Can people learn from playing games? The education world has been debating this question for a long time At the DiMenna Children’s History Museum, we think the answer is yes. We also think that people can learn even more by creating games. If you think it takes a lot of brain power to figure out game characters and strategies for winning, imagine designing those characters, the setting, what it means to win, and any obstacles that players encounter.
From August 19-22nd, curious, middle school braniacs will take over the New-York Historical Society during Camp History to create their own digital games about the American Revolution. As the oldest museum in New York State (we opened in 1804, can you believe it?) we have quite a collection of objects, documents and artworks related to our War for Independence. With the help of museum educators, our brilliant campers will become experts on the major players of the war, the stuff they used, the challenges they faced, the battles they fought. Since it’s camp, we’re going to have fun with our learning; we’ll go on scavenger hunts, draw in the galleries, and go behind-the-scenes with museum professionals. When it comes to teaching campers game design, we are relying on the incredible educators fromPixel Academy. We interviewed Dylan DePice, an educator here and at Pixel Academy, about Pixel Academy’s work.
DiMenna Children’s History Museums: What exactly is Pixel Academy?
Dylan DePice: Pixel Academy is a youth maker-space in Brooklyn and team of educators who specialize in teaching creativity in advanced digital technologies (including video game design, 3D printing, electronics, digital music, and film.) They also lead OST [Out-of-School-Time] workshops, in-school electives, and PDs [Professional Development classes], at schools and cultural institutions throughout the five boroughs.
DCHM: How can a person learn history through digital games?
DD: A good video game–like a good movie, book, or painting–tells an interesting story. Creating historical video games allows people to engage with history using an interactive medium that actively responds to their inquiries and enhances their drive to explore.
DCHM: If you could be the hero of a digital game, in what time period in American history would your game be set and what would your goal be?
DD: I think a video game where you’re Harriet Tubman helping slaves escape from the south would be pretty cool. There’s a good story, compelling characters, enemies to avoid, a victory condition, and an evolving set of challenges that make getting to “the promised land” more challenging each trip–or, in this case, each level–as your skills, resources, and respect increase. Anyone who played would have a better–if still incomplete–appreciation of the scale and complexity of Harriet Tubman’s otherwise almost inconceivable
DCHM: What was your favorite game as a kid (digital or not)?
DD: Basketball. Does that count? I mean, it does have all the same elements: a specific setting with bendable rules; good guys and bad guys; a victory condition; and game flow.
If you are interested in Camp History, there is still space left! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Registration continues until August 9th.