My goal for the final project was to create a digital resource that would effectively teach elementary school-aged children the basic history of abolition in Rhode Island. I felt that this history was important for a number of reasons. It fills a gap in the current historical teaching; a large amount of schools spend much more time focused on the history of slavery in the South and its contribution to the Civil War. Further, Rhode Island was one of the forerunners in the abolition movement. As such, its contributions to the legacy of abolitionism are significant. Finally, slavery is a difficult issue to teach, especially for younger students. Therefore, my goal was to create a resource that encouraged the interests and inquisitiveness of children while dealing with such an issue.
Based on these goals, I decided to design a choose-your-own adventure game that would immerse students in the basic chronology of the period. In order to make the game more relatable, it centers on the story of two brothers, John and Moses Brown, who played a large part in the debate over abolition. Players function as a fictional younger sibling and have the opportunity to side with either brother on a number of important issues. Each decision results in the player receiving a dove or a coin. These items affect the end result for each player.
In creating the concept for the game, I look extensively at the other educational games we studied in class. In each case, I noted parts that did and did not work. For example, in the first version of the game, I did not include the dove/coin aspect. As a result, the choices of the player did not affect the end result. I chose to edit this aspect because I saw that the games we analyzed in class, such as Jamestown Adventure, encourage users to play multiple times. If this was the case with my product, students would easily realize that the choices had no effect and lose interest. I also took into consideration many of the points made in the work by James Paul Gee, What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy. His work helped me to consider less conventional ways to incorporate educational value into the game.
In terms of creating the design document, I relied on the advice of Dan Brown’s book, Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning. This work not only provided helpful examples of how models should look, but also solid information on the purpose of each level of documentation.
Overall, this project helped me to learn a number of points about digital products. Prior to this class, I had no idea of the process behind creating any digital artifact. Again, Dan Brown’s book was quite helpful in remedying this problem. Beyond the scope of this class, I have already found myself referencing his book extensively in the course of my current internship. I also gained a good understanding of what can and cannot be completed in a certain amount of time. While I would have loved to be able to present a fully functional online game, I quickly realized that it was not feasible to learn the background workings of the Internet, coding etc, well enough of the course of one semester to bring this project to completion.
Despite the scope of the project I undertook, I think that the parts of the process I was able to complete during the semester gave me strong insight into a process that I will certainly use in the future. As I said, I am already using some of this knowledge at my current internship.