To design or not to design?

We have just finished another session now with the students; in this session we had a “game maker” come in and present to the class. I think this was a really worthwhile session as the students enjoyed hearing about the real life world of the game making.

He also had a really interesting perspective on the process we were undertaking – I guess we had gone down the path of getting the kids familiar with the programs before we started any serious game making and allowing them to explore the programs and discover things for themselves – we are definitely trying to focus on creating that community of knowledge and sharing. He had the belief that we should do all the designing/planning before we even touched the game making programs. I can see the merit in this idea as I can see how program could stifle their imaginations and force them down a particular path. I guess it makes sense to design first rather than be limited by what is possible with the program or their own abilities to use the program. He also stressed the importance of team work and the power of collaboration in the work place.

I am interested in the idea of taking the children on the design journey and I can see some great thinking coming out of this side of the project. As Paul explained he considered 99% of the work went into the design phase and 1% went into the actual game making. I could now see us spending the next few weeks in this “design phase.” I could see the class working on a design brief for their game. By the way: Does anyone have one of these?

I think it would be cool to spend time making characters/settings and producing some high quality work either through drawing/clay/computer programs and really getting the students to write a narrative  for their game and then story board the levels and quest of the characters. And other things such as creating sound effects and designing pick ups, Enemies,  Easter eggs etc.

My only concern is whether or not the students will be able to replicate these ideas using the computer programs after the design phase. Will their skills be sufficient? And if not, does this matter? Is the fact that they have produced high level thinking in the design phase enough? Can they then go back to create simple games? Are we setting them up for a fall? Or should we simply allow the students to experiment with the programs and create games “on the go” without the forward planning? What are your thoughts?