Journey to Justice Videogames: Developer Diary

As one of Journey to Justice’s many satellite projects, we made some digital games with pupils from Trinity School. You can play the whole collection here and find out more below.

December

Figure 1: Editing view of Viv in Twine

Figure 1: Editing view of Viv in Twine

I first met with Trinity School’s Digital Leaders’ group back in December. Digital Leaders is a nationwide programme which seeks to champion digital learning and creativity in schools. As a creative writing PhD working in interactive fiction, it seemed fitting to work with a group with such similar goals and interests. We met over a delicious Christmas dinner and then I took the children, and their teacher Mrs Campbell, on a whistle-stop tour of Twine, a free interactive fiction tool that’s perfect for beginners.

The children very quickly grasped the idea of writing branching stories with Twine, and one even wrote a complete short story with several different endings during our brief introductory session!

April

Figure 2: Part of the JtoJ Nottingham display

Figure 2: Part of the JtoJ Nottingham display

Our first workshop was split into two parts. In the morning, we visited the National Videogame Arcade, and played a selection of games with different approaches to the theme of ‘Justice’. We talked about the different types of game play and game mechanics and how they were used within the games. We considered, for example, the way Arcade Wire: Airport Security comments on how we don’t always think properly about the instructions we are given, and sometimes blindly follow orders even if they don’t really make sense, and how Papers, Please can prompt feelings of guilt in the player because of their involvement in the game’s events. The children were quick to understand that although games are seen as frivolous, they can also be educational and thought-provoking, and can address sensitive issues. 

The second part of the workshop involved, of course, visiting the Journey to Justice exhibition at the National Justice Museum. The children explored the exhibition freely, thinking about the themes, voices and stories represented by the pieces. Perhaps unsurprisingly, several of the boys were drawn to Viv Anderson’s story, as he’s such an inspiring individual, for both his sporting and social justice achievements. The mock voting booth and Ruby Bridges’ desk also drew the children’s attention. Once the children had sufficiently examined and discussed the displays amongst themselves, we reconvened in one of the National Justice Museum’s lunch rooms to discuss how the themes, people and ideas the children had seen in the exhibition might translate to their games. Initial plans included a game about voting rights in which the player learns who would and wouldn’t have been allowed to vote by choosing various different attributes for their character, and a story-based game about the rights of the individual in the event of war. I was really impressed by the variety of the ideas the children came up with, the stories they wanted to tell, and the way they applied their favourite elements of the games they had played to the games they wanted to make.

June

Figure 3: An image from Dylan's winning game, Voting in Georgian Time

Figure 3: An image from Dylan's winning game, Voting in Georgian Time

    By early June, the children had completed their games. Some included beautiful illustrations, others incorporated impressive in-game currency systems, all were something to be proud of, because the children put so much work into them, and undertook a lot of that work independently. It was finally time for the judges (myself, and JtoJ Nottingham Project Leaders, Scott Weightman and Richard Bromhall) to put our heads together and decide which were our favourites. All the games have much to recommend them – you can play the whole lot here, and absolutely should! However, we finally decided on the following placings:

Commendations to Nneoma, Finn and Rufus – each of these three completed their games solo and incorporated choices and images into their work. 

Highly Commended: Viv by Alex and Zec – we all loved this fun fact file all about Viv Anderson.

3rd: WW1 Adventure Game by Lea and Naomi – Lea and Naomi both did a lot of research into World War One to ensure both their game story and illustrations contained accurate details. Not only that, but they carefully planned the various routes through their story to ensure their players had lots of interesting choices to make.

2nd: Judgement Day by Oran and Max – This pair rose to the coding challenge by incorporating a currency system into their game and also offered some difficult choices to their players.

1st: Voting in Georgian Times by Dylan – Dylan made not one, but two versions of his game – one purely in text, and another with visuals. The judges agreed that Dylan had managed to take a fairly dry topic – historic voting rights – and inject it with life and humour, while still providing plenty of information to players about the harsh voting laws that were enforced in the Deep South region of the United States of America.

All the children were invited to celebrate their achievements at the National Videogame Arcade today, and their games will be on display there in the lobby area (free entry) on the 24th and 25th June 2017 from 12:30pm to 6pm. 

Lynda ClarkComment