MakerSpace: DIY Games
We host a monthly teen videogaming program at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County and we recently bought a Nintendo Switch to add to our array of video gaming equipment. I’ll talk more about the Switch soon, but as a new system it isn’t cheap and the games that you can buy for it aren’t cheap either. But we now have 3 video game systems and even with this number of systems and controllers, some teens still find themselves waiting for their turn to play and as you can imagine, waiting is boring. The fundamental drawback to teen videogaming in the library is the cost of the equipment and the wait in between times you get to play.
Our teens have asked for board games to play while waiting, but a large number of the games they have requested are expensive and they often don’t accommodate a lot of players, which would mean we would be spending a couple hundred dollars on board games. I know that lots of public libraries have board games and use them in their programming, but this hasn’t been something that our administration has wanted to invest in because of the cost and issues of lost pieces, etc. Plus, we are currently investing a lot of money into our Teen MakerSpace. But we have an excellent Teen MakerSpace so I thought, let’s address this teen request and get teens involved in making. My grand idea: we could combine the two and help teens create their own games to play. Thus, we started working with teens on DIY Games.Here are five ways that you can encourage teens to create and make their own games.
Whether you are using a PC, a laptop or a tablet, a lot of coding apps use the idea of game creation as a learning basis. Scratch is a free program from MIT that encourages game coding. And as you can imagine, there are lots of coding and gaming books out there to help teens to get started and thinking about game creation. This is, of course, the most difficult and challenging level of gaming. It’s not just thinking about the game design and play, but you have to learn the fundamentals of coding to get your game created. You can also use popular games like Crossy Road, Roblox and Minecraft that your teens are already playing to learn more about coding and game creation.
Bloxels is a kit you can purchase that is designed specifically to be used with a tablet to create your own video games. You use little blocks to create characters and layouts on a grid base and then upload them to create a gameboard. It’s similar to the idea of making a stop motion animation video by capturing a lot of pictures.
3. Build Your Own Pinball Machine
There are a lot of ways that you can build your own pinball machine. I have a kit at home that we purchased for our girls and we have had a lot of fun with it. We also worked some on building a pinball machine from scratch using random materials. It was a teen who initially came to us and wanted to build a pinball machine and got us onto the idea, but that teen eventually lost interest in the project because building one from scratch is a longer, time consuming process.
4. Dry Erase Game Board and Cards
You can buy a dry erase game board and playing cards off of Amazon and let teens create their own board games. We used Sculpey clay to make dice and you could use the same medium to make playing pieces if you found that you needed them. Dry erase is a great medium because if you find something isn’t working out, you can just erase it and start over again.
You can build a variety of games using Legos. Chess and checkerboards are the easiest and most popular. Also, Lego minifigs make excellent game pieces if you are making your own games. Trying to build your own Lego mazes is also a fun challenge.
If you look online, there are no shortage of ways that you can get teens thinking about creating their own games and they can be high or low tech, or some combination of the two. For example, have an empty Altoid tin laying around, you can modify it to make a travel game. You can turn popular board games into live action versions like Candy Land, Hungry Hungry Hippo or Monopoly. TLTs own Heather Booth taught me how to host a live Angry Birds game, which I have done multiple times to great success. Mental Floss has an article which shares 26 life size versions of popular board games. If you have technology on hand, like LittleBits, Arduino or Raspberry Pi, you can have teens use those tools to make their own games. And if you and your teens needing even more guidance, you can purchase one of many kits easily online.
Years ago as I majored in Youth Ministry, I had to take an entire class on games. That’s right, I took an entire class devoted to learning about, playing and designing games as part of my youth ministry major. If you have ever been to a Christian youth group in the 90s, you would know that there was a lot of emphasis put on games and ice breakers as part of the youth group experience. If you were born after the nineties, congratulations you’re not as old as I am. Group games are a huge area of focus in youth ministry, or at least it was in the 90s. Christian publishers publish entire books on great games for tweens and teens, and these were in fact some of my text books. For the record, these books are also good for game ideas in general, they don’t all have a distinctly Christian focus, they’re often just games for the sake of playing games. One of our assignments for this class was to create our own game from scratch. For the sake of this assigment, our game had to have an underlying purpose – what message were we trying to teach with the game? – but the actual assignment was to create a game. At the time, I thought it was an absurd assignment because they had made me purchase books and books of games and icebreakers. Why did I need to create my own games when there are books of them available? Little did I know at the time, but a lot of my professional career would be about trying to design or adapt games to make engaging teen programs. I do it for the library and not a church, but it turns out I would use that class a lot in life. And now not only am I designing them, but I’m giving teens the tools and resources and am asking them to make their own.
DIY games are a fun and entertaining ways to get teens making and in the end, they have a game designed by them to play with their friends. All in all, it doesn’t suck.
Filed under: Makerspace
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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