A few weeks ago, we received the very interesting opportunity to host a very special design workshop for kids. The participants were winners and competitors from the Under 19 Freestyle Computer Competition organized by the C3 Center for Culture & Communication Foundation, and so we had to put on a show for a group of youngsters with a lot of enthusiasm for technology and design.
It’s rather hard to find a topic from the design world that would be interesting for kids aged between 10 and 19. After brainstorming within our team we decided to make a fun workshop rather than something that resembled an academic lesson.
We hit upon the idea of a workshop focused on designing and prototyping games for mobile devices. Since most of the kids had not yet attended a technical university, our goal was to emphasize the importance of design and experience as key parts of the creative process.
We arrived at our venue, Design Terminal in Budapest, and it was already fully loaded with the amazing projects made by the kids. The array of work on display was thrilling: a drilling foam machine built out of lego, 3D models, animations, and many other equally exciting projects. We could see straight away that these were no ordinary children.
We formed three random teams with a group of children that were all between the ages of 11 and 19. Some of them were so into gaming that even before the start of the brainstorming sessions they had already come up with ideas like, "For a headshot we should increase the number of points that you gain.”
We defined four primary game-attribute categories: Topic, Environment, Target User, and Character. To ensure the kids were given different challenges that produced different results, we created multiple cards in each category and the teams were asked to pick one from each.
After the teams picked their card combinations, a designer from Prezi sat down with each group. Armed with lots of color markers, pencils, scissors, and foam iPad & iPhone frames, we started working together.
Brainstorming, spying sessions (talking to members of other groups to share ideas), sketching, discussing, creating user flows, and yet more sketching and drawing were all important parts of the process we came up with in order to help the kids realize the ideas that they had in mind.
The whole process was very natural for most of the participants, they were all super active with tons of ideas. It’s fair to say they all loved the creative part of the work they did. Based on the outcomes of these sessions, we were able to actually start designing mobile apps.
The Results of Designing with Kids
Each team came up with very different app designs:
We had an advanced card set: a multilevel jungle game for adults with the goal of building something. The jungle scene was easy to use, lots of ideas came to the kids’ minds immediately. They were thinking about a rapidly playable short game. Something entertaining for an adult that requires concentration and fast gameplay. So they came up with Jungle Jump, a game to build up a Mayan pyramid from building blocks gathered in the jungle. While transporting these blocks one by one, game players would have to avoid all the dangers of the jungle (spiders, snakes, etc). You have 90 seconds, but you can buy more time, as well as gain strength from the gold gathered on the way and the time remaining at the end of the previous level. It was very interesting to work with multi-talented kids that came to us from different parts of the country with broad scientific interests (animation, coding, robotics). They were active, had fun, and we made a very promising proposal for a game that I believe could work on the market.
We had a very standard random combination of cards. Environment: City; Target user: Kids; Characteristic: Multiplayer; Goal: Learn.
The kids came up with the idea of making a game in which you need to find city places to build up your collection (you connect with your friends through your social network to compare collections). The aim is to go through the city and find places that will teletransport you to another city as part of the journey. All of the clues have geographical and historical content.
Before gamers were able to teletransport to the next stage of the game, we inserted some questions (related to the places they had visited) that had to be answered so that we could check that players had learnt something as part of the experience.
Our requirements were to create an abstract shooting game for children where the goal for the player was to get as many points as possible.
The team was very diverse: an 11 year-old girl, a boy of the same age, and two 18-year old guys. So in addition to making a cool app design, we had the extra challenge of getting ourselves on the same page despite the age differences. Luckily this happened immediately: brainstorming and the whole creative process just brought the team together.
The final idea that we came up with was a plan view game. The main character is a robot who has to shoot vegetables and fruits popping up in random areas of the screen. To increase their scores, players can chose different weapons and shoot different kinds of enemy. We defined controls, characters, levels, extras, and a lots of details for the game. The final result was a paper prototype of a moving level where the robot stayed in the center.
It was really amazing how smart and open these kids were. They were absolutely unconstrained throughout the session, and came up with really great ideas that had more than enough potential to be put into production.