Monday, September 15, 2014

#LearningToFail PAX Prime Panel

Learning to Fail: Why Kids Should Make Games

On September 1, 2014 we presented a panel at PAX Prime in Seattle on the topic of embracing failure and how games and game development lend so well to seeing the value of failure.  Here's our panel description:
Helping kids make video games, in any setting, presents some big challenges. From huge ideas to highly technical work, the barriers are many. So what happens when you start to take those walls down?  We want to discuss three projects we have done that explore the power of game creation on kids. What we have seen from our work, and what we want to share with you will hopefully expand perspectives on what the role of video games in learning is.


Lisa Castaneda [CEO, foundry10], Tom Swanson [Development and Implmentation, foundry10], Jared Gerritzen [VP of Publisher & Developer Relations, Major League Gaming], Steve Isaacs [Technology Instructor, William Annin Middle School]

Before going on, we were very proud to be included by Pixelkin as one of, "The 8 Best Family-Gaming Panels We Attended at PAX".  
During our Q&A some great questions were tweeted to the #LearningToFail hashtag.  We wanted to share them an d answer any questions we were unable to answer during the session.  Feel free to contact us with any questions regarding the session, foundry10's work ( with innovative approaches to learning, or ideas related to Game Design and Development in the classroom (
Tweeted Questions:
@agtmadcat: "C.R.E.A.M.?" ~ Cash rules everything around me.  Our survey of middle students returned some interesting comments.  When students were asked if they were interested in game design as a career, some responded with ideas related to getting a 'real job like on Wall Street'
@Acend: "Any thoughts on game tools out of the classroom like spark/RPGmaker as a tool for parents to encourage creativity?"
ABSOLUTELY!  Some of my favorites include:

  • Project Spark - Spark is available on Windows 8 and the XboxOne.  Last year I wrote a Donors Choose grant titled "Empowering Learners in the Maker Age" and one of the items we received was an XboxOne so that my students could learn and develop with project spark.  Here's a link to a blog post about the project: 
  • GameMaker Studio - my favorite game development tool by far. It is simple to get up and running creating games with GameMaker but the program is so robust that it can be used to teach advanced computer programming skills.  There is a drag and drop environment that provides a concrete approach and a complete programming language behind it called GML (Game Maker Language).  I have talked to many professional developers who love programming in GML.  The Standard version of GameMaker studio is now free:  Check out for a variety of skill based and project based tutorials.  
  • Gamestar Mechanic - Gamestar Mechanic gets kids up and running in no time and provides a great game based quest-line that teaches students about game design elements through playing games and reading the accompanying graphic novel based narrative.  There is a fantastic community of users that create games and provide feedback on games created by other community members.  
  • RPGMaker is supposed to be great and I purchased a copy when it was on sale through Steam.  I haven't used it yet, but I've heard many great things.
  • Scratch - The Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab created Scratch and it continues to be the go to tool for many.  Scratch uses a drag and drop approach where you connect blocks of code to program the characters.  The scratch community is tremendous and users can see the code to any project and even 'remix' it to modify it.  Great for teaching programming and modding.
@rwj2005: "Coding: gui based versus text based. For kids."
I find that kids should be exposed to both.  I have my students work in (drag and drop) and codecademy  (coding) and have them reflect on the experiences.  I find it especially interesting that some find the drag and drop visual coding to make so much sense while others clearly feel more comfortable with the hard coding.  I thought they would all feel more comfortable with the drag and drop block code approach, but not necessarily.  Drag and drop is definitely more concrete so there are some kids who will benefit from that as a first step.
@JMcKasson: "Could coding as a skill in game design be viewed much like typing as a skill?"
I'm not sure I fully understand the question.  I do see it as a skill we should be encouraging, but see it more like learning a foreign language than a rote skill like typing.  The problem solving and iteration required in game design is quite different than learning technique in typing.
@Simiosys: "Are games just 'the new Hollywood' or is it the media of the future where most career training is simulation?"
I would say that both are entirely relevant to games.  The blockbuster gaming industry is definitely seen as similar to the movie industry.  However, when we think of the possibilities of simulation we open up far greater possibilities through the use of the technology.  
@Simiosys: "Moms being one of the fastest growing gamer demographic, what about games helping parents 2 B better teachers?"
I believe it depends which games and our approach to gaming.  Playing games with your kids is sure to create a dynamic learning environment.  The goal may not even be for you to be a better teacher, but rather a co-learner.  Let your kids teach you where appropriate.  What a great opportunity for learning for you and your children.  
@Yakoby83: "What advice do you have for parents of young children who also don't have these skills, first steps?"
The hour of code activities are wonderful.  Check out the Computer Science Education Week page or  There are so many great activities for kids and adults.  They are structured in such a way that you do not need any prior experience to jump in and start learning.  Let your kids see you embracing the opportunity to learn. I can't think of a better way to model and encourage lifelong learning.

Thanks everyone for joining us and for those of you who couldn't I hope that this post provides a sense of our presentation and don't hesitate to post comments or questions.

For more information about foundry10, our presentation, and and to view our slide deck (coming soon), please visit