Student Reflection – The Adventures of Frank Little (7.1)

We designed and produced The Adventure of Frank Little for our Introduction to Game Design course. Two main concepts that we learned throughout the course had a major influence on our design choices, and our only problematic issue was with our choice of design software.

The first concept that influenced our design was the concept of serious games. This is an emerging category of gaming and relates to how the procedural rhetoric and persuasive nature of gaming (Bogost, 2007) can be used for teaching new concepts, and changing players’ points of view. As McGonigal (2011) suggests, games can also inspire large groups of people to collective action. The overall concept of serious games inspired us to use our game to tell the story of Frank Little. Little was a travelling union organizer in the early days of unionization and his efforts to help organize the mining workers in Butte, Montana (also where our university is located) certainly inspired a great many of the locals to action. Unfortunately, while his goal of strong unions in Butte eventually succeeded, his inflammatory speech also inspired his murderers to action. We felt that this little-known (no pun intended) story was the perfect inspiration for our game design. We were also fortunate to have access to a wealth of information on the topic, thanks to the excellent staff and collection of documents at the Butte Silver Bow Archives.

The second concept that influenced our game design was the field of ludology, or game studies. Specifically, the ludics, or methods of play, as described by researchers like Eskelinen (2001) and Bolter and Grusin (2014) were of great interest to us. After studying and categorizing a variety of game types, we decided that a fairly simple-to-play game would be appropriate for our game concept. We eventually settled on the 2-dimensional, side-scroll type, with easy keyboard controls for The Adventures of Frank Little. We felt that this simple play style would allow us to focus on delivering the story of Frank Little and allow the player more time to enjoy some of the great historic photographs that we incorporated as background images for the game, while still requiring a modestly challenging level of hand-eye coordination.

The only major problem we ran into with the game design was in our choice of design software. We found the free Stencyl brand design software to be clunky and unintuitive, yet still the best choice for our limited timeframe. Luckily, our design team included a software expert who also happened to be quite persistent in learning the Stencyl controls.

Designing The Adventures of Frank Little was both challenging and rewarding. It was a great way to apply the concepts we were learning in the course, and also encouraged developing our teamwork abilities. The game would not have been possible without assistance from the extremely helpful staff at the Butte Silver Bow Archives, and we offer special thanks to them. We would also recommend taking the Introduction to Game Design course to anyone seeking to develop a range of multimedia skills.