Motivating Young Women in Game Development Via the Pixels, Programming, Play and Pedagogy Project

Scott Leutenegger

Scott Leutenegger, Professor and Game Development Program Director, Computer Science Department, University of Denver

My Thoughts

A topic of American education (which might spread) by doing camps based around teaching basic game design, in an interesting way. Some good points on segregation and the problems and gains from the camps.


You can use the CREATION of Games to Motivate learning, not just in computer science but almost any area at schools. The project itself is 3 components for 14 to 15 year olds (although it might be a little too late for it, many are already turned off)
– Residential Summer Game Camp (Women only, mixed gender camps are dumb! Didn’t work, no one interacted, sleeping problems – one location to sleep)
– Teacher Game Institute, bribing the teachers really (2 weeks) – some were intimidated by areas they’ve never worked in
– High School Implementation – ever done it in schools? You might as well bring porn in! It has the same effect on the schools.

More detail: Game Camp – Pixels (art), Programming, Play (game design) and activity (playing games). 27 rising 9th and 10th graders – 10 cancelled at the last minutes (Latinos – a problem, many haven’t left school at all). All male teachers is a possible problem, but is the only available people since based on people in University. 5 -> 9 people said they wanted to go into it from before -> after. A lot more self confidence with technology during the assessment which is great.

Uses the programming IDE Greenfoot. Java is the dominant high school language, Greenfoot removes most of the scaffolding which really helps. Teach variables, arithmetic, if/else, classes, iteration. Teach using games since games use the same thing!

Problems however, the coordinate system wasn’t known by every kid (10% or so) so had to re-teach.

Art – Traditional and digital practices. Schoolkids are not confident to become artists, so help them. Model design was done, help them along using different methods.

Design – try designing paper based games. Work on the Java IDE using an example game first.
Some examples of the games they came up with: Ice cream truck, delivering Ice Cream. Another design was “Avoid the male co-workers to break through the glass ceiling” – the game over screen was “You quit due to low moral”. Another was the prince being saved by a princess – mowing the lawn was one of the tasks before recusing the prince. Babysitter game – finding all the babies before the parents come home and fire her.

Some games also designed around what happened at the camp or recently – such as fireworks.

It’s being expanded to other places if it is exciting, possibly argentina and certainly other US school districts. – website.

Q. What about daily events?
Not sustainable to do this, although the original money was a lot. Workshops with brownies might work better.

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