The wonderful thing about today’s Web 2.0 tools is that participants no longer exist as passive users, but have become actively involved in the creative process. Users are able to interact with a variety of types of on-line communities, while exploring processes that were once a mystery to the common person. For example, video game creation is no longer solely for game studios. Young children can learn how to make very simple video games, moving gamers from consumers to gamers as creators. Educators are well aware that the creative process allows the brain to retain information better than any passive activity can. Today’s web 2.0 tools offer an exciting opportunity for students to engage in creative processes which intrigue them.
Sploder Video Game Creator
Over the last several months, I have had the opportunity to watch my young son use a website called Sploder (http://www.sploder.com/) to create his own games using the game making tools available on the site.
Sploder users are able to build a game from scratch using the built-in characters, objects and levels. This website is completely free to use, and all that one needs to join is an e-mail address. When an account is created, the site instructs new participants to refrain from giving their real names. Users create a profile, which include their interests, but no personal information is shared, making this a safe on-line community for children to use.
There are four types of games that can be created using Sploder: the physics puzzle; the classic shooter; the platform creator; and the algorithm crew. The game creator provides ready-made assets such as characters, background graphics, and sound effects, as well as a graphics editor to create original artwork. The website is completely free, but you must be a member in order to publish games. You are also able to rate a game once you have played and completed it.
Sploder’s On-line Community
There is a social media component, as users are able to become on-line friends in order to trade tricks, hints, suggestions and information, or nominate members’ games for online competitions.
This opens up the opportunity for parents or teachers to speak to their children about safe on-line practices. I have provided five rules my husband and I have established for our son, and shared them below. Benefits of having friends and getting many nominations include increased popularity and games being entered into competitions. Competition winners are awarded new “levels”, unlocking much coveted tools which help improve games created. Community members often seek to become friends with the top 5 members in order to gain increased popularity. Players can message each other if they are friends.
Essential tips for children using on-line communities:
- Do not give your real name;
- Do not give your address or birthdate;
- Do not engage in inappropriate conversations;
- Report anything that makes you uncomfortable to an adult;
- Do not answer personal questions.
Responding to an Online Community
What is most evident from the beginning of my son’s game creation journey until now is that he has adjusted his creative process. When I asked my son what he has learned from using Sploder, he said: “I have learned some of the tricks game creators might use to make the games we play. People don’t like to play games that are too easy, so I try to make my games more challenging. I need to think about the game I am making to decide if it will be liked by others and if it will look good.”
At a fairly young age, my son has learned the practices involved in belonging to an on-line community. By communicating with his peers, he has learned that putting in too many ‘power ups’ results in a game which is way too simple. He uses members’ feedback to create better games, learning new skills, tricks, and tools along the way. In order to make games challenging, users “need to plan games carefully by balancing the number of enemies with the number of power ups included.”
My son’s favorite thing about Sploder is the challenge of earning levels. Earning levels help users unlock things like enemies, the “freeze polygon”, the “slug”, and awards. At level 20, friends can create “groups” where members can participate in tournaments.
Youth as Interpreters and Creators
Any teacher or parent today is well aware of the impact games have on our youth. The curriculum in Ontario includes Media Literacy as part of the Language Arts curriculum. Included in the overall expectations are the following: Students will, “create a variety of media texts for different purposes and audiences, using appropriate forms, conventions, and techniques; and, will reflect on and identify their strengths as media interpreters and creators, areas for improvement, and the strategies they found most helpful in understanding and creating media texts.” (The Ontario Curriculum, p.72)
Websites like Sploder tap into the love for gaming while inviting youth to become creators rather than simple participants. Sploder is an excellent website for young students to begin their journey toward becoming critical media interpreters and creators.
For more ideas on how games impact our youth, read my video review of the TED talk, 7 Ways Games Reward the Brain.
You can check out Sploder by clicking here.
Ontario Curriculum Document The Ontario Curriculum: Language Arts, Grades 1-8 © Queen’s Printer for Ontario 2006.