Introducing Studio K: a New Game Design Environment

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Guest Bloggers Gabby Anton, Wade Berger and Stefan Slater from Games Learning and Society group at University of Wisconsin describe Studio-K, a game design platform empowering students to move from consumers to producers of video games.

With the announcement of new gaming systems from Sony and Microsoft over the last few months, the gaming world is wondering what features, developments, and upgrades the next round of commercial video games will provide.  Parents and educators will be wondering how much time will be spent by kids consuming these games, and if any of this time can be transformed into productive learning moments.

A project developed by the Games Learning Society Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison encourages active game design in kids. Rather than solely consuming the next round of best selling games, the project empowers kids to design and share their own creations with their peers.

The project, Studio K, is an online game design curriculum and community that provides learners with a safe space and resources to learn game design and programming. The project developed as a partnership between UW-Madison, Microsoft, and AMD with the goal of being a solution to the question of how to get youth more engaged and interested in computer science. Rather than focusing on programming, which can be daunting to learn, Studio K harnesses interest in games – providing game design content with scaffolded programming supported by Microsoft’s Kodu.

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Kodu is a 3D visual programming language that allows users to create visually dynamic, sharable games for PC and Xbox with ease. With minimal programming skills, users are able to make beautiful, functioning games. As programming and game design skills increase, the program supports increasingly complex games and systems – making Studio K and Kodu great tools for beginning programmers and game designers of all ages.

The online Studio K curriculum teaches game design, breaking down mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics into playable missions. In each, learners are confronted with challenges that have them playing, revising, creating, and playtesting games created by their peers. Content videos in each mission highlight good and bad game design or programming techniques, allowing learners to self- direct their own path through the curriculum.

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Besides hosting the curriculum, the Studio K site is packed with facilitator tools that allows teachers to track individual students’ progress through the curriculum and the site, as well as community tools which promote interaction around game design and the curriculum. Studio K supports collaboration and peer-supported learning, asking students to interact with each other to facilitate the acquisition of key concepts.  Becoming a game designer in Studio K means going beyond creating games, enabling kids to express themselves in new ways and transforming how they think about games and the world around them.

While originally a private program run through UW-Madison and it’s affiliated partners, Studio K is now open for public use. Go to www.gameslearningsociety.org/studiok for more information about how to become part of the Studio K community.