then along came an educational opportunity.
After a week or two of playing some different games I took my Xbox home to do a system update and install Fruit Ninja, at the request of my students. Whilst downloading the updates and extra games I stumbled across Happy Action Theater (HAT), made by the wonderful team at DoubleFine. I was sold on the game based solely on the gallery pictures and was jumping around like a child when I first got into playing it.
I still vividly remember turning the game on at the start of each of my IT classes during the first week I introduced HAT to students at Jackson School and watching curiosity take over. Students of all ages were instantly intrigued and full of excitement to test each new game within HAT. The standout examples were when students who weren't typically very sociable suddenly became far more active and ready to be involved with their peers. Check out a video from the early days of testing Happy Action Theater here.
I was so impressed and thankful for HAT and what it was doing for our students that I decided to send the team at DoubleFine a thank you email. Below is part of Drew Skillman's response and what lead to some very interesting developments.
"We set out to make a fun, silly game that anyone can enjoy, and the fact that it's actually helping young people like your students is totally unexpected, and totally inspiring." - Drew Skillman.
After offering some feedback on the game and its uses at Jackson School to the team at DoubleFine, two wonderful opportunities arose that allowed for Emily and I to get chatting with Jeffrey Matulef at Eurogamer and Ben Kuchera at Penny Arcade. The links below tell our story.
Happy Action Theater used in school for special needs students
Using Kinect and Happy Action Theater as therapy: how one school is reaching autistic children
“It’s simple, and it’s very positive. There are no menus, you go straight in, and they’re incredibly imaginative and expressive. And that’s what we want from our kids, to be talking and creating in their minds,” Marunczyn told the Penny Arcade Report.
Ford said. “What I’ve found is that it bridges the gap between the kids. It’s not as confrontational as face-to-face interaction. It’s a scaffolded way to communicate with others. While they’re playing the game they’ll be talking to each other, and some of the highest needs kids will simply throw balloons at another student or shooting them with the fire game. They’re able to interact in a safe, predictable environment.”
You can read more about how Kinect Party is being used at Jackson School here on Emily Ford's blog. We've been using the game since its initial release back in December and even after 6 months of using it with students at Jackson School they're still just as engaged and enthused!
As a final note, I realise that there's a fair bit of negative press going around about the XBOX One and its 'always on' approach. Forget that! Look at the new Kinect! This thing is going to revolutionize interactive gameplay and I cannot wait to get it into my classroom at Jackson School. I am quite envious of the guys at IGN who got to play with the new Kinect.
The picture below represents my Sunday. I can't wait to get these units loaded up with Kinect Party and into some new classrooms.