Evaluation of my final solutions against the identified target audience of young children. (LO 3.1)
Success in regards to creating a learning resource
In regards to creating a learning resource I ensured that the final product itself was solely focused on a learning element. Originally the game went through many different formats in order to create a piece that allowed for children to learn in a way that they would enjoy. Asking a child to sit and do flash cards often fails to generate much of a response and causes the child to disengage with the activity paying little to no attention. This is something I learnt through my CACHE level 2 childcare course, through working with children in my church youth group as well as from the discussion I had with the child I interviewed’s mother. She informed me that despite having a collection of flash cards to try and make learning more interesting the child had next to no engagement and would often become bored after 5-10 minutes.
Taking this into account I focused my idea on creating a way of learning that engages a child. In order to do this I applied learning theory from my experience in child care. This is what inspired the child have character cards they can hold or have in front of them. Being able to engage with what is going physically gives the child a higher level involvement in the learning in order to prevent disengaging from the activity.
The presentation of the game was very positive with the child I interviewed, he discussed it with me for over an hour and even asked for some of the concept art so he could try and draw it himself. With the game itself have cards as a key element of the game it was vital to have the child interested in the art style. By now having a product that could engage the child I knew this would be an effective method of creating a product that could be used for learning.
While the original idea was to create something similar to a board game or a card based game I realised this could suffer from the same disengagement as normal flash cards. This is where I added in the choose your own adventure element. This allows for completely different avenues for learning in a way that differs from the norm. It opens up the ability to include the learning elements of sharing, taking turns and choices having consequences. This also allows for the story to have replay-ability as each story will have multiple different paths which will change based on the decisions made by the players.
The main learning element of the product is the creation of the question cards. Which while exist similarly to existing flash cards are incorporated as part of the story. Each time a monster is encountered in the story the players must answer a set number of questions or talk about a certain number of discussion topics before being able to carry on the story. This means questions will not be the only focus, it both allows for the story to be broken up to stop the child from losing interest and means that questions do not take up too much of the game allowing children to play for longer.
I feel the learning elements for this game are very effective. Due to the nature of the game being designed by keeping attention of the children I feel like it will cause children to experience learning in a way that doesn’t overwhelm them. The additional learning elements added through a choose your own adventure such as turn taking and team working adds a whole additional dimension to the learning process experienced in this game. The question cards have been thoroughly researched to present questions at the appropriate level of the children playing; this is also made inclusive due to the nature of having two separate question card sets from 5-7 and 8-11 years.
One issue that was initially raised with this was the idea of what happens if the children fail to answer the questions. As I did not want the game to have a failure state to prevent children from progressing and being discouraged from playing again; I used the choose your own adventure element to solve this. If a child (or a group of children) incorrectly answer 3 questions then they will be taken down a different story path indicated in the choose your own adventure. This continues the story and prevent discouragement but also encourage the children to play the story again to try and successfully answer questions to see where that branch of the story will take them. There was also the inclusion of discussion cards based on subjects such as morality and encourage children to do problem solving and talk through subjects. This was included after a discussion with the previously mentioned mother, who mentioned that her son would likely become upset if he were to be unable to answer questions. This added element of discussions ensures children of all abilities and levels can take part even if they experience learning difficulties or are bored of answering specific questions.
As far as the learning element is concerned I consider this very successful. I feel like its unconventional approach to learning will appeal widely to children and parents due to its stylised nature. The game itself will have a variety of stories each with different lengths for children of varying attention spans and is inclusive for all ages and abilities. For example children who are more advanced who know all the answers to the questions can be challenged with a deeper level of discussion based on a discussion card. And the inclusion of blank question and discussion cards allows for parents to create their own learning experience for their child (for example adding the child’s weekly spellings as practice). I feel the versatility of this product does it credit in the aspect of a learning resource.
Were I to redo this project I would likely create more question cards and discussion cards. One element I have failed to include on the example question card was the answer, obviously this would be rectified for the final product and would include the answer in small writing upside down on underneath the question as is done with many other flash card based trivia games. I would also perhaps break the questions into different subjects. Such as the inclusion of bonus packs in certain subject areas- maths, english, history etc… And as discussion above the inclusion of blank cards that parents could write and erase questions on for each play through based on what the child is currently learning about in school. Other than this I feel the learning process is fairly simple for any of the children in the target audience to grasp and allows them to learn extensively.
Success in regards to target audience
In regards to creating a product that would be of interest to the age range of 5-11 I feel this was very successful. Due to extensive research and my previous experience of working with children in this age range I had a vast knowledge which I could apply to my product in order to ensure it appealed to children in this age bracket.
In terms of artwork I am aware that this would appeal to my target age group due to the interview conducted in terms of which art style they would prefer. They chose the pixel art style due to it being reminiscent of video games and this made them more excited about the idea of playing the game and also gave me the idea that the game could be computerised if given the time and the skills necessary to do this.
I have managed to keep the focus on the age group of 5-11 based on the inclusion of the question cards being extensively researched based around the current educational curriculum. While I have only research maths, english and history questions the final product would include a multitude. As discussed above the inclusion of blank cards would allow for a parent to make the questions more specialised to their child.
By having different age range cards of 5-7 and 8-11 I was able to have a wider target audience rather than going for a sub demographic within the target audience. I tried to keep the game accessible to all those in this age range. Naturally however, those of little to no interest in fantasy and adventure style fiction will not be interested in this style of game which is something that could be used as a springboard to create different styles of the game, such as a princess or space oriented version to appeal to children of other interests.
While this project has focused on creating a basic premise of the game and is more conceptual than a finalised game (due to time constraints), I feel this would already be appealing to children. As the project itself was directly inspired and created using feedback and surveys completed by children in the age range (as evidenced by my research), every element of this game has been looked at by children and given feedback on. From the typography for the cards down to the artwork itself, everything has been either chosen or given positive feedback from children in the age range ensuring that it would appeal to children in this age range.
Elements such as colour scheme have been altered on certain cards to create variety to appeal to both genders (such as the inclusion of a pink Ogre variant of the usual Ogre) and the alteration of the colour scheme of the mimic card after being told the card’s legs looked too scary. Had I had more time and my illustrator had more time and was more compliant (see below) I would have liked to have created some feminine characters in terms of designs to appeal more to girls. However, in terms of design I have worked with the illustrator in order to maintain gender neutral designs for the most part.
If I were to be given more time and could complete the final piece I would attempt to create a small focus group of children in this age range and play through a short example story and ask them for their feedback. If I were to do this project again I would try and receive more feedback as I was going through the creative process and have the children play the game at varying different stages. Unfortunately this was not possible with this project due to the fact that there were time constraints and availability of children. There were also the issues of child protection laws and getting parental permission for the focus group.
Overall I would say this project successfully created an effective solution based on the brief that would appeal to children aged 5-11. The fact the cards were influenced through other card based games designed for this age group also is a credit to this work. I am confident this product would appeal to the age range and would generate a lot of interest.
Critical evaluation and reflection on my learning to inform personal development. (LO 3.2)
Success in regards to collaborating with an illustrator
One element of this project that was vital to its completion was working with an illustrator. While this was a very rewarding experience in terms of creating a product that was both professional quality and completed within my time frame, it did present some problems. Due to the illustrator working a full time job it meant that he did not have as much availability to work on the images themselves. This proved to only be a minor issue as he was able to still create more than enough concept art for this project.
One issue related to art style. My illustrator is a very talented artist, however specialises mainly in pixel art. While this was the preferred art style for the project of the child interviewed and worked out well, this could have been problematic had it not appealed to the target demographic.
There were also issues with the illustrators images becoming corrupted when first sent to me, this meant I had to do a lot of problem solving in order to actually be able to edit the images. There was also the issue of the images resolution, originally the images were far too small and ended up being very poor quality when enlarged for the cards. This was quickly rectified after a few conversations with him and he was able to re render the images in 4x the original size with no drop in quality.
Peer and tutor feedback and how this influenced my work
Over the course of my project, the project has been heavily influence by feedback from both the target audience as well as my tutors and peers. The initial idea worked around the idea to create either a board game or card based game set around the idea of a Dungeons and Dragons themed adventure. After feedback from peers I decided creating a board game would not be the best course of action and would require a lot of development to make more suitable for a child; rather than a card game, which is inherently simpler in concept for a child to understand.
The initial concept art for the card was overly complicated and would have caused a lot of confusion for children. It comprised of several different stats, a leveling and health mechanic as well as 2 skills which would have given the children far too much to manage in a card game and would detract from the learning element. My illustrator was the person who originally gave me the idea to link the cards to questions through a rather long discussion about the nature of the game what art style would best suit it.
A lot of the game’s design and the mechanics of it as a whole came from peer feedback and discussion. For example discussion cards being combined with question cards came from a conversation I had with a parent whose child didn’t like getting questions wrong and this also lead to the choose your own adventure element not having a failure state so you can never lose.
The whole creation process was heavily impacted with the feedback of others. Design elements such as the card design was influenced a lot by the Pokémon trading card game as well as that of the game Munchkin. However, as evidenced throughout my blog, I have gone through a lot of different designs. For example, the colour scheme was altered multiple different times due to feedback from peers stating the didn’t believe children would like the darker and more washed out tones I originally picked.
The art style itself went through a few different changes also. From the original concept art to the final finished cards has gone through many major changes. Firstly the artwork was a lot more grown up and aggressive looking as well as a second drawing which seemed more jovial, which I then created a draft coloured design using photoshop. The more aggressive looking Goblin colourised drawing was edited with Illustrator. The illustrator then used my feedback to create a pixel art style final drawing. All three designs were shown to a child and was then asked which they preferred. This was of great credit to my project as it allowed to experiment with different designs in order to best appeal to the target audience. Having the interview process really helped to influence monster designs.
Overall the feedback process was invaluable to the creation to my project. Without all the feedback my project would have been very creatively stunted going off my own personal design choices which were not always most effective. Having more people to look over and peer evaluate my work has impacted my work heavily by making me look at elements from different angles and consider how this would look in the eyes of someone with no knowledge of the game. The card game from initial concept has evolved much more due to this feedback from the game mechanics to the design of the instruction manual.
The skills I have developed and learnt through this project have been of great credit to me and will surely serve me well in the final project and in a future career path in journalism. Through this project we covered a lot of skills relating to design, this ranged from typography and layouts to how to use Adobe Illustrator.
Prior to this project the main elements of my work I have always struggled with were in regards to design. I am very analytically and logically minded and therefore have always found creative design very difficult. However through the lectures presented throughout this project I have been able to apply my way of thinking to design.
In regards to typography I had always taken the lead through analysing existing material, which while effective does not always beg professionalism. Through experimentation and a deeper understanding of the theory surrounding the ideas of Serif and Sans Serif, I was able to apply this logic into my research when looking into typography in existing children’s material. This also lead to me being able to narrow down choices of font and gain feedback on which font worked best through the use of a survey to use for card headings. Through my research and understanding of typography I was then able to pick an easy to read and simple font for the question and spell cards description text.
In terms of design I have come a long way through this project. With the initial start of this project I was quite anxious about whether I could produce something creative in which I couldn’t just take existing material and apply it to my work. I wasn’t creating something for an existing company. This meant in regards to design I had to take inspiration from existing material but not recreating or emulating the material already in existence. My taught session on the use of layout and design have helped immensely. Prior to this project I used to convert designs into a series of numbers such as area of text and the offset to the side of the page. This meant I could create millimetre accurate recreations but they were not something innovative or original. Now I have a further understanding of negative space, colour schemes and placement of images to direct the audience’s gaze. All these skills coupled with the writing layout theory from last year gives me a good understanding of how to create a well designed piece of writing with a well made layout to benefit the reader and keep their attention.
In regards to Adobe Illustrator the main skill I learnt from these sessions was the addition of this software into my already vast understanding of professional level software. The main aspect of this software I used was that of image trace. This helped me overcome my inability to create images in the traditional sense and instead allowed me to edit existing imagery and stylise it accordingly to create good quality backgrounds for my cards. Of all the skills I have learnt throughout this project these are the ones that most impacted the project due to it completely changing my background design from the block colours to something more visually engaging. While I don’t intend to be using this in my final major project (as I intend to do a video piece) it still helps to improve my employ-ability and will make me more appealing to potential employers due to showing my versatility. This has also shown I can quickly pick up and use new software to create a professional quality piece.
During my project I encountered quite a number of problems. The majority of these were relatively minor and were fixed within a timely fashion or a work around was achieved.
A number of problems occurred from working with a collaborator. Relying on another person who has a different schedule to myself was quite difficult. Discussions occurred at very odd times and were hard to arrange and therefore I had to allocate specific periods of time to discuss the project and give feedback to my illustrator. However once I got a general idea of the schedule of my illustrator I ensured that I had time to discuss and give feedback to him in order to give direction and have extended discussion on the intricacies of the game. I also found that there were limits to my illustrators ability to create images and that he was also quite sensitive when it came to his artwork. He was unable to (and quite unwilling) to create human character artwork for the classes and instead made logos as it was something he was more comfortable with. This looked good and professional and suited the art direction of the game, however he did so with no direction and did so of his own accord. This was slightly problematic but did work around his issues with human characters. He also was very offended when I took some of his concept art and edited it in Illustrator to use for art direction and as a possible design choice. He refused to make anymore pencil drawings and said it was insulting to alter his artwork without his permission. I apologised and therefore had to ask for permission going forward in order to avoid insulting him further. Once it was explained to him that this was as to experiment in order to achieve certain criteria for my project he was more accepting of the idea. However, due to his interest in pixel art was very determined that that was the only style of artwork he would create.
I then began to look into other sources for my artwork in case the art style was not preferred by the child I interviewed. Luckily the child found the pixel art design reminded him of video game characters and enjoyed the art style immensely. Other than this the illustrator was happy taking direction, altering card designs and gave me all the final artwork by the deadline I asked of him. Overall this experience has given me a lot of communication skills I can take forward into industry when working with others. I will take this forward in my final project in which I will be using a lot of other people to film in which I will be creating a documentary. I will be heavily reliant on others in this and therefore will need to apply these skills when moving forward in my future project and career.
Another problem I had was that of creating a design for my card layouts that looked professional. It was very difficult to find a satisfying looking background and for a long while I stuck with parchment to fit with the theme of an adventure story. However, it looked too similar to Munchkin’s layout and I wanted to be more original. It was around this time I began to have lectures on Illustrator which allowed me to scan in artwork and use image trace. I quickly realised there was a colour feature on this option and looked into experimenting with actual photographs to make stylised backgrounds. I then took backgrounds where I imagined these creatures being set and altered existing images. These new stylised images were just what I had wanted to create and with the new skills gained through Illustrator I did not have to rely on anyone else to create them. They were quick and simple to create and suited the art style perfectly. They supplied colour to draw the eye but weren’t so complicated to detract from the monster graphics themselves. Also by resizing the backgrounds accordingly I could accurately represent sizes of the creatures while using the same backgrounds.
The main problem I had was the resolution in which my main artwork was supplied. Original the file was far too small and caused the images to go blurry when resized. I tried re-sizing the images in photoshop with interpolation turned off, however, this caused only a slight increase in quality. After several attempts I was unable to increase the quality of the image and in no way could resize the image despite instructions from my illustrator. However, my illustrator was more than willing to oblige by re rendering the image in 4x the original size, this then meant I had to decrease the size rather than increase, when applying the designs to the card. This ensured higher quality and helped to create a much more professional piece of work. The source images were also all kept in one document which meant I had to individually cut out each image and remove the white background colour with the quick select tool on photoshop. While this was only a minor issue it was an unnecessary extra step. This could have easily been avoided by asking the illustrator to create each image as a separate file, however this did allow him to quickly and easily resize all the images in one step. Therefore there was a positive to him having all images in one file and worked out for the best.
My time management has been of great importance in the creation of my project. As of this week I have completed the project itself and stuck to my initially self imposed timetable. By having my timetable I was able to have something at which to hold myself accountable and allowed me to set weekly goals which were less daunting than the overall main deadline.
This also meant I could re-evaluate what was possible within the time frame. For example, due to my timetable I quickly realised it was unrealistic to create a full choose your own adventure, and therefore created a concept image to outline how it would work instead.
I was fully able to realise all my deadlines and create all the work I set out to do. I have more than enough to evidence my concept and could easily create the final product if given more time. All my work for proof of concept was completely on time and I had secondary intended deadlines in terms of working with an illustrator.
I am very aware of what I am capable of doing in a specific time frame and this was of great credit to my project, as this awareness allowed me to create a strict by manageable timetable of pre-production through to post-production.