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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Non-violent video games?

My Saturday Course students are designing and programming their own video games. These fifth-graders participate in an intensive introduction to programming, but their “Create Your Own Computer Game” course is also billed as a class in which kids create their own computer games. Truth in advertising, you know. Look at the title. They learn pretty much by doing, with short lectures and demos by me and otherwise undergoing hands-on experience, supported by my coaching and the assistance of a seventh-grader from Brookline.

Not surprisingly, the typical fifth-grader designs a game in which you have to shoot down alien space-ships. Or, somewhat less violently, you are piloting a spaceship and have to avoid being shot down by the enemy. Or perhaps you are a turtle trying to cross the road while avoiding being hit by fast-moving cars and trucks; sound familiar?

At the non-violent end of the spectrum, one student is imitating Breakout — remarkably easy in Microworlds, though definitely not trivial for a fifth-grader with only a few hours of training. Most surprisingly, another girl is writing a nutrition game in which a runner has to avoid unhealthful foods. How unusual!

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