Arcade our Way 1 was a pilot project that took place over a year and three months. It was a partnership between the start-up game company Decode Global and the CEO Angelique Mannella, Concordia University's TAG lab and The Linden School in Toronto, Ontario Canada.
Ghost Hotel, the game that emerged from this project, is about a girl named Violet who is a human trapped in the spirit world. Her big challenge is to become a great leader for the ghosts who work for an oppressive boss named M. LeFromage. Through a series of mini-games (a mini-game is a simple game challenge, like a race, within a bigger narrative), Violet has to reveal herself as a feminist leader to the ghosts. Every time she accomplishes a leadership task, a ghost joins her team. The game opens with Violet rushing to work, only to find out that a bus of Centaurs is on their way to the hotel and the computers are down. M. LeFromage tells her to start cleaning, but she knows that chaos will ensue if the computers are not fixed. She heads to the computer room to exorcise the evil spirit that has possessed the system. This is a race against the clock that happens through a process of pressing 2 keys as quickly as possible, without getting distracted by cat memes, before the timer runs out. Though the current prototype is simple, and contains only 2 such small challenges, the vision is that each task would relate to Violet overcoming stereotypes about girls. In this first instance she has to stand up for what she believes to be important and contradict the orders of her ornery boss. Another mini-game idea was that as Violet is doing her laundry, people continuously ask her to take care of their laundry, even though this is not technically her job. The player would have to run around dropping quarters in the machines, and every time someone drops off more laundry, the screen splits and Violet has increasingly more to do in a limited amount of time. Violet can only win when she decides not to accommodate the labor demands of others. Another idea was that the boss assumes she cannot climb and fix things, so she has to sneak around without him noticing, in order to fix something located on the ceiling. You can see from this brief description that students can come up with ideas for games that can communicate important social justice related messages.
Towards Affinity Spaces in Schools: Supporting Video Game-Design Partnerships as Twenty-First Century Learning Tools
The Arcade Our Way (AoW) project was an intergenerational, all female, video game design based project involving fifteen grade seven students, five undergraduate students, the CEO of a small gaming
company and the researcher who both participated and observed. This ethnographic pilot study was an investigation of the merits of the project as a twenty-first century learning tool, where twenty-first century learning is aligned with the views of John Dewey and Paulo Freire. The project is considered for its strength as a progressive learning space through the lens of contemporary informal online learning spaces knowns as affinity spaces (Gee, 2005),
and “energizing moments” a tool developed through data analysis. Affinity spaces are nonhierarchical
and constructivist in nature, and participants of all ages learn from one another based on shared interests. Specifically the fourteen features of nurturing affinity spaces (Gee & Hayes, 2012) were used as reflective tools through which to consider the strength of the project as a constructivist learning environment. Each feature was then evaluated through a five point rubric and ranked according to its relative strength. To further corroborate the merits of the project from a student
centred perspective, “energizing moments” provided indicators of the moments when the participants were most highly
engaged by the work. This is another approach to attending to the strength of this project, and perhaps other projects as well, based on the idea that student motivation matters. Identifying energizing moments throughout the project can not only provide further insight into the strength of the project from a student centred perspective, but can support strategies for
enabling future such motivation. These tools were used to derive recommendations towards future iterations of the project.
This research comes from the perspective that twenty-first century learning strategies have much to learn about pedagogy from the ways young people are motivated within the context of
specific projects, and from their informal learning choices outside of school through technology and the internet
Keywords: video games, gender, new-media literacy, collaboration, progressive education,
traditional education, twenty-first century learning, real-world learning, experiential learning,