History Teacher Creates Video Games To Inspire Students

history through art video games

I have taught art since 1984 to ages 8-15. As exciting as I find the subject, my students don’t always share my enthusiasm for ancient art history. I decided to make a series of video games inspired by art history hoping others could see what I love. I started out with Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Hindu Gods, and Spooky 17th Century Wood Cuts of Witches and Demons.

I did not want the games to feel boring and “educational”. One of my gripes is when adults ask me, “Is it educational?” Egads I hate that question. I always lean in as if I’m transferring some sort of guarded secret and say, “To be honest, I haven’t found a way to stop ’em from learning. Turns out everything is educational in some way!” So my intent was to make fun classic arcade style games with common platform game mechanics, so the players can focus more on the images and art.

Once a player has a direct interaction with a character, let’s say Lord Ganesha hits you with his ax and kills you. You’re gonna remember that differently than a static image you barely look at in a history book or slide show. I mean, Ganesha hit you with an ax and killed you! That’s a relationship, and even better, it can change. You later learn if you avoid Lord Ganesha’s ax, you can make friends with his rat, and you get rewarded instead. Now you know Lord Ganesha has a rat and an ax, which you might not have known before you played this game. I hope my games plant mind seeds that take root later.

Sometimes exposure is all anyone needs to want to know more. These games do not intend to teach any long history, but instead to simply inspire wonder. Once a player can point out the Goddess Isis, Hanuman the Monkey King, Lord Krishna or Anubis in the Underworld, we are on our way to a shared language that bridges time through the ages. “Woh! I crashed right into Thoth.” Yeah, I bet that hurts.

Middle school teachers feel free to use these resources to inspire learning. Many of these topics are being covered in 7th and 8th grade public school system. Use the free apps as rewards on their iPad. Help them learn each character’s name, share a bit of the history, and have fun.

Art History Video Games by J.E.Moores: iOS – Android

 

Making Indie iOS Games

indie ios games by J.E.Moores

On November 24, 2018 I gave myself a winter challenge. I wanted to learn how to create video games for Android and iOS. I subscribed to Buildbox and began working on a Wiggly Loaf game. I followed all the Buildbox video tutorials on YouTube, and bit by bit I built my game. I got geeky with it. I wanted the Wiggly Loaf game to look like it was animated on a chalkboard. I discovered a program called Doodly that filters my ink drawings of Wiggly Loaf into a blackboard chalk version. Even though the program is intended for other things, I painstakingly screen capped each instance of the Wiggly Loaf animation through the Doodly program to create all the chalkboard sprites of the game.

Making sprites took several long days. I found myself working 16 or more hours a day, crashing, waking up thinking about the mechanics of the game, and getting back on the computer. My desk was cluttered with energy bars and the much needed bottle of water to keep me going. I became a game making curmudgeon.

Knowing what I wanted the game to do and figuring out how to get Buildbox to do it was part of the fun for me. The game of making games is what I’m into. There is a delight to trying different settings until you find what you want or discover something you didn’t know was possible. It can be very exciting for a geek like me. So many parameters to tweak, and you know how I love to tweak parameters.

Luckily I married a very geeky girl. I asked my sweet wife to research creating apps on Xcode and uploading games to iOS store while I blitzkrieg the game into shape. I don’t think my brain would have the capacity to learn how to make and publish my own game in the time frame I wanted. I had been looking for a project she and I could do together and we became a team figuring it out.

I worked every day, often 18 hours with only snack breaks. By the time I was near done I was delirious and haggard. It was awesome. I love that feeling of giving my all and getting remarkable results. Wiggly Loaf was coming together and I was psyched!

By December 19, we were in the race to get the Wiggly Loaf app in for approval before the Official Apple App Approvers all went on their week long holiday break. By the skin of our teeth we got Wiggly Loaf on the iOS app store before Christmas. We did this clever promotion where we asked Wiggly Loaf Fans to submit Shout Outs to friends to be published on the walls of the chalkboard in the game. We updated the game with the personal shout outs by New Years, and they shared the app with friends and family who in turn found a shout out in the game just for them! What a sweet gift for the world and a huge success for learning how to make my first game.

So it’s possible to go from knowin’ damn near nothing to a self published indie game developer in under one month. My Buildbox subscription is $199/year. The developer fee at iOS is $99. I put about 240 hours in to make my first game. My games are already on their way to ROI due to the Google ads I placed in the free games.

While learning to make Wiggly, I started a few ideas for other games. I worked them to completion and have been able to publish a game about every month since I began making indie games. So if you have ever wanted to learn how to program video games of your very own, I believe you can do it. You’re only about 300 hours and 300 dollars away from creating your first game. I say, let nothing stop you.

Now after a few days battling with Android Studio Eclipse I can now export my games to the Google Play store for Android. It’s the gift that keeps giving!

Indie Video Games by J.E.Moores: iOS – Android

Andy’s Lard Quest

Andy's Lard Quest

Andy's Lard Quest for Android

Andy’s Lard Quest Rules

The game opens to a menu of heads you can unlock by collecting chickens. The price of each head is under the head. You must play the Egg Man until you collect enough chickens to unlock the other heads. The other heads have different super powers that add to game play.

To play, click play. The interface is simple. Tap to make the character drop. You bounce your head through the platform levels avoiding enemies.

Collect chicken and cans of lard. If you collect 9 cans of lard in one session without dying, you will enter the most awesome Lard Wars level and battle giant kaiju cats for a whole lotta chicken. Once you crash and die, your lard count returns to zero and you return to the head menu with all the chickens you gathered.

Hot dogs make you invincible. When you eat a hot dog, you turn into an indestructible hamburger. You can smash anything. It feels really good too.

Society the cat tosses some very useful cat balls. When hit, cat balls kill all enemies in sight, but each cat ball you use cost 25 chickens. That’s a lot of chickens! Use cat balls sparingly or you could lose all your chickens.

Avoid everything else because it’s EVIL! If you touch it, it will kill you. Here’s a tip, if it shoots a pink laser beam at you, you must try to let the laser beam touch you. The laser beam powers you up and turns you into an indestructible fish bowl for 3 seconds, and you can beat the beast by smashing it to smithereens.

While you are playing, notice the can of lard in the top right corner. To its right you see a count of how many lard you have collected during your session. If you click the lard can it will bring you to the head menu if you want to unlock or switch to a different head to play.

At the bottom of the heads menu you will see Little Andy flipping out. Once you have enough chickens you can unlock the Bonus Level. Just click Little Andy to get there.

The goal is to unlock all 20+ heads and Little Andy’s bonus level.

About Andy’s Lard Quest

So I wanted to make a weird indie game from the strange stuff here at my house. First up is Andy, a duct tape voodoo doll my daughter made when she was just a wee one. Now a teen, I told her I was using Andy in my game, and she cringed. So far, so good.

There is Cosmo my dog, and Society my cat. There is a scary stick I found on the ground last summer. I thought it looked like a kaiju monster, so I glued googly eyes on his face and named him Xerxes. Now he’s flying around causing all kinds of mayhem in this game! There’s a floating rubber glove guy, a tons of ants, and rubber chickens are the currency you collect to unlock everything.

You start out as a fragile egg, and as you collect rubber chickens, you can trade them in for other fancy new heads that have all new super powers and moves.

Once you collect enough rubber chickens you can unlock the Bonus Level where the shrimp are running like mad! With 20+ different heads to unlock and play, and a bonus level to unlock, this insane game will have your friends wondering what the hell you’re doing. If they ask, just tell ’em you’re on a LARD QUEST!

Game music, To Town I Go by mopehead & Tony Iuppa from: Hauntscapes.com
Andy and other duct tape art by Malaya from: DesignCutie.com
Nature sounds from: Yellowstone National Park Sound Library
Cosmo the wonder dog courtesy of: TimeBrats.com

Andy's Lard Quest for Android

Wall Problems

Trumpty Dumpty WallThe President and I are having trouble getting our wall built. The team at iOS rejected my Trumpty Dumpty Wall video game for being offensive. The game has no nudity, profanity, or obscenity, but without a doubt, it is a type of political cartoon.

I think they are confusing their frustration with the border wall issue with the appropriateness of my game. We are all frustrated at the government shut down and the impasse the border wall issue has caused. They are afraid some of their users would be offended by the game’s content, but there is absolutely nothing offensive to be found in the game. It’s Humpty Dumpty building a wall. Whoever stacks bricks the highest wins. It’s a game for little kids. It’s not offensive. It might be obnoxious, ridiculous, silly, or downright stupid, but it’s not doing anything against terms of service, so the offensiveness is subjective and individual.

In defense, my game does not take a side on the border wall matter. I think it’s best to let the audience decide on their own. If you are for the wall, you can help build it. If you are not for the wall, you can laugh at how funny the game is. My game has a wider audience by not taking a side. By not taking a side, it cannot offend any specific group. If it is offensive, at least it is equally offensive to everyone.

I love that American citizens can poke fun at their leaders. Humor helps to ease the pressure, and gets the conversation going again. The game is intended to create a dialogue. It is confrontational (like art), but it is not offensive (like porn). An even odder factoid on this matter, the game did not get rejected first time through. Trumpty Dumpty Wall version 1.0 was approved, so I am confused at version 1.1 being rejected on content. I only added a prompt to invite gamers to rate my app, which changes nothing visually in the game, so it’s the same game in every way that has already been approved once.

I believe the rejection was individual and subjective. I really can’t think of a single term of service that I’ve broken. It’s like I followed all the rules, but they just don’t like my art’s silly lighthearted message.

Adventure Garuda

Garuda video game

Adventure Garuda game by J.E.Moores

Adventure Garuda for Android

I am awed and inspired by the fierceness of the Hindu Gods. The ancient temple paintings and posters are infinitely detailed and meditative. I get lost gazing in there, until I find myself thinking new and dangerous thoughts: I want to see these colorful characters animated. I was daydreaming, so I went further. I want to see all those arms waving, wings flappin’, and all of the Hindu Gods interacting with one another within the cosmos of a video game.

Once, many moons ago in Thailand my guide constantly drew attention to the architectural temple adornments that are representative of Garuda. He told us the pointy bits that peak out along the corners of the temple rooftops are the beaks of these large winged protectors. The Garuda are many, and stand guard over the temples.

Lord Vishnu rides Garuda. They have many adventures together, and are great friends. In this game, Lord Vishnu is looking for his sweet bride, Lakshmi. Together Lord Vishnu and Garuda will encounter Hanuman the Monkey King, Lord Ganesha, and a very grumpy Kali Ma. Please remember to feed Garuda often. Avoid all obstacles, unlock levels and new characters as you go.

I want to give credit to the amazing artists these game sprites are inspired by. The temple posters are spritual works of art, and animating their arms, wings, and weapons, has given me time to look at them even closer. Hopefully this will inspire some to learn the names of the Hindu Gods, and their multitude of stories.

Music provided by Free Music Archive. Thank you.
Raag by: Vinod Prasanna × Okey Szoke × Pompey

I have been making games only a few weeks now. This is the fifth simple arcade style game I have put together for your enjoyment. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Adventure Garuda is available for Android on Google Play and the iOS app store. I think you’ll love this one. It’s special, and I put over 300 hours into making this simple little arcade game. The colors are spicy. One can almost smell the curry, turmeric, and cardamom as they play. Tandoor anyone? Dang. Now I’m hungry.

Adventure Garuda game by J.E.Moores

Adventure Garuda for Android