A post game jam questionnaire was implemented, to gather students’ feedback. Cooperation was among one of the most important gains from this experience mentioned by students, as well as the promotion of their relationship with their peers.
The fact that this process happened as the kick off for the second semester, was also seen as an interesting creative trigger.
On the scope of the pilot process developed in Lusófona University, 10 games were developed: 7 digital games; 2 board games; and 1 game with alternative controllers.
1) Proteção de Patudos [Dog Protection] - available HERE - a digital game that seeks to draw attention to the care that should be taken with abandoned animals, taking care of them but in a way that involves the local community.
2) Wild Fire, Wild Animals - available HERE - is a digital game to draw attention to this problem through a strong approach, with a literal and activist message. It is a side-scroller game in which you command a fox to escape a fire that is relentlessly pursuing you.
3) Candy Seller - available HERE - is a game to call for attention to this reality through a game in which we play as a child selling candies in the city traffic.
4) Depressionistic - available HERE - is a visual, poetic, platform adventure based on personal texts and words from different diaries, in which the player progresses through emotions and feelings expressed typographically.
5) Cleaning Initiatives (CI) - available HERE - aims to tackle issues under the theme of life on the ocean, where a scientist created a robot to remove garbage, plastic, and other waste that is daily sent by humans to the sea.
6) Similar to the previous game, Booby Trap - available HERE - intends to draw attention to sea pollution. In this 2D, side-view, casual arcade game, player try to feed a booby seabird and escape to the increasing oil pollution on the sea.
7) Spoils of War - available HERE - is a visual novel game in which the player is involved in an emotional adventure through Heric, a son of a farmer who transports some goods to clients in a post-war world.
8) Green Money is a board game where two players face each other in a battle of interests. On one side a player runs a fossil fuel company, and on the other a company in the same energy sector but using renewable energy.
9) Corp. is also a board game, developed to relate how decent work and economic growth can interfere with the well-being of workers.
10) Guardians, was developed by a team of students that wanted to approach the creative possibilities of performative games, namely through the creation of an alternative controller game (Alt.Ctrl). It is a Co-op game, projected through a hexagonal led screen panel, where two players act as forest guardians to act over ecological events, such as fire, deforestation and illegal hunting.
The development process adopted by Lusófona University was a 1-week long Game Jam. Game jams are a type of game development event, either competitive or non competitive, that is characterized by being intensive, but also a safe space for experimentation (Kultima, 2015). Some authors also mention how these events work as platforms for promoting the culture of embracing failure as part of development (Goddard et al., 2014).
In this specific case, after a briefing about Sustainable Development, the students developed their projects collaboratively, during one week (excluding the mentoring of the best project developed afterwards), and the event ended with peer-to-peer feedback and assessment of the games.
One priority for Lusófona University as an Higher Education institution is to tackle the gap between academia and civil society, through the promotion of meaningful learning, that can be useful “outside the university’s walls. Therefore, in the game development process the briefing given to the students was that they need to critically articulate the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their final games.
Promoting student’s ability to critically engage with SDGs and operationalize them in media objects is fundamental to mobilize all the educational resources to achieve a sustainable future, individually and collectively (Crespo et al., 2017).
By analyzing the produced games it is possible to highlight the goals prioritized by students (each game approached at least 2 SDGs):
It is all about games
As can be seen, the relationship of the participants to the games is almost intrinsic. They are mostly gamers, with some breadth of knowledge about different game genres and platforms. Moreover, depending on the year of the course they attend, they have knowledge associated with game design and game development. This includes a range of skills including: game design; level design; game art; animation; interactive narratives; sound design; programming with different software (e. g. Unity, Unreal, or Twine); games mathematics and physics; project management; among others. Aligned with the knowledge and to avoid significant disparities between participants’ knowledge, the groups that worked on the games mixed people from different years.
Lusófona University’s team is composed of students from the Bachelor’s Degree in Videogames, from the three course years. Our game creation process was based on an event called “Meaningful Game Jame”, that was developed intensively, during a week, between 14th and 18th of February 2022. Although 40 students participated in this event, it was only possible to gather answers to the post event questionnaire from 31 students. The group had an average age of 21.74 (SD = 2.74) years old, being composed of 26 individuals identifying as females (83.87%), four individuals identifying as females (12.90%), and one identifying as non-binary (3.23%). Although the groups motivation is kind of inherent to the subject area they have chosen to study, through the questionnaire it was possible to identify the main motivations to enroll in the event, namely: their interest in Game Jams; the opportunity to obtained an additional classification on their course; and seeing it as a good opportunity to creatively kick-off the new semester.