Co-creating games with children - A case study

Karen Mouws and Lizzy Bleumers

NOTE: This paper was selected by the program committee as a Meaningful Play 2014 Top Paper. It has been submitted to the Meaningful Play 2014 Special Issue of the International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS). Due to the copyright requirements of the journal, only the abstract is available in the conference proceedings.


While involving non-designers in design processes has become common practice, the competencies required for participating in this process, and the effective mechanisms for collaboratively acquiring, refining and applying these competencies deserve more scientific attention. In this paper, we investigate the role of creative production competencies and practices (e.g. problem-solving and self-evaluation) and cooperative learning mechanisms (e.g. building trust and group processing) in a specific case of game co-design. In this case, 21 school children in Flanders (Belgium) were asked to create game concepts together with a game designer, their teacher, and co-design facilitators. Over the course of a project week at school, participants moved from idea generation to presenting their game concepts, by means of collaboratively created prototypes. Our case study, combining observation and survey methods, reveals that self-evaluation and openness to sharing ideas emerged spontaneously, but the critical analysis of digital games and crediting existing work requires explicit support. The spontaneous referencing to and remixing of popular games and other cultural products can be a starting point for co-design facilitators to bring up these topics. In addition, our observations suggest that technical, critical and creative practices may be influenced by leadership, trust and communication. Indeed, when creative choices become part of concerted efforts and group deliberation, progress in the creative production process critically depends on group functioning. We conclude that by grounding co-design in theory on cooperative learning and media literacy, co-design activities may be understood better and new avenues for supporting co-creators can be identified.