When flash mobs — impromptu gatherings often coordinated through social media — began popping up in Center City Philadelphia, many media outlets characterized the mobs in a negative light, focusing on vandalism and other consequences of youth congregating en masse in public places. Though there was some validity to claims of vandalism, there was not a major effort in local or national news reporting to find youth perspectives on the issue.
Russell Byers Charter School technology coordinator John Landis discussed this issue with his 4th through 6th grade students in Powerful Voices for Kids last summer, who had a range of complicated feelings and opinions. He facilitated students’ creation of video games to express their own takes on the flash mobs in Philadelphia. By using game design as a form of expression, students were able to explore a variety of points of view, including teenagers, siblings of flash mob participants, teachers, and police officers.
After planning their games on paper and discussing the role of chance, choice, and game design in constructing media messages, students designed their interactive scenarios and games on MIT’s Scratch software. To play a few of these games for yourself, check out the group’s student website.
Here’s one example of a student video game by Ahmir and Marquise:
NBC-10 sent a small news crew to film the students making their video games. After the piece was edited and aired, students discussed how they felt they were represented in the news. Though students were flattered and excited, they also noticed that footage of them served as B-roll for the newscaster’s script, despite several of them granting interviews to explain the project. Discussion of the news piece was a great way to reflect on the work they’d done and what messages they wanted to convey to an audience themselves.
EDIT: Also be sure to check out an article on the flash mob video game project by Emily Bailin at Spot.us.