By Minna Nygren (UCL)
On one sunny morning this June, just as the iRead project was drawing to a close, I set out to travel to a primary school set in a picturesque countryside in the South of England to meet and talk with a few 6-year old pupils who had been playing Navigo game over the past year. With me, I took some paper-based game activities we had prepared for the children to prompt discussion about children’s experiences with the game. I printed out the colourful avatars that the children had created within the game with the accessory rewards collected as they played the Navigo game. I also printed out a large orange map that included all the main areas of the game: the puzzle pyramid, the oasis with the villagers, and an area for changing clothes for the avatars. Some of the rewards that could be found within the game, such as a bright green dragon tail or a scuba diving top, were printed on little cards, alongside one card for each villager – who the players were seeking during their game experience. I carved a little space of our chat at the school’s playground for the map and activities.
During our time together, we played a mini card game with cards depicting the different games found in Navigo, as well as print-outs of the rewards. During the game, we had a chat about what the children found enjoyable about the game, things they disliked or would have liked more of. Children shared many ideas about the game: about which games they had played, which rewards they enjoyed and whether they would’ve played the game even if it had no rewards. Many children had played each of the fifteen games either during their reading lessons at school, or at home during home schooling. We discussed the avatars that the children had made during the game with all the accessory rewards they had collected, their responses to the game’s other characters – the villagers who could be found inside the puzzle-filled pyramid. Some children said they would have not played the game if there were no rewards, while others were adamant that they would’ve kept playing even if there were no rewards as they felt they were learning new things about reading, writing and spelling. It was interesting to hear from children themselves about their experiences with the game, and what things motivated them to go back to play more.
After spending a day with the children, it was clear that they have many different types of ideas about games, and the reasons as to why they play them vary. Spending time with children and hearing their ideas is very valuable for researchers seeking to develop games to support learning.