The other day I had a chance to have a conversation with Lucas Blair an alumni of Bloomsburg University’s Instructional Technology program and the founder of Little Bird Games and who is working on a wonderful project in which you can get involved.
Here are some sound bites from our conversation…
Kapp:Tell us a little about your background in the field of Instructional Game Design.
Blair: Education-wise I started with instructional design at Bloomsburg in the Masters of Instructional Technology program. A background in instructional design is very useful for this kind of work. I really started focusing on game design while working at RETRO Lab at the University of Central Florida while getting my PhD in Modeling and Simulation. At UCF I really got a chance to combine instructional design, game design, and simulation design.
I have always been a gamer. Even now I play games almost every day. I think that is the thing that has had the most impact on me. It would be hard to make games if you haven’t played a lot of them.
Blair: The project is a new format that I think could be pretty engaging for kids. We want to make an eBook app that has educational games on some of the pages. The games are optional for readers and are directly related to the content on that page. The story is about a bumble bee larva that is accidentally raised by honey bees. For her to stay in the hive she has to learn honey bee jobs. Each one of the honey bee jobs is a game. When I say games I don’t mean re-skinned multiple choice or memory games. I mean things like overhead and side-scrolling flyers. They are going to teach biology but also be really fun to play.
Kapp: So this is an interesting project, what inspired you to choose an ebook as the medium?
Blair: I liked the idea of a reader learning something new in a book, being interested in it, and having the option of getting more of it right there. The other great thing about an eBook designed for young kids is that they won’t be reading it alone. That means we are getting our games and story in front of some adults too. If we get to try this format for another project sometime I think multiplayer games would be a great addition. So parents could play with their kids.
Kapp: As an instructional designer and a game designer how do you see those two roles converging on this project?
Blair: For me instructional design and game design are complimentary in so many ways. This project is a perfect example of that relationship. The instructional designer in me is meticulous about making sure I understand my audience, find subject matter experts (The Xerces Society and The Center for Pollinator Research at PSU), and organize the learning objectives. The game designer in me takes all of that and finds way to mold the content into games people actually enjoy playing.
Kapp: What’s it like creating a kickstarter project?
Blair: In a word: “exhausting.” It is a really great learning experience though. I read a bunch of articles and got some great advice but nothing can really prepare you for it. It is way more time consuming than I thought it would be. If I had to do it again I would definitely do things differently. That could be a whole different blog post.
Kapp: Any advice for my graduate students relating to the field and their own projects like this?
Blair: If you can pick your own projects then pick things you are passionate about. The final product will always be better. If you can’t pick your own projects then be passionate about learning new things. One of the coolest aspects of instructional design is you get to learn about random stuff because you have to teach it to others. If you can get genuinely excited about learning something new it will be easier to get your learners/players excited too. It is also important to find good partners. People who have expertise in whatever it is you are trying to do. Let the experts participate in the design process and don’t get possessive over it.
…and most importantly, play lots of games!
Kapp: Thanks and best of Luck!
And just a note to all my readers, if you’ve never sponsored a kickstarter project, this might be the perfect time to get your feet wet. You can sponsor for less than the cost of a Grande Iced Coffee at Starbucks. Give it a try at The Lost Bee kickstarter site.