The history of computer games is something I’ve wanted to teach for a few months now (after first being inspired by @xannov) and so was pleased when I came up with this lesson idea of how it could be used as an introduction to a unit of work with Year 5 on making games using Scratch.
To begin, we recapped together on the differences between computer simulations and games – a concept they had previously been taught back in Year 3:
- games let you explore and do challenges in an imaginary world for fun;
- simulations mimic real-life scenarios and let you study ‘what would happen if…’ situations.
This then led nicely into a discussion about their current knowledge of how computer games have developed in the past few decades. I stimulated this by asking them questions like: What is the earliest computer game/simulation you can remember playing? What was the challenge in it? What did you use to interact with it/control the on-screen character/vehicle? Can you name any computer games/simulations from before you were born?
We then looked at this website that I wrote over half-term to research about how the input devices used for controlling games consoles have developed to allow players to interact with games much more easily and intuitively over time. To show this, I included information about five different consoles and popular games played on them which clearly show the improvements – Home Pong, Pac-Man, SNES, Nintendo 64 and the Wii.
Next, I asked them to create a short timeline in 2Connect to show these developments in computer game control, detailing the changes from two button controllers and joysticks to gamepads and eventually wireless motion sensors. This worked well as children were already familiar with the program and the more confident ones even had the chance to add pictures and to change the box/arrow colours to help illustrate their work and make it look attractive.
To end the lesson, I asked the children to review what they had learnt by considering how they perceived developments in control technology had affected the gaming industry – with many highlighting how they have made the games more exciting and realistic to play.
In the past, I’ve always struggled to find an interesting lesson to use at the start of this unit of work (I find writing flowcharts for traffic lights boring), so I felt pleased today that I had succeeded in delivering a lesson which was not only motivating and appealing to the children, but which also managed to teach them some valuable knowledge about the history of one particular real-life use of control technology – to play computer games.
I’m now looking forward to teaching the children how to create their own keyboard and mouse-controlled games using the popular Scratch software in the forthcoming weeks and will hopefully blog about what we achieve.