Game Wizard Workshops

I’ve been running a series of workshops under the title “Game Wizard” based on the success of the workshop we ran last year where kids built chess sets. I learned to play chess under different circumstances, but it turns out that designing and building games is a useful skill.

So far we’ve run three workshops:

We still have four games to go:

  • Chess
  • Picaria
  • Tablut
  • Go

In each game workshop, which lasts two hours, I’m trying to achieve three goals:

  1. Teach a traditional (or slightly non-traditional) game with basic rules and complex results;
  2. Teach a Maker skill or two (today was working with sculpey and some basic origami);
  3. Teach a strategy of play (Mancala’s key strategy is to give away pieces in order to get more).
Various projects
the student mandala board

Today’s game wound up looking something like this.  As you can see, two large pieces of paper, one black and one white, have been folded into origami Masu-boxes, to form the ‘stores’ for the player’s collected pieces.  An additional twelve pieces of washi paper have been folded into the six ‘pits’ of the game.  There’s a set of instructions on how to fold the Masu-box, a set of instructions on how to fire Sculpey III clay in your oven at home; and a set of instructions on how to play the game (not shown).  There’s also a super-set of ‘seeds’ for playing the game, resulting from seven people each making the forty-eight seeds of the game, and then trading them back and forth to get an interesting set of seeds for their own playing set.  All in all, a not-very-complicated game board, which will allow students the chance to play an unusual and complex game and learn from it.

Two hours, to learn to build a board, make the pieces, assemble the board and pieces, and play the game. We did OK.  More than that, I’m impressed by the fact that we got to teach some origami and some Sculpey III clay techniques.  I’m more worried about building the chess board than the Picaria board or the Tablut board — because those are complex games, too — but in terms of the sheer number of parts, chess has them all beat.

More than that, though, I’m excited.  In a few months, there will be a couple of other teachers who can run these workshops, and teach any of the games from Blank White Cards up through Go.  They’ll know how to build the games, and how to teach others to build the games.  And that, to me, is exciting.  More than that, even, they’ll come up with their own takes and their own ideas of how to run these workshops.  And that means, next time, that these workshops won’t be mine.  They’ll be the community’s workshop. They’ll be ours.  That’s how you build a community of designers.

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