In February of 2016 we collaborated with teens from Holyoke and neighboring cities to create video games that incorporate social issues.
We invited local teens to design and create games at a series of workshops in collaboration with the Holyoke Youth Task Force and a series for girls with Girls Inc. of Holyoke. Our workshops empowered teens to create games that address social issues in a positive way, creatively engage with technology, and explore issues important to them. They became creators of culture, instead of just consumers.
This program was supported in part by a grant from the Holyoke Local Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.
Gaming is a big part of our culture. Games can be social and cooperative, they can evoke joy, surprise, pride, curiosity, excitement, contentment, and creativity. Games can also be a way to communicate important information. We were inspired by the Street Arcade in Chicago, where social issues selected by the teen artists included racial profiling, urban violence, illegal drugs, police misconduct, and peer pressure among other things.
At the workshops, we discussed how to create games and the game development process. The teens chose issues important to them and formed teams. We worked together on how to turn their ideas into games.
Teens learned how to be artists, programmers, project managers, and game testers while building our projects with Scratch.
The teams got to experience all the steps in the design process, defining ideas, collecting information, brainstorming ideas, developing solutions, getting feedback, and improving the design.
This project prompts thought on social issues and gaming literacy, and provided a compelling computer science experience for 55 local teens, 85% of them girls.
Teens gained confidence in coding, and practiced organization and communication skills as they worked with others.
Our teens picked topics that mattered to them. We were impressed by their creativity, teamwork, and thoughtfulness.
Second Chance teaches game players about healthy choices and nutrition:
The Middle School Graduate deals with making good choices at school while avoiding bad choices.
Players of War? must avoid PTSD while dealing with aggressive dictatorships.
In Opinion Escape! players learn about the importance of self-confidence:
The Climate Invasion deals with trash and animal cruelty while saving the world:
In Choose Your Fate players learn about healthy relationship skills and the importance of good communication.
The Unexpected Savior reverses gender roles and incorporates trash cleanup:
Help make healthy choices in the Mall Game!
Avoid negative thoughts in Emoji High!
We presented all the games at an Arcade Party at the Holyoke Public Library, sharing the games with friends, family, and community members.