Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Focus Group Heaven

Last night I organized a focus group of students to help me brainstorm ideas for developing my instructional games. In exchange for their help, I made them chicken Marbella (my favorite!), mashed potatoes, and chocolate fondue with fruit.

I had 8 or 9 students from the Creative Arts Society (CAS) show up, and it was sooo much fun. I wish every focus group could go so well. They actually enjoyed the games as they were, which amazed me. They loved the "Secret Agent" story. So here are some of the ideas and suggestions they came up with... and I did encourage them to say whatever came to mind.

  • Have laser tag in the library and when you find certain library resources, you get several seconds of immunity

  • If you want the students to be more active, you could have a central, physical place to get maps and other resources.

  • Add "Your mission, if you choose to accept it..." message to the secret agent theme. Along that line, I think I'll add "this message will self destruct in 5 seconds" and then an explosion animation.

  • Add video clips and sound clips from James Bond, Carmen Sandiego, Q (the Bond weapons guy?), or Frankenstein for the monster game

  • Allow teams to choose a name

  • For freshman orientation, do a themed (pirates?) scavenger hunt. Could involve points, keep score with tokens, passbook, or big board to award prizes at end.

  • Again for orientation, split each cluster of students into groups, each group with a different color of handouts. Each color will be a different track, where one clue will lead to the next.

  • Reminisced about the "Temple of the Hidden Monkey" where contestants had to build monkey statues while avoiding guards. In this case, library staff could be guards that deduct points if they catch students running.

  • Involve having them get video clues in one of the screening rooms

  • Have some kind of lock box they're working to open, which will contain small prizes like lollipops at the end (going along with the secret agent theme)

  • They liked the Web evaluation part of the game, they called them "real and fake sites"

  • Have the "correct site" unlock something (I don't remember the context here)

  • More on databases, they wish they had known about them earlier

  • They were excited about "Choose Your Own Adventure" type games. I've done simple HTML games along these lines, there is potential for more here. They particularly focused on scholarly vs. popular journals here... we went off about turning in a paper based on articles found in Vogue :)

  • They really liked the idea of animating the Boolean operators sequence. Right now it's tutorial-like, but eventually I'd like to give students AND & OR buttons where pressing on those buttons will rearrange objects that fit the search (like only the spies wearing yellow coats AND red pants).

  • Could make author-themed games, like Poe (ravens, grave yards, tombs by the sea, beating hearts, pendulums, etc.)

  • They think we can assume students have cameras with them, esp. on cell phones. Could use those for photo scavenger hunts.

  • They thought the ideas of Big Games were really cool. I told them about juxtaposing maps of campus or Williamsport with some other map and asked what map? They suggested Gotham (if it exists), Narnia, Middle Earth, or Eragon

Games I need to look at:

  • "Escape from the Basement" (series of places to escape from)

  • "Myst" - puzzle game where you have to click on objects in your area

  • "Escape Artist"

  • "Trapped" - this involves talking to characters you meet, which determines the outcome of the game

  • "Oblivion" - there has already been discussion on how people could reorganize this game for their own needs. They suggested talking to a student named Ian Shepard (a.k.a. "Shade").

So you can see it was a productive night. I'm going to include the nice picture I took of them now because I liked both pictures so much and couldn't choose between the two.

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