On Saturday, April 13th a trade show was held in my town of residence, the little, but lovely Raymond, in Southern Alberta, Canada. We had a table there, and I went with my two daughters. I expected a completely different crowd from the Calgary event this time, with a much larger contingent of kids. Here are a few pics of a few of the participants playing.
I should have taken more photos, really, but I didn’t want to catch the kids’ faces without the parents’ consent, and I was often busy selling my business to parents and grandparents, or observing gameplay for playtest purposes. I can assure you we had moments in which a natural audience who was just watching the matches unfold formed, which was encouraging. At the end of the day my voice was partially gone! 🙂
Anyway, back on track. During the event, my goals were:
1. Evaluating MC2‘s attractiveness with kids.
2. Convincing kids, and by extension their parents, that they want to learn how to make games, so that I could tutor them.
I setup an easel with a red half on the left and a green half on the right. The left was the NAY voting area, the right was for YAYs. I had already done this in Calgary before with a different audience, but this time I made a crucial change. I decided to draw a bunch of doodles myself in BOTH categories. My hope was to reduce the pressure of being the first person to say “no, this game is bad”. Anyway, without further ado, here’s how the “survey” turned out:
You will notice that I took the liberty of interpreting the 3 “yes” votes on the left as positives, as they were in stark contrast with the question above (I only now realised that the top reads “Should we continue”, which may be interpreted as a question in and of itself).
I decided to count the smiley face on the left as a NAY as well, but given the expression of that smiley I suspect that may be a positive vote too.
In the middle there is a smiley that is half on the left and half on the right. I decided to count one per category. At the end of the day, the kid that wrote that sign told me that the only thing he didn’t like was that it was difficult to tell where his sphere was when it was high in the air and its shadow wasn’t visible. I can see where he’s coming from, to some extent, but I’m not sure I want to do something about that at the moment in terms of programming. I also have a little trouble believing his judgment as being impartial, because he kept coming for more and more, and queuing up to play. He was trying to win the contest… badly. What contest you say? Oh my what a segue!
I decided to set up the following contest: any kid who, in a 4 player Brawl match would be able to beat my 8 year old daughter would win 5 hours of free game dev tuition from me. There were 5 available slots of 5 hours each. All of the winners would get approximately half of the in Principle Learning Absolute Beginner course for free.
This was very popular with the kids. But I had thought this out quite thoroughly. I knew my daughter was good, as she is my chief playtester, but I also expected her to have some trouble when 3 people would gang up on her. I decided not to put any limitations on how many times people could try and beat her, meaning they could get substantial practice in, before challenging her. On my end, this would have been the perfect opportunity to evaluate if MC2 is in fact easy to pick up, and at least somewhat harder to master. I can say with confidence that, at least when it comes to kids, this is definitely the case. Of the 50+ kids who tried to beat my daughter, repeatedly, only 2 managed to do it, and only after they practised for quite a while. Also, bear in mind that “beating my daughter” meant being 1st out of 4 in any match where my daughter was also playing. So with the fact so few managed and that my daughter is still a child, with all of the cognitive and self control limitations this entails, really gives me confidence that I’m achieving the design I want to have.
On another note, many children would keep coming so my booth turned into some kind of glorified babysitting station, where parents would come look for their kids if they’d lost track of them, which was funny, but also gave me several opportunities to chat with the parents and hopefully convince them that they wanted their kids to learn how to make software, with my help, of course.
It looks like my efforts worked, more or less, because I’ve been contacted by five families recently with an interest in taking the Absolute Beginner course. Hopefully there will be more and hopefully these will result in more tuition work! We’ll see.
Anyway MC2 is very much universally liked by children, who were even asking me where they can buy it, at which point I explained what an alpha build is. The event was awesome, the kids were awesome, my kids were and are awesome. All is well!
Here’s one more pic, with a great kid who jumped from his seat every time something emotionally involving happened…