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Students Make Video Games, Learn Life Lessons

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Students at a Brooklyn high school are making their own video games and their parents approve. NY1 Tech reporter Adam Balkin filed the following report.

While their peers, after school, may play football or a musical instrument, students from South Shore High School, with help from the non-profit Global Kids, create video games with meanings, and lessons. The first one, just unveiled online is called “Ayiti: The Cost of Life,” and it puts a family of five poor Haitians in gamers hands.

“For the last year we met for one week after school in the computer lab to teach the young people not only how to think critically about game design but also learn about world issues,” said Barry Joseph of Global Kids. “And together we came up with both a game concept and an issue they were passionate about and we worked with game developers to put the two together. For any young person who plays the game, it's a really challenging strategy game where you have to manage a family of five over four years and keep them alive, get them healthy, keep them educated and make sure they don't fall into debt and die. For an educator using it, it's an amazing opportunity to teach young people about how poverty is an obstacle to education in Haiti and at the same time go outside the game and teach kids about other issues they can take action in.”

And while students who helped develop the game say it is designed to help teach anyone who plays it, a lot of them feel they, themselves, have learned the most and not just about what it takes to create a video game.

“My father works hard but I take it for granted,” said Sanji Johnson, a student who worked on the game. “But when I play the game and I hear about Haiti I realize I'm the one wasting time, and in Haiti they need help. They're working hard to get an education and I'm taking it for granted.”

“It'd be great to create games with more action and things that people like,” added another student, Dewayne Baker. “But, at the same time, getting in the good parts in what actually are things they don't understand or don't know what's going on.”

The content for the first game, which can be found at www.costoflife.org, was thought up by two dozen high school students. The actual game was coded and built by local game developers at Gamelab. However, this time around, students will take a bigger role in the technical development as well.

-Adam Balkin
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