Decode Global’s Angelique Mannella, Layla, Lila, Marysa and myself are working on a project with grade 7 students at The Linden School in Toronto. Our plan is to co-create a game about gender and leadership. We have turned to the girls at The Linden School because they are experts for their age in relation to the subject of leadership and gender, the school having a feminist mandate underlying all that they do. This is a place where girls learn from a young age that their voice is important and that they are role-models for younger students.
On our team, Angelique is the CEO of the game-making company Decode Global, developing mobile games for social change. Layla is an undergraduate student in the communications department at Concordia, Marysa is the fine arts student who designed our the Arcade Our Way banner and logo, and will continue to help us to develop all of the art work for the game. Lila studies cognitive science and women’s studies at McGill, and I am a PhD candidate in the education department at Concordia.
Layla, Lila and I headed to The Linden School two weeks ago to work with the grade sevens over the course of a morning. Layla and Lila lead the workshop and I conducted ethnographic research as the morning unfolded. Lila started off inviting the girls to participate in an activity where they wrote down the words that came to mind when they pictured a leader, the most popular choices being: confidence, strength, responsibility, and kindness. The students had many interesting thoughts about why these concepts were important, and recognized the complex effects of the context within which one is raised as a child, as well as the types of experiences they have had, on their capacity to lead. One student explained for example that it would be harder for someone who is put-down all the time to have the confidence to be a leader.
Lila also provided the girls with challenging scenarios for which they acted out thoughtful leadership strategies. One creative strategy for getting the attention of a big group if you are small and quiet, was to simply make yourself taller by jumping on the shoulders of another (see below). Following this Layla lead the girls in the playing of The McDonald’s video game, which puts the player in the position of a “leader”, but makes an argument about the unethical choices such corporate leaders are tempted to take-on in order to make more money. This lead to an interesting conversation about the complexity of leadership qualities, and highlighted the point that making money is certainly not the most important definition of successful leadership. Layla lead a discussion about media depictions of leadership and discussed the interesting character composition of Clementine from the video game The Walking Dead.
Wrapped up in all of this was the intention to warm-up our collective thoughts about leadership and gender, before diving into the development of the game concepts and ideas that will inform the game we will create. Ideas were burbling to the point where one student called me over so that she could explain her idea to the audio-recorder, it being too complicated to write down all of the details on the video game concept sheet.
Should our main character be a zombie-girl who is confronted with the challenge of convincing others to become zombies? We shall see! Our plan is to stay in touch with The Linden School girls through our Tumblr (http://decodeglobal.tumblr.com/) a wordpress website under development, and skype, so that they can continue to advise us as the game evolves based on their ideas and concepts.
We hope that the grade seven students enjoyed the workshop as much as we did! We are definitely also enjoying the process of looking more closely at their ideas, and we certainly look forward to ongoing conversation via the interwebs.