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5 Reasons We Love the BMI Video Game Exhibit
Last week, the Dig-It! Games team took a field trip to the Baltimore Museum of Industry (BMI), which is showcasing an interactive exhibit that lets visitors create their own video game. Open through 2019, Video Game Wizards–Transforming Science and Art into Games features six stations, each pertaining to a particular skillset (i.e. coding and art) and giving guests the chance to customize a game using those various skills. In other words, visitors experience the collaborative process of video game development at every point in the exhibition. At the end, they are able to play their own game and share it on the exhibition’s website with family and friends; and play any of the games developed at the BMI.
But the team wasn’t visiting just to create our own games—Dig-It! Games had the opportunity to join legendary software developer Sid Meier (Civilization, Railroad Tycoon, Pirates) and other video game professionals for a discussion about the local game development industry.
Here are our five takeaways from the experience:
- Video games in all forms, even for game-based learning, are creating a booming industry with major growth expected in the coming years.
Sometimes our industry feels like it waxes and wanes. Some folks push for game-based learning in the classroom. Others aren’t sure it is worth the effort. From the discussion, it became clear that video games are here to stay—and that the business we are in will continue to grow.
- There is a host of very smart, talented, creative people in this industry.
It goes without saying that we believe the Dig-It! Games team has an incredible amount of talent. At this event, however, it was clear that almost everyone in the video game development industry is passionate about their jobs. They’re not phoning it in—they believe in what they are creating. It’s wonderful to see.
- Dig-It Games has been and continues to be doing the right thing for students, teachers and game players.
We always believe we’re doing the right thing—but in listening to what others are doing within their companies, we have reaffirmed our work. The creative process and the development process is consistent with the industry. The BMI discussion laid it out step by step, a presentation we could have given word for word. We know that how we produce games is truly effective.
- Students value the collaboration and skills that go into developing a video game.
Last year, we had the opportunity to welcome middle school students to the Dig-It! Games studio for our first field trip experience. They had the opportunity to gets hands-on with game design and collaborate to create a final product, a game of their very own. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the exhibit we visited accomplished the same goal through an interactive computer experience. The skills we teach during our field trips and the skills the exhibit teaches are equal. We share the same mission—to show kids how we develop games and interest them in a possible STEAM career—whether that’s programming, art, or even creative writing.
- Baltimore is a hub for the technology sector—and it’s continuing to grow.
When you hear technology or video games, you think about a few different places. New York City, maybe. Silicon Valley. A kid fiddling with his or her computer in the basement. You don’t necessarily think of Baltimore, but you should. This summer, EdWeek reported that Baltimore was seeking to become an edtech hub—and the city is proving its worth. Young people with great talent are coming to the area, looking to get involved in something they are passionate about.
One of the biggest takeaways is that everyone in the industry is playing a guessing game. Sid Meier was discussing the development of Civilization, and he said that at the time, his team was just throwing ideas up against the wall and seeing what stuck. We find ourselves doing the same thing in our meetings occasionally. We ask ourselves, “Will kids think this is fun?” We’re brainstorming new game ideas, trying them out, and seeing what works for kids.
Behind it all is our educational mission, led by founder Suzi Wilczynski. Our goal is not just for a game to be fun, but also for it to be a learning experience—one where kids might not even realize how much they’ve learned in the moment.
It’s the end of August and we know where teachers are. They’re in the classroom, cleaning and organizing, decorating bulletin boards and planning out seating charts; they’re in professional development for the district, talking about standards and assessments and training on the newest technologies; and they’re on Pinterest, pinning ideas for units and activities, rules posters and homework sheet templates.
Since July, according to Buzzfeed, there have been 72 million back-to-school Pins—from lunchboxes to school supplies to homework stations to ways of fighting fatigue. This week, Dig-It! Games launched our Pinterest page with boards for:
- Ancient Maya Culture Unit
- Middle School Math: Common Core Activities
- Roman History Unit
- Back to School: Middle School Teacher Tips
Part of our mission at Dig-It! Games is to promote cultural understanding through the study of ancient cultures. Our founder and CEO, Suzi Wilczynski, is a former social studies teacher and archaeologist. We specifically develop our games to meet the needs of middle school students, and we know that middle school is a time when students are discovering who they are and determining how they fit into the world. Students are looking to know where they come from to figure out where they’re going. By studying ancient Rome or the Maya culture, students develop analysis skills to lead them to a better understanding of the world around them.
Our hope is that our Pinterest page will serve as a resource for educators to quickly find exciting activities and tips to help teachers better plan the school year and implement game-based learning in the process.
- Our two flagship games—Mayan Mysteries and Roman Town—were the inspiration for our ancient culture Boards on Pinterest. Within those, you’ll find teacher-created resources, printables, and engaging videos. Because Roman Town is set in Pompeii, there are volcano-building exercises and diorama activities for students to get hands-on with the content.
- With a focus on math through our Loot Pursuit series (Tulum and Pompeii) as well as 3 Digits, we wanted to introduce some fun math resources that are Common Core-aligned for middle school teachers. In our Middle School Math board, you’ll find lots of free resources from Teachers Pay Teachers that can be used as games for review or center activities.
- We also want teachers to feel ready to get back in the classroom. Our Back-to-School Board provides tips and resources to get the year started off on the right foot, with decorating ideas and first-day games to get to know students.
As we develop and produce new games, we’ll be updating the Pinterest page to reflect related resources. Follow us on Pinterest to stay informed! (Psst—we’re looking for vocabulary Pins…)