Category Archives: Game Development For Kids

Dice and Drawbridges Inspire Games Designed By Scouts At Balboa Oaks Spring 17 Merit Badge Midway

Several times a year I volunteer at local merit badge midways to run workshops for the Game Design Merit Badge that I helped to create for the Boy Scouts of America. On Saturday I led a three-hour workshop at the Balboa Oaks Merit Badge Midway in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, and as with every time I’ve run these workshops, I was impressed with the wide variety of games these young men designed.

My workshops always begin with a Socratic-dialog-heavy talk about the various elements that comprise a game, the different ways we can describe a game’s play value (what makes it fun to play), and how intellectual property rights apply to games. I then do an exercise with the boys in making changes to game rules to see what effects those have on players, using set of Spider-Man tic-tac-toe sets.  (You’d be amazed at the number of variations on tic-tac-toe the scouts have come up with over the past couple of years).  With each of these topics, the scouts satisfy various merit badge requirements.

The more advanced (and most fun) requirements involve the scouts proposing a game concept, and once I approve it, prototyping their game and playtesting it with other scouts.

Here are some of the games the scouts designed last weekend.

 

Illuminati
by Dylan M, Troop 1003

Video games are the most difficult type of games to do at these merit badge workshops because of the limited time to make improvements to your game after making your playtest observations. But Dylan M. of Troop 1003 managed to earn his Game Design merit badge with this platformer.

Vision Statement: A single-player electronic 2D platformer set in a medieval kingdom in which the protagonist must defeat enemies to save his kingdom.

Play Value: Challenge.

Set-Up:

  • Player starts at the left edge of the level with 4 Lives, 10 Health and 0 Score.

Progression:

  • Controls: arrow keys (left, right= move left, right, up=jump).
  • Enemies: All enemies die upon collision.  However, unless the player jumps on them from above, collision also takes away 1 Health from player.
  • Scoring:
    • Killing an enemy: 5 points.
    • Collecting gold: 2 points.

Resolution: The game ends when player gets all the 4 keys and unlocks door, which completes level.

Resources: Score, Keys, Health, Lives

 

Match Em
by Nathaniel Y, Troop 773

This dice game looks deceptively simple, but I found it to be the most engaging game of the day to play.

Vision Statement: A free-for-all dice game where 2-4 players roll dice in an effort to be the first person to collect 3 Match’em cards.

Play Value: Challenge.

Set-Up: 2-4 people can play.

  • Three cards are taken from the deck and laid on the table, face up. Cards will display a picture of 6 dice. The object of the game is to roll your dice until you can match what is displayed on one of the cards.
  • Each player has six dice. Players will roll 1 die to determine who starts the game. Highest roll wins. Players who roll the same number must re-roll against each other until a winner is determined. Once the starting player is determined, turns move clockwise from the starting player.

Progression:

  • Three cards are taken from the deck and laid on the table, face up. Cards will display a picture of 6 dice. The object of the game is to roll your dice until you can match what is displayed on one of the cards.
  • Each player will take turns rolling their dice once. After a player rolls their dice, any matching numbers can be placed next to the card they want to obtain. Those dice are now “locked in” to the card. Any non-matching numbers will be taken back to re-roll on their next turn. Multiple players can work on the same card as other players. The first person to match all 6 dice on card wins that card and they take it from the table. All dice that were locked on that card will be returned to the players and a new card will be pulled from the deck to replace it. The first player to obtain 3 cards wins the game.
  • Take back rule: At the beginning of their turn, a player has the option to take back all their dice and re-roll them. This can be helpful if a player wants to work on a new card or attempt to steal a card that another player is currently working on. This must be done at the beginning of the player’s turn. No dice can be taken back after the player has rolled on their turn.

Resolution: The first player to collect 3 Match Em cards wins.

Resources: Dice, Match Em cards

 

Medieval Quests
by Grayson R, Troop 1

This was the most visually impressive game at the workshop.  Grayson R of Troop 1 created this board game to teach players about knights, kings, queens, people, weapons, foods, customs and other information of the medieval time period.

Vision Statement: A medieval board game in which 2-4 players answer questions related to Medieval times in a race to reach a castle.

Play Value: Novelty.

Set-Up: 2-4 people can play.

  • Each player takes a game piece and puts  it at the starting point, on the brown tile.
  • Place dragon cards and treasure cards in card holder.
  • The youngest player goes first.

Progression:

  • Each Player takes drawing a white dragon card and reading the question to the player on his/her left (the answer is located underneath the question).

  • If the question is answered correctly, then the player who answered the questions correctly will move the amount of spaces indicated in the parenthesis after the answer.

  • If the question is answered incorrectly, the player will remain where they are and not move forward.

  • If a player lands on a red tile, a red treasure card will be drawn and the directions followed.

  • The person to the player’s left has the next turn.

Resolution: The first player to get to the castle will win the game.

Resources: 40 dragon cards (white), 12 red treasure cards (red)

 

As always, the scouts were very inventive, given the limited resources and time they had available.  Even better, they were not only proud of the games they made, they really enjoyed playing other scout’s games.  After all, as I explained to them, creating fun experiences for others to enjoy is what game design is all about.

Crayons, Circles And Diamonds Inspire Games At The Fall 2016 Bill Hart Merit Badge Midway

This Saturday I again volunteered at a local merit badge midway to run a workshop for the game design merit badge that I helped to create for the Boy Scouts of America. To earn this merit badge, the scouts not only have to create a game of their own design, but also engage in the process of playtesting and redesign for at least three iterations. Now, the average merit badge takes about ten hours of a scout’s time to complete, and Game Design is no exception.  So, in my three-hour workshop, I help scouts to either get started on the merit badge or to finish it up.  And therein lies a problem: how to deal with a dozen scouts at different stages during the limited time I have with them.

This time, I decided to try something different. Although I did my normal process of doing a “classroom lecture” about the elements of a game, different types of play value, game design terms, and intellectual property protection, I broke up the lecture into four segments for the scouts who were just starting their merit badge, this time I had these scouts do playtesting between the segments for the scouts who had already completed their games. This had the double benefit of breaking up the lecture for the scouts starting their merit badge, while providing playtesters for the scouts who were finishing up. And overall, it worked quite well.

To playtest a game in my workshop, scouts must first contact me with a vision statement, play value description, and initial set of rules for a game they want to make, and if I approve it, they can proceed with making a game to bring in.  Only three scouts did the prerequisites this time, but the rest who attended the workshop got to playtest their games.

Here were the games that we playtested.

 

Crayon Wars

Vision Statement:  Crayon Wars is a free-for-all party game where players uses crayons as money to defeat the opponent.    The game has play value of challenge because you have to practice to be better. It has stimulation because it is exciting and threat because you are challenging each other and it is fun to play

Set-Up: Each player is given 2 crayons for lives and two crayons for buying stuff.

Progression: Players take turns moving play around the circle to the left

The first player can buy something or skip and save up for later.  Each turn players get 2 crayons for money. You can also attack after the first round.

There are 12 items you can buy

  • plane 2
  • helicopter 3
  • army men 4
  • bazooka 5 strong against planes +1 crayon
  • 5.  jet 5
  • health pack 6 plus 2 health
  • take it 7 2 crayons health taken away
  • tank 8
  • hill 9 stops tank
  • Godzilla’s wife 10 stops Godzilla
  • Godzilla 11 defeats volcanoes
  • volcano 12 +2 crayons every turn

To attack, you pick a token to attack with.  It damages the other player’s token or their health the value of your token and your token will go down in value the amount of damage you did.  You can attack the other players health after attacking all of their resources.

Resolution: The game ends when someone’s health goes to zero.

 

Around

Vision Statement:  Around is a free-for-all board game for 2 to 4 players in which players roll dice to move along a circular path to reach the end.

Set-Up: Players place their pieces at the Start, receives $50 in play money, and then rolls the dice to determine who goes first.

Progression: The game is played in turns.

  • The player rolls the dice to find out the number of turns to move.
  • After rolling the dice, the player moves that number of spaces anywhere on the game board.
  • Some spaces will take or give money to the player.
  • The player must move the exact number of spaces to reach the Finish.

Resolution: The game ends when one player reaches the Finish.

 

Diamond Dreams

Vision Statement: Diamond Dreams is a Minecraft-themed board game for 2 to 4 players in which players try to reach a diamond block that rules everything.

Set-Up: Players place their character in one of four gray boxes around the edge of the board and are given 10 health points.  Players role a die to determine who goes first.

Progression: The game is played in turns.

  • Each player rolls a die to determine the number of spaces to move.
  • The player can move only left, right, or forward.
  • Some spaces have special properties:
    • Lava: Lose 7 health points
    • TNT: Lose 8 hit points
    • Creeper: Lose 5 hit points
    • Hole: Returns player to start
    • Armor: Adds 5 hit points
    • Wolf: Lowers damage done by monsters by half.
  • If the player looses all of their hit points, they return to the start and regain them.

Resolution: The game ends when one player reaches the Diamond.

 

Of the three games, I’d say the scouts most enjoyed Diamond Dreams.  It had the best presentation, the most complete rules, and the greater depth of game play.  Of course, earning a Game Design merit badge is not about creating the best game, but learning what it is like to be a game designer — that the game does not end with the initial design, but is refined and polished based on the experience of the players who are playing the game.