[Scroll down for update.] When I heard about eLine Media‘s planned beta test of Gamestar Mechanic I thought it would be a perfect match for the outreach programs organized by New York based The LAMP to teach media literacy in under-served communities.
It took less than an hour to reach a meeting of the minds between eLine and The LAMP, and only two weeks more to add Gamestar Mechanic to The LAMP’s curriculum. Last weekend we kicked off this innovative program at the Mount Hope Community Center in the South Bronx to a small but enthusiastic group of middle-school and high-school students.
After overcoming a few minutes of obligatory technical hurdles in Mt. Hope’s computer lab, eLine’s Phil Puthumana and Scott Price introduced Gamestar Mechanic, and everyone got down to work.
At the end of our inaugural two-hour session everyone had made it through three or four levels of Gamestar Mechanic, our youngest participant, 11 year old Matt, had finished building his first game and all were enthusiastic about continuing in the program. Watch this space for updates later in the summer…
UPDATE – July 30, 2010
–Megha Kohli, lead facilitator for The LAMP’s Taking Pictures, Telling Stories program at Mt. Hope, reports from the last Gamestar Mechanic session:
During the afternoon, the students had their last session with Gamestar Mechanic. A Gamestar Mechanic game designer came to visit, which was really great for the kids to hear about what decisions went into the final product. It was a good thing to talk about in the beginning of the afternoon because the majority of students spent their time creating their own games for the remainder of the session. This was really fun (especially for me!) because students got to play each other’s creations! One student even built a game that a Gamestar Mechanic employee had trouble beating. Judging by the way some students were reluctant to turn off their computers—we had to ask them to shut down their computers even though they were *this close* to beating a level! (wince)—we’re guessing this last Saturday won’t be the last time playing Gamestar. Gamestar has been a great activity for the students and was a really awesome partnership for The LAMP. Gaming is a huge component of young people’s media consumption, and so often we hear parents and teachers complaining that their children and students sit in front of computers and television screens mindlessly playing violent games — but this is not always the case. Gamestar Mechanic is a great program that allows students to play games but also to understand the mechanics of designing games — and thinking critically about media is just the kind of mindfulness we at The LAMP want to promote.