Part 5: Recommendations
At the heart of Extension education is the belief that the best educational interventions are informed by research and by user needs. This process brought together several key areas of expertise in Extension: content experts offered guidance on GMO products and learner needs, and media technology experts contributed their processes on developing learning games to meet those needs. The process was valuable because it yielded a playable prototype, as well as an opportunity for the Extension educators to explore each person’s expertise. Even if the final product may not be a complete prototype, other teams may find this modified game jam model beneficial to explore game design, build teams across institutions, or blend areas of content and design.
The combined teams were flexible in their intended outcomes. While the main goal was to create some kind of interactive, working prototype, they were willing to consider a wide range of content and messages. Other teams may benefit from the same flexibility: Perhaps the working prototype isn’t as important as an opportunity to engage in the instructional design to refine their messages, or they have a specific educational message, but are more open-ended regarding the audience they hope to reach. This jam format gave the combined team a budget-friendly way to test ideas, shape future research, understand the game development process, and build partnerships.
Reflections about this process allowed participants to outline recommendations to inform their future jams, as well as guide other studios and content experts interested in this process.
Building the team
Encourage diverse expertise among participants: Seek partnerships that augment the existing skills of team members. For instance, UConn Extension could have built something rudimentary on their own, but collaborating with NMSU gave them access to knowledge and skills used by game developers. Similarly, team members benefitted from youth development experts who could speak to specific issues in that field. While you will likely need team members who can craft the final product, such as artists or game developers, view a game jam as an opportunity to immerse participants in fields that are different from their own. Intentionally foster collaboration: The joint sharing of information between designers and content experts is key to game-based interventions. Several members of the team may already have “a great idea for a game,” but you need to establish an environment in which participants can bring their expertise and be open to collaborative development. This team started by asking content experts to provide an overview of what they already knew about the content, and about their intended audience. It also provided time for the designers to brainstorm game ideas without the time constraints of the larger group. Prepare all team members to expect a game jam to enable a collaborative design, rather than production of one person’s idea. For example, although the UConn team had an initial vision for what the game would look like, team members agreed that because of the collaboration and all team members trusting the process, the end result was far better than UConn’s initial vision. Be mindful of group size: It is usually not practical for groups of more than 6-8 people to collaborate: Most Game Jam teams include 2-5 people. The nature of this project meant that 12-15 individuals wanted to engage. For this project, the larger team worked together to share content
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