We spoke to artist David Recke from Ahoot Media, about their newly released mathematical learning games and the art of making serious games.
Ahoot Media is a Grenaa-based game company which specializes in making serious games, mostly focused on learning. The company has existed for 1,5 years and has already developed the puzzle game Sequence Nine which were released in the fall of 2016.
David Recke explains why it's cool to work on these kinds of projects:
“We decided early on that we wanted to work with game development, and we’ve also decided to go on a more "crazy" path and work with something a bit more special: learning games, or serious games as it’s also known as. We think it’s an really exciting area, and there are some really interesting angles to explore. It makes sense to work with learning games as well - we've been pretty succesful so far, and made some cool projects."
All of the owners of Ahoot are students from Grenaa. David explains the background of the four owners of Ahoot:
"We've all studied at Game IT College, and three out of four studied at Dania Games. One studies design at Aarhus University. We are three programmers, and one interaction designer. For this project we hired a graphical artist, Peter, who is a Multimedia Design student at Dania Games. He is a really talented artist, who also hosts different drawing workshops"
Apart from developing games, the guys also teaches game development courses and game camps for new students in Grenaa.
It's not all serious though
Even though Ahoot Media mostly focus on serious games, they are also interested in working on games that are more traditional:
"We work on prototypes constantly, and have all kinds of different ideas - also for games that are not in the "serious" genre. We love games, so we love to work with different genres. But our brand and our main focus is on serious games" David explains. He also points out that Ahoots' first release, Sequence Nine, is not mainly a serious game, but contains serious game elements:
"I would not personally put Sequence Nine in the "serious games" category, but you can argue that it contains different elements from the genre. It is about discovering, recognizing and using different patterns in the puzzle, and in that sense it can be seen as a serious game. It's a way of thinking that a lot of people can follow, and we've hit a broad target audience for this game. We've got a lot of great feedback. Sequence Nine was a great learning experience for us, and we've used this knowledge for our future productions"
The Math Games
The Math Game project is a collaboration between Viden Djurs which offers different college programs and Ahoot Media. They wanted to use different learning games as a way of refreshing the mathematical abilities of the new students at the college.
According to David, one the big challenges - as well as advantages - of working with serious games instead of traditional games, is the level of cooporation between the developer and the client.
"We made the games in collaboration with some of the math teachers from the school, and there are certain requirements when you make serious games - especially learning games. There are some standards you need to live up to in terms of the content of the game. It helps to have some teachers involved. They provided some really nice guidelines for us, and made some "reality checks" on what works and what doesn't. They are closer to the specific issue than we are as game developers. They know that kind of problems the students experiences and how to solve them" David explains.
He also thinks that the games would have been a lot different, if the teachers hadn't been involved in the game development proces.
The math teachers had a lot of different ideas for the themes of the game, and they decided to develop four different math games, or four different math rules, represented as mini-games: Functions, percentage calculations, equations and the hierarchy of arithmetics.
"The games represents four different issues, that are common for high school students. You can of course use the games in other contexts, but the subjects are relevant for these kinds of students. The goal is to reach the students who has problems concentrating in a normal learning environment, or those who are falling behind. In the games you can understand the rules in a different way because the mathematics are used as part of the gameplay. You learn the methods instead of just memorization"
In the game, you follow "Math Man" - a nameless character who travles through an old primeval "fantasy" landscape with deserts and fruit trees. In the game, the man collects, transports and sells different fruit.
"It was a funny little story that we came up with while developing the game. It's one of the things that the teachers had no influence on"
Ahoot are already thinking about their next big project, and are currently working on different prototypes for future games. The plan is to develop a series of serious games, and publish them - when, where and is yet undecided - but they have a lot of ideas!
"It's always been our plan to work in this direction, and the project with VidenDjurs has given us an extra push - it's a good moral-booster to know there are people out there who thinks these games are cool"
If you have an idea for a serious game or a learning game, you are more than welcome to contact Ahoot Media at email@example.com. You can also find more info at their website: www.ahoot.dk