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  • Manon Ballester

Testing the games - Let's play!

On the 13th and 14th of September 2021, the Unplugged partners met in Aix-en-Provence, in the premises of Aix-Marseille University (coordinator of the project) for the second transnational project meeting, the first one to be physically organised! During these two days, the watchword has been PLAY, PLAY, PLAY! It has been a unique opportunity for each partner to present several game ideas including game collection through daily life, brainstorming playful activities, gender equity quests, unplugged challenges such as parity games, hands-on activity with teachers on STEAM topics. More specifically, the partners got the amazing opportunity to discover through real playing sessions, 6 full games that are presented in detail hereunder:

Pop-up city of the Future: We all have ideas for our perfect city but they can be hard to explain. Let's bring those ideas together and create a public-friendly interface to exhibit them. During this workshop, the partners shared in three groups, had to express their ideas regarding the city of the future: flying cars, vertical farms, smart maps, living underwater, living in space ... They were asked to draw it and cut it out - to the best they can, of course! Using pop-up techniques, they have created a 3 dimension cityscape. A highly inspiring activity for both children and adults! Description of the activity available here: Pop-up city of the Future.pdf

Farm in the city: Welcome to our fictive city. After several years of policies towards more urbanisation, citizens are now requesting from the local authorities to better prioritise their well-being, going from the transport system to the access to more affordable and better quality food. In the last election, change in the policy-making of the city has enabled promoting new practices and dedicating public funding to urban farming. Answering this new initiative, a group of farmers are trying individually to find the best strategy within the city to localise their farms, considering both the minimisation of the costs, while ensuring that each citizen is accessing easily their production. In this activity, the partners have been requesting to be in the shoes of our farmers to select, in the city, where the farms should be located. Each partner was provided with a visual of the city, in addition to a graph version, to work on it. After selecting the first farm and placing it on one building, they have been requested to colour all the intersections and streets that are covered by their choices. People living at those intersections and along the streets that come into them are served by this farm. Repeating this, they were asked then to find a way to cover the maximum of the city with the minimum of farms. Many real-life situations can be abstracted into the form of a network or “graph”. Networks present many opportunities for the development of algorithms that are practically useful. In this activity, we want to mark some of the junctions, or “nodes,” in such a way that all other nodes are at most one step away from one of the marked ones. The question is, with how many fewest marked nodes can we get away? This turns out to be a surprisingly difficult problem - one of the interesting things about it is that no one knows whether there is an algorithm for finding a minimum set of locations that is significantly faster than the brute-force method! In this activity, the pupils are hence approaching several topics, including mapping, relationships, puzzle-solving and iterative goal-seeking, combinatorics and graph theory. Description of the activity available here: Farm in the city.pdf

Poverty-free game collection: Children generally have a strong awareness of inequality, however often they do not realize that not everyone can afford the same as they do. To approach these concepts, the players are asked to create a collection of games and leisure activities that do not cost anything and do not require any items other than low-cost household items (hopscotch, finding cloud animals, hide and seek, making a flower crown, building a tower out of stones, etc.). In the version presented during the meeting, the objective was to create a game based on the resources available from the coffee break (cup, napkins, baskets, stirrers ...). Amazing ideas came out from this activity. Discover the description here: Poverty-free game collection.pdf

Peace Magic Grid: The partners got the opportunity to discover the magic grid unplugged challenge, twisted for being aligned with peace and community concepts and the history of international relations. Circulating information in the digital world can be false and data being transmitted over networks can be messed up. This unit and lessons explore how to detect and correct errors in data and information, and link them with computational practices. It applies a parity check technique (error detection and correction in computing), enabling it to introduce methods to detect and correct errors in data and information and to link them to computational practices. In parallel, messages within the challenge open discussions and lead to reflection on citizenship aspects, fake news, misinformation. Topics such as poverty, environmental protection, equality, non-discrimination, etc. are touched upon. During the meeting, partners (in small groups) had to work on a grid with letters that hold a hidden message - some letters may be hidden by a coloured square or more letters may be displayed (depending on the grid set the teacher chooses to work with). The last row and column of the grid are the ones that hold the parity information. All rows and columns must contain an even number of coloured and/or non-coloured squares. If this is not the case, by checking both each row and column the player finds is a mistake with one of the squares which needs to be fixed (removing the square or turning it to the other side, depending on the grid set). Once the mistake is identified, the correction will reveal the original word/message that is intended to be sent forward. Discover the description of this activity here: Peace Magic Grid.pdf

Brainstorming: This game is about expressing clear ideas under pressure, as well as managing discussions with others and presenting their own opinion on a topic in group. Hence, it is closely linked to unlocking creativity. Partners were split into two groups of 2 - 3 people per round). Each group needed to find more ideas than the other one on a given topic - all somehow linked to one or more SDGs. For instance, a topic given during the meeting was "Forest". Each group had to then list as many words related to the forest as possible. When the time was over, the game master counted the points. A word found by both teams is given 0; a word out of the subject is -1; a word found only by a team is 1 point. A second round was played. For this round, all the words found by the teams needed to be written on a board viewable by all the participants. The teams have 30 seconds to find a comprehensible sentence with the words written on the board. Through this activity, the partners realise that i) it is difficult when under pressure to find easy and understandable cooperation mechanics in a group and ii) it is difficult to express their point of view as they all have different visions of a concept, even as simple as forest. More information here: Brainstorming.pdf

"Draw me a mutton": Eventually, the partners got to play this amazing and easy to implement small game on following a pathway. It demonstrates how hard it is to follow simple rules when they are not comprehensively described and fully explicit in the given instructions. The game master was handling a hidden drawing on her hand, asking the partners to draw what was required:

  • Step 1: draw a rectangle,

  • Step 2: draw a second rectangle inside the first one,

  • Step 3: draw a third rectangle inside the rectangle,

  • Step 4: draw a triangle above the rectangle.

What do you see?

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