3. Kodu Games Klub

For a few months now I've been running Kodudes projects to support literacy and ICT skills and engage pupils in narrative-focused projects based. These projects had been successful in the sense of  the learning and enjoyment.  In fact, the Kodudes projects had caused a bit of a stir in the school – the Write Buzz had spread way beyond the small community of pupils that I had the pleasure the work with. It was with this in mind that I decided to offer an Introduction to Games Making out of school in the summer holidays to pupils that had not yet been participants in the Kodudes projects.

The Games Making day was offered to a small number of pupils aged 8 and 9. It was deliberately kept to a small number of pupils as these pupils had never experienced Kodu so a small teacher to pupil ratio was desired.

So, the day began with 5 very keen but slightly nervous Kodu debutants. To help allay worries and scaffold effective progress, we worked to a model that saw short focused tuition followed by 20minute sessions of consolidation and application of new skills.

The group were amazed at their progress as they worked through a skills progression that basically covered:

  • Mastery of land tools (adding and shaping land; changing land types; use of the magic brushes (these are really worth getting to know); adding water
  • Adding objects and changing some basic options such as: scale, colour, height etc
  • Controlling objects – so adding a fish character and programming it so it’s controllable vertically and horizontally
Developing competence in some of these basic functions lifted the pupils’ spirits and beliefs. They were now game makers!

We then moved onto some of the other coding skills needed to build a simple race type game.

  • Adding objects such as stars, apples, hearts etc
  • Programming their character to ‘eat’ the objects they had placed when they bumped into them
  • Score variables were introduced so that points were awarded (to their score colour – this is important)
  • With s score variable in place, a target score and ‘win’ screen (for their colour) was programmed to give a  real sense of a game taking shape.
  • For reasons more than just for a bit of fun (which it no doubt was) the children were shown how to add a background sound track, and music to punctuate key events such as collecting an object, points being awarded and such. The music and sound effects really brought the games and the pupils to life!

To round off what was a very productive day – the children all worked so hard – the children added an opponent in the form of a computer-controlled character. This opponent needed some AI in order to function as a threat or challenger. The coding skills covered included:

  • Programming the computer opponent to wander around at random until it saw the collectable objects nearby
  •  On seeing an object nearby, the computer character was programmed to move towards the objects
  • On bumping an object the computer character could ’eat’ the object and score points on the computer’s score variable colour (this was important)
  • On the computer achieving the target score, a win screen (for the computer’s colour) was needed.

One of the most satisfying parts of the session was when the children starting discussing game play and how to make a game exciting – too was fun at first but then quickly got boring; too hard and the game was frustrating and de-motivating.  As a result, the children started tweaking the balance of the game through:

  • Tweaking the comparative speeds the characters moved around
  • Tweaking the acceleration levels for movement and turning to enhance/handicap a character’s performance
Pupils’ were regularly encouraged to play each other’s games and offer constructive feedback until a satisfactory balance was achieved.

Oh, and last but not least, the pupils wrote instructions for how to play their games – a nice literacy focused task in itself.

It’s remarkable to think that this was all achieved in a day. OK, the children all left with brain ache (this was a day of hard work and hard thinking) but they also left with a massive sense of achievement and self-satisfaction.

Great stuff!