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07/31/2007 - Tincan Offers Game Camps

Education can be fun and games. Tincan is teaching both high school teachers and students how to create computer games, using serious content as the basis for a game that is fun to play. The computer gaming workshops are part of a series of week-long workshops and camps offered this summer by Tincan. The gaming workshops are funded as part of a National Science Foundation grant.

Each workshop teaches the principles of computer game design. In order to “tighten” the curriculum sufficiently so a playable game can be created by the end of a week, Tincan’s staff uses tools that allow the making of games quickly. The software they have chosen includes Multimedia Fusion and Crazy Talk. Multimedia Fusion allows the students to import characters and images. Crazy Talk allows voice integration.

This summer’s game topic is “the environment.” In creating their game, the workshop participants will learn how to create a story board, research and create content, write and record dialogue, and to use conceptual design to create a game with twists and turns to make it fun to play. At the end of the week, each person will have a game. “This is a new medium for learning – using games as a teaching tool. Using game creation in classrooms helps kids learn various topics, and the kids have a lot of fun playing each other’s games,” says Karen Michaelson, executive director of Tincan.

The teachers’ camp is held a week before the kids’ camp, and the teachers are welcome to attend the second week as well. Teachers – many of whom are from rural schools – are encouraged to both use the computer game creation skills they have learned to enhance their own teaching and to teach the concepts to their students.

Along with principles of game design, students who attend computer game camp are given insight into the career possibilities in game creation and into the skills and knowledge they would need to be successful in that field. They'll learn that they need math skills, writing skills, physics, and research skills. They will be pointed toward institutions of higher education with computer game programs. They will be told of the various career possibilities around game creation that include skills other than computer programming, like writing, art skills, and acting. The students in this workshop will range from thirteen to eighteen and are encouraged to continue developing games outside of camp.

Tincan’s long range plan is to develop a year-long academy for high school aged students to learn more about educational game design and creation, according to Michaelson. A longer time frame would allow time for the real research needed to develop a serious story line. It would also give time to develop a more complex game with even more twists and turns and surprises.

Tincan also has plans to develop educational games outside of the camps. For that purpose, Tincan hopes to hire a full-time person with game development background. “We will be looking for a game development person for a staff position in the future,” says Michaelson. “We will produce games with social impact – games with serious content, but still fun to play.”

For more information about Tincan, visit www.tincan.org.

Billie Moreland
 
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