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Children’s Dreams of Future UK Treescapes Envisioned through Games

October 2023 - November 2024
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Future of UK Treescapes

Undertaken as X||dinary Stories with Eleanor Dare
PI: Simon Carr (University of Cumbria).with partners at MMU, Middlesex University and the Mersey Forest


This project seeks to engage children in the development of videogames about treescapes to encourage young people more widely to engage critically with trees in their local environment; not just rural but also urban trees.

The research team is led by Simon Carr at the University of Cumbria and includes partners at MMU and Middlesex University, The Mersey Forest with myself and Eleanor Dare working on the project as independent games designers from X||dinary Stories.

Together we will work with children from two schools within The Mersey Forest area to create online games where children can control planting trees in the Mersey Forest and see the projected impact on the landscape.


Image: Work in Progress Game World (Eleanor Dare)


Aims


Through a series of practical workshops with school children myself and Eleanor will co-create characters, a gaming narrative and environment that we will then go on to develop using Roblox Studio and Unity to produce a web-based game. 

As part of the University ethics application process, I produced an information sheet in comic form to let potential participants know about the project and what would be expected of them should they wish to take part:

Image: Participant information Sheet (Dylan Yamada-Rice, 2023)


Participant Engagement Workshops


The workshops will take place with primary and secondary school children and are broken down to focus on different core elements used in game design: (1) Game Worlds, (2) Character Design, and (3) Gaming Narratives & Mechanics.

Game Worlds 
Children will be asked to make a ‘paper’ prototype gaming world based on the notion of a future urban treescape/ forest or woodland:

Image: Prompt for Game Worlds Workshop (Dylan Yamada-Rice, 2023)

I always test the ideas before beginning the workshops with children to see how materials respond, how easy it is to do, and time the length of the activity:


Images: Prototyping Modelling Gaming Worlds with Natural Materials

I began by using natural materials to challenge common gaming aesthetics but threw in a Minecraft Lego mini figure to reference the videogames kids love. 

Gaming Narratives & Mechanics
As part of the preparation for thinking about gaming narratives, I began by looking at a range of narratives in children’s books about trees. It is useful to think about if there were game versions of these stories what bits would be kept, where would interaction come in etc. 




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