completed all ideas, maps, 3D height maps, artwork, music, animation, sounds, and testing.

The beta version of the game, called “Island Adventure,” is online now. We created it using the Unity3D engine. As students playtest the game and give written feedback, we will update and improve the game.

Looking to ideas for next year

Next year, during the 2018/2019 school year, Mr. Jerred will begin teaching C# coding so students can build their own games in Unity3D, with possible 3D design and animation in Blender software. During the development of this project many students have come forward and expressed an interest in learning how to create their own games. Students have a foundation of the concepts of coding through programs like Hour of Code and code.org which they participate in as part of their library and media classes.

Hoping to connect with other teachers

Mr. Jerred will also be reflecting on the overall feedback and results of the project to better streamline, organize, and facilitate the project next year. Part of this includes the idea of working with ongoing class subjects and school inititiatives-for example, a virtual Pyramid, an ancient Greek city, an American pioneer town, social stories for students with behavior plans, or PBIS welcome tour of our school.

How students worked together: Lots of little jobs, one big vision.

Animator demonstration
4th grade student demonstrates his ability to create stop motion animation for Island Adventure video game

Hundreds of students came up with ideas, which we voted on. They voted on  ideas in categories such as genre of game, characters, settings, and gameplay options. The results recombined and reincorporated several people’s ideas so a brand new game emerged from this project that no one student came up with.

Game Job lists
Students chose from a huge list of jobs that needed to be completed for the video game project Island Adventure

Next, students had to pick from hundreds of jobs that needed to be done-all of which were focused tasks. For example, a fourth grader wrote the introductory story based on the ideas voted on by the classes. Another example involved the flags in the game. Flags posted outside each building level serve as spawn points after completing a level. Therefore, ten flags had to be designed.

Game Mapping in class
Four artists work together to map out dungeon escape levels for Island Adventure video game
Concept artists
Concept artists use a variety of methods to brainstorm designs for game, including using ideas from existing architecture.
Production Art Sample
Here is a small sample of the artwork created by students for the game Island Adventure

Some students also chose “Project Manager” jobs, which involved a range of responsibilities which were largely self-driven. Managers mainly chose to help or encourage groups and students who were off-task or having difficulty. They also kept groups whose ideas were straying from the overall vision. Project managers also mapped the whole massive island and came up with the names of the geography.

Students creating sound effects
Students work alone and in groups using mp3recorderonline’s website to make various sound effects for the Island Adventure video game.
Mapping the world
Project managers also had to brainstorm names for the sprawling landscape of the Overworld island in the game.
Musicians at work
Musicians ventured down to the music room to collaborate and record pivotal parts of the Island Adventure video game score using actual instruments.

Artists painted and drew on paper, which we digitized using the old document camera in the art room. Our photographers searched high and low for textures to also use in the game. Students cut up and created stop motion animations of player character movements which are featured in the game.

Game writers
Game writers and cheat code planners are working hard with old fashioned paper and pencil based on ideas voted by the whole group.
Stormy sky painters
Island Adventure’s sky changes depending on time, and that includes random storms, so artists are busy painting stormy skies.

Sound and music

Students used microphones on their laptops, chromebooks and ipads to record sound effects and voice overs using GarageBand as well as mp3recorderonline’s website. For music, some students recorded their voices or played instruments, while some used digital instruments in GarageBand.

Wonderful resources

We shared our files via google Drive into a central location so Mr. Jerred could assemble all the pieces together in Unity. Mr. Jerred used Photoshop, Audacity, and Unity to put all the student pieces together. The HELPDESK at Fulton City School District was extremely helpful in providing access to great software and allowing us unblocked online testing of our game.

It’s called “Island Adventure”

In this game, you choose a character and find 10 buildings on the island. Within each, you need to locate a key before you can leave again. When you have 10 keys, you can unlock the huge gate in front of Creeky Lake near Watch Town. Behind the gate is a boat that you can use to escape and win the game. This is the earliest version of the game, so please write down any things you notice that need to be fixed at send them to Mr. Jerred at Lanigan. Thank you and I hope you enjoy the student’s hard work on this crazy game!

Try to beat it yourself, right now!

Click here – the game is online and playable here in your browser (not yet playable on mobile devices).

If you have any comments, questions, feedback, for if you’ve found a bug or glitch you want to report for the first big update, let me know!

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