Adventure Author is a computer game authoring tool for children aged 10-14. It is currently being developed with an EPSRC grant at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.
The design and creation of computer games is something that usually takes a large team of highly-qualified professionals several years to accomplish, but in recent years some games have been shipping with advanced game design toolkits, allowing dedicated consumers to produce their own mini-masterpieces. The Adventure Author project is built around the idea that by developing a toolkit specifically for children, we can approach their education from an exciting new angle.
"Try not to have a good time ... This is supposed to be educational." - Charles Schulz
In recent years there has been an increasing focus on edutainment software - games for children which are designed to be educational as well as fun. Most kids would regard games as 'play', not 'work', and so such games are able to teach alert, open and creative children, different beasts from the ones who copy and regurgitate textbooks without ever engaging with the material. The value of teaching through games is now widely recognised, but the AdventureAuthor project is concerned with something slightly different: the idea that a child's learning can be enhanced not just by playing games, but by creating them.
Encouraging creativity is a major aspect of the modern school curriculum. Kids read books, so we encourage them to write stories, and illustrate them. They watch movies, so we teach them drama. They also play video games, by far the most interactive and engaging of such forms of entertainment. So why not let our young writers, actors and artists become designers too?
Adventure Author is designed as a game creation tool for children aged 10-14. A modification of the Neverwinter Nights 2 game-making toolset, it enables kids to design and build interactive stories for anybody to play. By providing them with a powerful but accessible editor, a wealth of artwork and cutting-edge graphics, their ability to create professional quality computer games will be constrained only by their own imaginations.
We have developed an accompanying suite of applications to support the creative process of game design, allowing users to capture their ideas, log their outstanding tasks, and evaluate and discuss their work and the work of their peers. Designed with young users in mind, these programs aim to make important reflective tasks fun and accessible.