On September 6th and 7th, 2014, ARTLAB+ teens were invited to participate in the White House Game Jam in Washington DC. Within gaming circles, a “game jam” is when designers gather to plan, design, and create games in a short period of time. This event was organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and gathered some of the best game designers from around the world to create educational games, including Rovio Entertainment, UbiSoft, American University Game Lab, and Glass Lab Games. ARTLAB+ staff viewed the opportunity to attend the jam as an exciting way for teens to apply the skills and vocabulary they’ve been learning in a professional and creative setting.
Like many youth in Learning Labs, ARTLAB+ teens are initially drawn to the freedom to hangout and play video games in the space. Over time some teens have shown an interest in starting to create games. Video game mentor, Cody Coltharp, responded to this by developing a series of summer workshops called, “Summer Game Design Intensives.” Actually working on their own games in Unity gave teens an awareness for how their favorite games were constructed which changed the way they look at them when playing. This critical distance came into play when teens Kobi, Antoine, Malik, Millah, Carlos, Matthew, and Hugo gave the game designers feedback.
The ARTLAB+ teens feedback to the video game developers was so integral to the design process that many of the developers used video and photographs of the teens in their final presentations, which were given in front of White House Senior Staff and Department of Education Officials. Teens felt empowered to both hear from and have their feedback heard and validated by professional game developers. If they were allowed, many of the teens were so enthusiastic about the experience, they would have stayed all night. ARTLAB+ mentors commented on how great it was to see both teens who they normally wouldn’t label as gamers interact with the regular gaming teens in a way they could equally contribute to the Game Jam.
By Ryan Hill