How games, and one in particular called Quest, can help engage learners from the Priority 1 (NEET) group was the focus of one of the breakout sessions at Hand to Eye. Learners who fall under the Priority 1 label in England includes children/learners who are:
• permanently excluded from school
• ill for long periods of time
or learners who may be characterised as:
“… those who face a range of vulnerabilities which can rapidly develop into exclusion from social institutions.
I must say that although there was a sound and impressive rationale offered from one of the researchers on the team in relation to the inclusion agenda and an enthusiastic report from the teacher who had been trialling the software with a group of target learners. However, the software itself was not that impressive. It seemed rather slow, ponderous, old school in terms of design and a little patronising in terms of its game play.
Without being too critical I really wonder if the designers had any real knowledge of the focus client group that this product is targeted at. Children that I worked with who may be described as vulnerable would not have taken seriously many of the characters (particularly the high pitched shop keeper or the Grandma who looked as though she came from the 1970s classic TV programme Bod) or the infantile plot that was on offer. It also seemed unsubtle for a player who had issues with self-esteem to choose the game module entitled ‘self-esteem’.
I am happy to be corrected about this game and its possible merits in its target group but it seems to me that children who may fall in the ‘vulnerable” category for whatever reason may find much more in terms of intrinsic self-esteem being developed by engaging with some of the other more challenging and rewarding titles on offer such as GameMaker, Mission Maker or Caspian Learning that require some degree of cognitive challenge and reward when they finally finish constructing a game that they have designed rather than simply playing a well-intentioned but poorly designed one.