Game Design Class: Adventure Maps with Legos

[Bracketing this with a note that I didn’t send to the parents: the trickiest thing for me with the 4th / 5th grade after school game design class is classroom management; I’m not used to trying to keep 9 kids working productively in a small classroom, esp. at the end of a school day when they’re restless. A few of the kids are QUITE high energy.

Once the Legos came out, they were all so excited that all hope of an organized class went out the window. Which is fine, but it does mean I have to reset my expectations of how much can be done in any given stretch. Over and over!

But it’s good for me too — I’m putting a lot of thought into how to keep this fun for the kids, and it’s making me rethink how much of that fun I manage to incorporate into my college classes too. Keeping learning both engaging & productive — not easy!

I’m having my college students do a critical review podcast or YouTube video this semester, in place of one of their papers; it’s an experiment, but so far, they seem more engaged with it than paper-writing, and it’s certainly an important contemporary means of engaging with the cultural conversations around literature and media.]

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Game design class, a quick update on class #3 — we worked on creating individual worlds this week. The plan was to start with Legos for inspiration, and then move on to drawing adventure maps; the Legos were a little bit too much fun, and most of the group was just starting to do maps when the hour ended. We’ll bring the maps back next week to work on them some more!

But they had a great time with the big bin of Legos, and came up with a really diverse set of worlds — most of them stayed in the classic D&D adventuring mode, with monsters and danger spots, but Malcolm had a world of vehicle drivers competing and Diana worked hard on her lovely forest setting (with a complicated hinged base). They were very excited to show you the photos of what they built!

Next week, we’ll elaborate on our overall ‘world maps’, and then use graph paper to create a grid of a ‘dungeon’ — a set of rooms for adventuring through. They should’ve come home with a little dice bag to hopefully help them keep track of their dice; with the bag, a D6, and the D12, they should be all set for a two-or-more-person adventure.

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[My personal favorite was the world of fire (all the adventuring parts) and ice (separated by a barrier, with a chill out area for the adventurer to recover in). So creative! There was also a super elaborate set-up with a cave and at least four different areas, which is pretty impressive for 45 minutes of building time.

I’m also amused / bemused that Anand had absolutely no interest in the Legos — he just never got into them, which I don’t get! I adore Legos. But he dove into drawing his adventure map, and completed a great sequence (with no interest in coloring it in either), so now I’m going to have to think about what to have him do at the start of next class when the others are drawing theirs.

Anand’s done more RPG gaming than the rest of the class, I think, and is also a few months older than many of them, so I might have him try acting as a TA next time around — walk from table to table and engage with them on their maps, help them brainstorm ideas. Hm.]

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