Creativity, Customization, and Ownership: Game Design in Bootstrap:Algebra

Emmanuel Schanzer, Shriram Krishnamurthi, Kathi Fisler

ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, 2018


Game programming projects are concrete and motivational for students, especially when used to teach more abstract concepts such as algebra. These projects must have open-ended elements to allow for creativity, but too much freedom makes it hard to reach specific learning outcomes. How many degrees of freedom do students need to make a game feel like one they genuinely designed? What kinds of personalization do they undertake of their games? And how do these factors correlate with their prior game-playing experience or with their identified gender?

This paper studies these questions in the concrete setting of the Bootstrap:Algebra curriculum. In this curriculum, students are only given four parameters they can customize and only a few minutes in which to do so. Our study shows that despite this very limited personalization, students still feel a strong sense of ownership, originality, and pride in their creations. We also find that females find videogame creation just as satisfying as males, which contradicts some prior research but may also reflect the nature of games created in this curriculum and the opportunities it offers for self-expression.



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