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Learning Games Lab Think Tank Sessions 2023

Technology can be a valuable partner in helping youth develop skills for engaging with peers, while also helping them critically and mindfully use media, tell their own stories, and master tools used for communication and work.

In spring and summer 2023, the Learning Games Lab hosted five in-person sessions for youth, led by faculty and staff in the Department of Innovative Media, Research and Extension:

  • March 13–14

  • March 16–17

  • June 12–16

  • June 19–23

  • June 26–30.

A total of 59 students entering grades 6, 7, and 8 participated. During the week, youth played, evaluated, and analyzed existing games on various gaming platforms such as computer, iPad, and VR, provided feedback on character designs for our upcoming cooking game Theme Park Kitchen, and learned about the transformational game design process.

Spring Sessions

Although most Learning Games Lab Think Tank sessions are conducted in the summer, this year we had an opportunity to bring students in over spring break. Adjusting the program to a shorter timeframe, we conducted two sessions of two days each. In these sessions, students were introduced to the basics of game design and engaged in a series of activities giving feedback on prototype characters of one of our games in development.

Group of young students playing with boardgames and video games.
Consultants experienced various forms of gaming and learning.

Summer Sessions

In 2023, we conducted three weeklong summer think tank sessions. (Youth spent a half day with us, either in the mornings or in the afternoons). These longer sessions included more collaborative activities that helped consultants get comfortable with articulating their ideas and giving feedback. By collaborating with tools, producing content with tech, and designing and delivering digital presentations, youth enhanced their digital fluency and media literacy skills.

In each session, consultants worked in groups to develop ideas for a videogame based on a problem they perceive in their community. After they shared their thoughts around topics that mattered to them (such as climate change and pollution), they were introduced to digital tools like Marvel that they used to create prototypes of their games for a game pitch.

Couple of kids playing virtual reality games.
Everyone got a chance to try out some VR (Virtual Reality) games.

A kid presents at the back of a room while 4 other kids listen sitting in front of him.
Youth presented on the ideas and concepts they explored during the session.

At the end of each week, consultants presented their designs. In order to support the consultants with their assimilation of the concepts learned throughout the week, and to recognize their talents and helpful feedback, parents were invited to be part of this presentation. Consultants talked about their game designs, explained their concerns around the game topic, and described the concepts learned and how they were applied in their own character design and game functionality.

Group of kids standing in front of an animator as she explains her work on the screen in front of her.
Consultants had the opportunity to meet our team of animators as part of their journey of learning about game design.

Poster with character designs is shown in the middle of a board. Around this poster lay many notes with feedback on the characters presented.
Giving feedback on prototypes helped youth gain a better understanding of game design.

Survey Findings

Summer consultants and parents gave final feedback to help us learn more about their experiences in the Learning Games Lab. Survey data (24 parents, 24 youth) showed youth found the Learning Games Lab to be fun and informative, and considered the skills taught in the session to be very useful. They describe the session as a place to play, review and learn about making games. Most of the youth (15; 65%) ranked the Learning Games Lab experience as "extremely good." Parents and guardians saw improvement in "creative process and group work", and "...think[ing] about how to make the world better".

For information about upcoming Think Tanks, and other youth programs at the Learning Games Lab, see or follow us on Facebook, Twitter/X, or Instagram.

Written by Joel Gonzalez Parra, Student Assistant, Innovative Media Research and Extension, and Matheus Cezarotto, PhD, Visiting Assistant Professor, Innovative Media Research and Extension.


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