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Learning Games Lab Think Tank Sessions 2022

Traditionally, the Learning Games Lab hosts in-person, half-day, weeklong sessions for youth during this summer. Because of a new balanced calendar in the local district, the Lab also hosted youth for shorter sessions in the fall of 2022. Youth are invited to be Games Lab consultants, where they critically review games, engage in design activities, and learn about careers in media and design.

Summer Sessions

In 2022, we hosted four sessions over the summer

  • May 31st–June 3rd

  • June 6th–10th

  • June 20th–24th

  • June 27th–June 29th

Consultant plays the VR game Beat Saber.
Consultant plays the VR game Beat Saber.

A total of 17 students entering grades 6th, 7th, and 8th and a total of 11 students entering grades 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th participated in these sessions. For the first three sessions, we invited students from the Las Cruces area to participate. This year was the first time we hosted an international cohort, with six students traveling from Cuauhtémoc, Mexico to participate in a three-day session at our lab (June 27th – June 29th). Additionally, Mexican students explored other guided activities on New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) campus, including Food Science & Technology and the Arthropod Museum.

During the week, youth played, evaluated, and analyzed games on different gaming platforms, such as computer, board games, iPad, and VR, and tested the Lab’s Math Snacks game Gate, which was being redeveloped in modern web format. They learned about the transformational design framework and engaged in activities that enhanced their knowledge and understanding of this framework.

Consultants play the board game Magic Labyrinth.
Consultants play the board game Magic Labyrinth.

Youth also worked individually and collaborated with peers using low-tech and digital tools for producing content and delivering presentations. Staff used Mentimeter and Padlet to generate interactive group discussions and support reflection and articulation of ideas. From these activities, youth enhanced their digital fluency and media literacy skills.

Consultants work on their game ideas and prototypes.
Consultants work on their game ideas and prototypes.

Studio manager Adrian Aguirre presents his work for consultants during a tour to the department.
Studio manager Adrian Aguirre presents his work for consultants during a tour to the department.

During the week, students toured the Innovative Media Research and Extension department and visited facilities such as audio and studio rooms. Students engaged in conversations about design and technology careers with professionals from the department including, programmers, game designers, artists and web developers.

Student presents his game review to developers.
Student presents his game review to developers.

Youth applied the design and game knowledge and skills they developed to complete a final project. For this project, youth pitched a game based on a kind of change they would like to see in the player and designed a prototype of this game using the tool Marvel. On the last day, they presented their games to family, friends, and members of the Learning Games Lab team.

Fall Sessions

This year the lab also hosted two fall sessions: Oct 3rd–4th and Oct 6th–7th. During the two day session, eleven middle school students evaluated games, discussed what makes an inclusive game, and interacted with professionals from the educational technology field.

Students presenting how games can be inclusive.
Students presenting how games can be inclusive.

The Fall Sessions focused on representation in games and inclusive design. Consultants worked in small groups in several activities to discuss ways games can include different players into gameplay, and why it is important to be inclusive. Consultant brought attention to accessibility, multi-language, and customization options. They also provided valuable feedback in a user-testing session of Ninja Kitchen, a food safety game. Their feedback informed the developers of improvements that could be made to the game while enhancing the consultants’ knowledge of the iterative process of game design. Ninja Kitchen has been shown to enhance middle school aged youth knowledge of basic food safety techniques in the kitchen. The Learning Games Lab is recreating it to meet new WebGL standards so that it can be played on any device without plugins and with an updated theme to reflect greater understanding of the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion and avoiding cultural appropriation.

Consultants playing and evaluating the old version of Ninja Kitchen.
Consultants playing and evaluating the old version of Ninja Kitchen.


At the end of the session, staff distributed a survey to youth and their parents or guardians to gather their feedback on their Games Lab experience. Twenty-one youth and seventeen parents or guardians completed surveys (a total of 38 respondents ). Survey data showed youth described their experience as fun and informative, and found the skills taught in the session to be very useful. All of the participating youth found the programs enjoyable (90% found it extremely good). Parents and guardians also reported the skills gained by their children as extremely (81%) or moderately/very (19%) useful, and noticed an improvement in their kids’ presentation and social skills, as well as game design skills.

Youth describing the Games Lab

“You will learn about different aspects of games such as reviewing and even the steps of developing.”

“A fun place to make friends and explore the gaming world.”

“An amazing, fun, and wonderful experience that allowed me to learn during the summer.”

What surprised adults about their kids' experience in the Games lab?

“Her art being so good.”

“His ability to stand in front of a group and express his ideas so enthusiastically.”

Our Learning Games Lab session offers youth an opportunity to explore design activities and careers in design. Youth are guided to reflect on things they like and care about, while learning about our transformational design process. Youth apply this knowledge working collaboratively to create a game that addresses a problem they care about. The sessions are also an opportunity for our design team to learn from youth, learning how they play and interact with games and other digital media.

To learn more about our Learning Games Lab contact:

Barbara Chamberlin, PhD

Interim Department Head

Extension Educational Media Specialist


Written by Amanda LaTasha Armstrong, Learning Games Lab coordinator, and Matheus Cezarotto, post-doctoral researcher.


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