Year 9 students in the Technology classes at the British International School of Washington follow an innovative and exciting curriculum. Recently, the students began to develop computer programs within their first dedicated coding environment to produce full computer games in the form of interactive text-adventures.
The game-development project has an interdisciplinary aspect to tie the context of the games to the students’ favourite books. The games included retellings of stories or introduced story components as side quests. For example, fans of the ‘Harry Potter’ series could use ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ as the basis for the plot of a game or add the lore of the series into a game with side quests and environments like a factory that makes magic wands.
First, the class learned about retro games and how computer and video games developed over the years, and they played interactive text adventures and wrote corresponding guides for players to further understand the construction and deconstruction of puzzles. Then, Integrated Technology, Engineering and Manufacture (ITEM) Teacher Mr Williams taught the students about the coding language behind retro games and had the students code projects of their own.
The production of the games relied on Adventuron, a tool that lets new coders develop games that people can play on internet browsers and 8-bit platforms. Using the Adventuron platform, the students put together games based on books from various genres.
The project gave the students a chance to showcase their personalities and diverse tastes in books, and there were games about everything from Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic ‘Treasure Island’ to Max Brooks’ modern apocalyptic action horror ‘World War Z’. There were games with ‘Star Wars’ backstories, and the ‘Harry Potter’ series was a popular influence as well. One game even involves an offline, real-world component with escape-room elements to combine both the real and the virtual as a family event rather than a single player experience.
Chris Ainsely, creator of Adventuron, gave the students in Mr Williams class a special guest-speaker presentation online on Friday, November 6. Year 9 students Finn and Anjali moderated the event. Mr Ainsely discussed how and why he designed and developed Adventuron, and he talked about how the platform works. Mr Ainsley explained that he built Adventuron because he wanted to make an accessible coding language that could produce games reminiscent of what he played when he was a child.
“I want to make it easier for people to code,” Mr Ainsley said. In the presentation, Mr Ainsley emphasised the importance of community and encouraged students to interact with one another while they work on projects because it can be easy to lose motivation when a person works alone.
Students asked Mr Ainsley how to make a game simpler for wider audiences. He recommended that the students build clues and hint systems into the game to keep players from giving up, and he advised them to write and provide full instructions that players can print and read. Other students asked what Mr Ainsley wants to do next, and he shared that he believes bespoke coding language is the future, and he hopes to make coding more accessible on smartphones. When students asked what Mr Ainsley liked most about Adventuron, he revealed that completing the tool and getting to the end made him feel most proud.
“It can be easy to get to 80 percent of any project,” Mr Ainsley said, “But it can be difficult to get to 100 percent.” He urged the students to persevere with the endeavours that mean the most to them.
Soon, the students will publish their games through a game-publishing platform that is a standalone package. Therefore, the games will be available for free to the public, so people can download or play them from most smartphone browsers.
“Universally, the students’ feedback about this project has been great,” Mr Williams said, elaborating that students who take the ITEM course in year 10 can end up with industry-level qualifications in programming and design. “It shows that children who would like to code or pursue engineering can and should come to the British International School of Washington, as we offer a unique experience.”
In addition to the text-adventure games, Mr Williams recruited the students to beta test a professional game developer’s project, which is in development before a commercial release. Each week, the participants test out the game’s functionality and provide insightful feedback and bug catching reports. In this way, the students can see a different side of the game-development process as well as having a foot-in-the-door with a game design company, which adds to their comprehensive perspective of the subject.
Want to learn more about the Adventuron platform? Check out the Adventuron's Christmas Code Jam. Mr Williams will personally provide one of the prizes in this event. Also, be sure to follow the BISW Technology and ITEM department's Twitter page!