School sessions!

We’ve just started the first participatory part of our project, which is really exciting. Once the first iteration of the game was ready, we booked in sessions at five local schools to go along and get the input of our “end users” (children aged 7-9) on the game so far. We’ve run sessions at three schools so far, and the feedback has been very interesting and useful.

The sessions have been facilitated by Dr Catherine Purcell, the Principal Investigator, who is a psychologist with lots of experience of running participatory research projects like this one. That’s particularly important, because it’s quite a skill to draw out relevant and constructive information from a group and make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.

A screenshot of the current game – the school is the end point that the children have to navigate to.

The children (whose parents had already signed consent forms to let them take part) were divided into groups of 5-10, and able to play the game on our tablets. This iteration of the game is not fully developed, but it gives a good representation of what the final gameplay will be like: the children use the tablet like a magic portal and have to navigate to a school in the virtual city by crossing roads as safely as possible. After the children played the game, Catherine asked for their feedback on various elements of the game. Where possible, one of the members of our team who is involved in game development went along too, to help make sure that the technological aspects of the discussion were covered and to answer techy questions.

The children have been very eager to help, and have given us some excellent feedback to work with. Some of the things they’ve asked for were already in development for the second iteration of the game, such as harder levels and a points system, but it’s good to know more specifically what the children want. Some of their suggestions are things we hadn’t yet considered, like having a pause button and adding an underpass/subway, which are becoming more common and are of course a safe road crossing place.

One thing we were particularly pleased about was that the children had absolutely no difficulty in understanding how to play the game. This level of intuitiveness is a good sign for us, as we want this game to be play-able and enjoyable for children, as well as teaching them safe road crossing behaviour.